In the end, war was nothing more than battles between Objects.
A flesh and blood human carrying around a carefully-maintained rifle could do nothing.
Even if tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of soldiers gathered or even if tons of tanks and fighters were prepared, that 50 meter monster would casually wipe them all out. Some of them could move around even after a direct hit from a nuke or two, so it seemed insane to seriously try to fight them.
That was why everyone just left the main role to an Object.
By shoving the pain-in-the-ass main role onto the monster, they could leisurely watch from the sidelines.
That may have been why the 800 soldiers filling the base zone, a base that specialized in maintenance, were so relaxed despite being on the front line of a battlefield.
The area was called a base, but all they had to do was efficiently maintain the Object and see that it was dispatched.
The flesh and blood soldiers only had to guard the giant weapon as it was being maintained during the short time it was there and they would be rewarded as heroes who protected their country with no thought to their own lives.
With the Object there, they were perfectly safe.
The Object that protected them was like a tree that grew gold. Just by watching it, it would defeat enemy after enemy after enemy. The soldiers insisted that all that was the result of the entire base zone’s work so they should all be rewarded, and so their bank accounts became overflowing with money paid from the people’s taxes.
In reality, the war was carried out by the Object alone.
As long as it was there, their lives and futures were basically guaranteed.
It was because they felt that way that a panic fell over all the soldiers watching from the base zone in the instant their Object burst into flames and blew up.
In the current age, war was nothing more than battles between Objects.
That meant that the defeat of one’s own Object was always a possibility when the enemy also had an Object.
The white Alaskan snow storm obstructed their view, but they could still clearly see the red flames and black smoke.
The ejection device shot the pilot girl known as an Elite out into the sky, but no one was going to save a now-useless loser.
More important things were on their minds.
To reiterate, in the current age, war was nothing more than battles between Objects. Lining up tanks, fighters, and the other types of weapons used before would only be easily blown away by the 50 meter monsters that were Objects.
Now that their own Object had been destroyed, the enemy’s Object could move about freely.
What that meant was simple.
They would be massacred.
The overwhelming stream of weapons fire would send their flesh, bones, and organs flying into the air in the hopeless and definite massacre.
Nothing was left for them but to flee. Yet even if they unhesitatingly chose to flee, it would be a miracle if even a tenth of the soldiers within the base zone survived. Not a single one of them recalled the most basic of orders within the military – to stand their ground and hold the line.
A hellish game of tag began.
It was a ridiculous game of tag between a monster over 50 meters long and tiny humans.
One day prior, a boy named Quenser stood in a snowy area of Alaska. He was within the maintenance base zone for the giant Object. Quenser’s build was different than what one would expect of a soldier. Simply put, he did not have the muscles a soldier needed. He looked more like someone who would be attending a school in a safe country. In fact, he could likely change what sex he appeared to be depending on if he was wearing pants or a skirt.
In reality, that overall impression was not incorrect.
The arms he was using to dig into the snow with a shovel were trembling due to exhaustion and myalgia.
“Dammit!! What’s the point of this work!?”
The person who made that announcement and gave up was the actual soldier who stood next to Quenser. Quenser looked surprised and the soldier boy he had met in the base zone threw his shovel down.
“There are all sorts of different types of soldiers. I'm normally a radar analyst that checked the specs of the enemy’s Object to find a weakness. I didn’t join the army to shovel snow!!”
That intellectual soldier was named Heivia. As Quenser did not fit in well with the athletic-minded spirit of the army, he got along with the boy better than the others.
(…Well, we are similar types.)
With that arbitrary thought, Quenser spoke.
“It’s not like there’s any other option. All of the fighting is left to the Object, but the people living in peace back home wouldn’t want to give up their tax money if they didn’t see anyone working at all. I was watching the CS news channel and I saw Councilor Flide shouting about lowering taxes in order to get votes in the upcoming election.”
“That’s exactly the thing though,” said Heivia. “Even the folks back home can tell that digging up the snow like this to maintain a runway is useless. Knowing it’s just for show makes me want to do it even less.”
“Yeah, a fighter isn’t going to do anything against an Object. In the mock battle, it took out 1500 of them and I’m pretty sure that in reality they just called it there because they were tired of counting.” Quenser stabbed the tip of his shovel into the ground and leaned on it with both hands. “After all, Objects use anti-air lasers that are powered by a high-output reactor. Fighters may be able to fly at Mach 2 or 3, but they’re no match for the speed of light. The instant the Object gets a lock, they’re already shot down. I’ve heard that the armored units they mention in history classes were saved by dust and dirt and other stuff near the surface refracting the lasers, but the high altitude that fighters excel in is so clear that there’s nothing to obstruct the laser.”
“Those things are 50 meter monsters that can still move around after you nuke them. A fighter’s nothing more than a small bird or gnat to them. Maintaining a runway is a waste of effort.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that the aces from the aviation unit only stay on standby in their cockpits so they can listen to the radio. But I doubt the tanks from those armored units would be of much use either. …And about leveling off this runway. Couldn’t they just put a giant shovel on the front of an armored vehicle and plow it all out of the way in one go?”
“…What the hell are we doing…?”
“Well, I still prefer this to having to fight.”
“That’s not a very soldierly thing to say, but I’ve gotta agree with you,” said the delinquent soldier Heivia in agreement with the boy of civilian origin. “We can just leave the fighting to the Objects. Losing your life on the battlefield just isn’t done anymore. We just have to watch from afar and wait for the Object to bring back its success as a souvenir. People like us fighting is just out of the question.”
“You’re a noble, right, Heivia?”
“Yeah, so I have to go out here and ‘become an honored soldier’ in order to prove my worthiness to become the next head of my family. Basically, if I put up with life in a base for 3 years, I can spend the rest of my life in a giant mansion flirting with my many maids.”
Contrary to his words, Heivia did not look pleased.
He seemed to not be entirely satisfied with that peaceful life.
“It sounds like you have it tough in your own way.”
“Yes. Unlike you, Heivia, I’m a commoner. I have to make sure I can get a job. That’s why I came here as a battlefield student.”
“Are you hoping to be an Object designer?”
“Learning at the actual site is said to be the quickest course to wealth. If I stay here for 3 years, I’ll have gained the best education you can get. Then I can gain money and the privileges of being a ‘saint that helps the heroes’ by manufacturing and selling Objects for those heroes to pilot.”
“Successful battlefield students are so highly praised because of all the barriers in their way. Since they don’t undergo the training of a soldier, I hear they start dropping like flies due to battlefield sicknesses and overwork. Hearing that does manage to remind me that this is indeed a battlefield.”
“Speaking of that, did you undergo training, Heivia?”
“Yeah, I went through the old style of training when I enlisted. It seems they wanted to build up a foundation of muscles and a spirit of camaraderie over a 5 month period, but I ended up like this regardless. Since I haven’t been in a single real battle since being assigned here, even my hand-to-hand combat skills have probably grown pretty rusty.”
“I’m perfectly happy living the kind of life that leads to forgetting how to fight.”
“That’s not a very soldierly thing to say, but once again, I’ve gotta agree with you.” Growing tired of that subject, Heivia moved on to another. “These nutritionally balanced military rations are just plain disgusting. What were the people who developed them thinking? …It’s more expensive than normal meat but tastes a whole lot worse. I just can’t stand it.”
“Aren’t they purposefully making it something with no flavor so the soldiers’ spirits don’t change based on whether they like the food for that day or not? People have different tastes when it comes to food, so they can’t make something absolutely everyone will like.”
“So they feed us something absolutely everyone will hate? Fuck that!”
“The food is paid for by the other people’s tax money, so you really shouldn’t complain. I will admit that capturing a deer and grilling it with some salt would be better though.”
Quenser had made the comment offhand, but it made Heivia freeze in place for some reason.
He turned eyes of pure admiration toward Quenser.
“…That’s a battlefield student for you. You really are a genius.”
“You’re right. If we don’t have any good food, we just need to go catch it ourselves.”
And so Heivia threw aside his shovel, grabbed his military rifle, and headed outside the base zone. A conifer forest that seemed to jut out of the white snow surrounded the area. It was an area of nature that seemed like it would have more wild animals than they could ever want.
Quenser had been dragged along, but he put down the rifle Heivia had shoved into his arms.
“Let’s go back. The superiors will come after us if they find out. I can already hear them going on about lacking a love for animals or something.”
“C’mon, I know you’d rather have some juicy meat over those rations that taste like petroleum jelly. And I don’t understand why they praise you if you shoot an enemy soldier, but they get mad if you shoot an animal.”
“That’s because bullets aren’t free. They used the tax money to buy them in order to kill enemy soldiers, so I’m betting they just don’t want us wasting them,” explained Quenser, but Heivia was not listening.
He was heading deeper and deeper into the thick forest, following deer tracks in the snow.
(…I’m not going along with this.)
Quenser picked back up his rifle and sat on a nearby stone.
He looked back toward the maintenance base zone.
However, he was not looking at a line of thick reinforced concrete buildings. The base zone Quenser belonged to was a mobile base, so it was made up of a large collection of vehicles. These base vehicles were much larger than even large trailer trucks. The soldiers’ quarters, the radar control tower, and everything else were located onboard those large vehicles. Even the Object maintenance area was put together by lining up several giant trucks that were dozens of meters long.
That was yet another aspect of the rules of war that Objects had changed.
Rather than fortifying a single defensive position, it was more militarily important to be able to swiftly get the Object to any place it needed to be.
Quenser thought as he stared at that base of the new age.
(My superiors with their military decorations are sitting in a warm room sipping coffee as they wait for the Object to return.)
However, holding a grudge was not going to lessen the Alaskan chill and Heivia was right about Quenser being tired of the bland and tasteless rations.
Quenser dug through the pocket of his military uniform that he was still not used to wearing. He pulled out the survival kit he had been issued along with the knife he did not know how to use. The kit had everything needed to treat wounds as well as tools to start a fire or catch a fish.
(In an age where Objects deal with everything, even this is a waste of taxes.)
When stored, the fishing pole was only about as long as a ballpoint pen, but when extended, it was around 50 centimeters and looked like the kind of pole that would be used to catch wakasagi. However, it was made of a military carbon something-or-other so its strength and flexibility were exceptional. Instead of bait, the kit had a few different types of lures. It seemed they had tried to find a way to allow one to fish without wasting any bait.
Quenser walked around for a bit and found a meandering stream. He broke the ice covering the surface and let the fishing line hang down into the water.
“Ahh, today sure is a peaceful day,” he muttered despite being on the front line of a battlefield.
However, an amateur student could not properly use a survival kit so easily. It was unclear if Quenser would even have been able to catch a fish with a proper fishing pole, so it was no surprise when he did not catch anything no matter how long he waited.
He heard intermittent gunfire in the distance.
Of course, it was not enemy soldiers drawing near; it was Heivia chasing deer in hopes of getting one for dinner that night. In that day and age, the idea of flesh-and-blood soldiers attacking a maintenance base zone that held a giant Object was unthinkable. It was like trying to destroy the wall of a nuclear shelter by tackling it.
Just as Quenser was thinking that, he heard crunching footsteps in the snow.
“What is going on?”
He spun around and saw a girl with a puzzled look on her face. The girl looked to be around 14 and looked even less suited for the army than a battlefield student like Quenser.
She had fluffy blonde hair that reached her shoulders and white skin. Rather than a pure blue, her eyes were a light sky blue and she seemed to be staring off into the distance so it was difficult to get a grasp on her emotions.
The delicate lines of her body went beyond merely slender.
Her question seemed to have been in regards to the distant gunshots rather than to Quenser himself.
Quenser gave a blunt response.
“We’re going to have a barbecue tonight. I’m in charge of the salmon and Heivia’s in charge of the deer. I may have been the one to bring it up, but I don’t even know if deer meat is any good. I’ve never had it before, so I’m a little unsure. I just hope it doesn’t taste too strange.”
“…You’ll come to an early death if you have a barbecue with no vegetables.”
The girl gave a sigh with the expression of someone who had opened a box and found something uninteresting inside.
Quenser looked away from the fishing pole that showed no sign of a bite no matter how long he waited.
“Where are you headed, princess?”
“Are you trying to provoke me?”
The girl’s expression usually remained relatively unchanged, but she looked slightly offended there.
However, Quenser and the girl were barely acquainted and he was unsure what to say. She had likely only spoken up on a whim. He doubted any situation would come up where he would need to communicate with that girl.
After all, she was an Elite, a pilot of the giant weapons known as Objects.
While he had helped out at the Alaskan maintenance area, he had exchanged simple greetings with her, but he doubted that was enough to create any kind of friendship. Their positions were simply too far apart. He was a dime a dozen student and she held a position that very few had even within a single nation.
Unlike Quenser and the others, she wore an outfit exclusive to Elite pilots. The suit was rather difficult to describe. It was clearly different from a normal military uniform. It was a mainly indigo blue skintight suit that started at her neck and covered even her hands and feet. The boots and gloves seemed to be detachable and they were connected on with fasteners.
Over that, she wore a black armored vest to protect her torso and a type of pocket that spread out like a miniskirt. Apparently, the bottom of the vest and the top of the pocket attached when she was piloting the Object. In what may have been a military tradition, the neck of her suit had a sailor uniform collar attached that somehow looked like part of a school uniform from a safe country.
The suit was highly water resistant so it could be worn while working underwater and it would even stop blood from flowing to her lower body to preserve the functionality of her brain just like air force suits did. The special suit was very Object-like in the fact that it outdid each of the previously existing branches of the military.
Quenser recalled being surprised when he had first seen her light sky blue eyes in the maintenance area. At first he had thought they were truly glowing, but he had been wrong. When piloting the Object, weak infrared rays were used to allow even the movements of her eyes to act as an input device. Long exposure to that laser had lightened the original blue color of her eyes.
That lightening was not an unwanted destruction of the functionality of her pupils’ lenses by the laser. Instead, it was an advancement allowing the laser to be even more effective, so her eyes would not grow any lighter once they reached a certain point.
The girl turned those light-colored eyes that were the sign of an Elite toward Quenser and spoke.
“The Object is being serviced. I had nothing to do, so I was wandering around outside. That was when I heard what sounded like gunfire.”
“…Oh, crap. You could hear that back at the base? We probably have a lecture waiting for us then.”
“And the old lady chief was yelling something about ‘that stupid kid’ running off and wasting a perfect chance to learn something since the Object was undergoing maintenance.”
“Oh, crap! This is worse than I thought!!”
He started running back toward the base zone, but then…
“…No, wait. Even if I run back now, I’m still going to get that lecture, so my options here are really to get yelled at empty handed or to get yelled at after catching some salmon. …I see, I see. I’m not going back until I catch at least one even if I die first.”
“If you acted more maturely and did not do things like that, they would not get mad at you so often.”
Quenser returned to the fishing pole mostly out of escapism and the girl looked at him with a shocked look in her eyes. Either she truly had nothing better to do or she was not used to someone who was not a proper soldier (to the soldiers, piloting the Object was a matter of life or death, so they tried to keep their distance from the Elite girl to make sure nothing unexpected happened) because she continued to hang around. This was unlike when he helped out with the maintenance because then they would only exchange a few businesslike words.
(…Could it be that this princess is also tired of the rations, so she’s interested in the salmon?)
Quenser did not dare speak that thought aloud because he was sure it would make her most displeased.
He continued trying to come up with something to talk about, but the girl continued speaking before he could come up with anything.
“You came here to study the Object, correct?”
“Yes. If I can survive helping out with the maintenance here at the base for 3 years, nothing but success awaits me when I return home.”
“Why this base?” asked the girl curiously. “You know what kind of Object I pilot at this base, don’t you?”
“It’s a Composite Multi-Role Object. …In other words, it can be freely used in any environment on the earth and in any weather conditions. It’s the most standard type of the giant weapons. It’s fine on land or in the sea.”
“Standard is another way of saying old-fashioned.” The girl sighed. “The second generation Objects are not so greedy as to claim to work anywhere. An Object developed to fight in the desert without any thought to fighting anywhere else will outdo a normal Object in a desert battle.”
That was a theory that had started to gradually spread throughout the Object manufacturing industry.
When the first Objects had started appearing on the battlefield, a composite Object that could fight the same in any battlefield in the world was a king of beasts with no natural enemy. However, when multiple Objects started popping up in the various battlefields across the globe, the situation had changed.
A composite model that could be freely used anywhere had no real weaknesses. However, this also meant that it had no real strengths. When the situation had changed from an Object crushing normal weapons to an Object fighting an Object, the question of how to make one’s own Object stand above the rest came to the forefront.
One suggested answer to that question was to create an Object that had definite strengths even if that would destroy the even balance of its functionality. Afterwards, that Object would have its activities kept to the environment it excelled in, giving it an advantage over other Objects when it fought.
“Here in Alaska is the same. We have a normal Object with no disadvantages and they have an optimized Object with definite strengths. In this snowy area, my Object may not be able to win.”
“But you’ve continued to use that Object, right, princess?”
“…I have no choice,” the girl known as an Elite said with some hesitation.
All the previous giant 50 meter weapons had become “old generation models” due to the latest weapons, but not just anyone could become an Elite that piloted those Objects.
They were the people who met every desired condition under a search carried out using the army’s flowchart of conditions.
Also, a human only became a terminal that controlled an Object after they had abilities developed that easily overcame those of your standard genius by having their nature artificially honed, refined, and improved by chemical and electrical means to match an individual Object.
Once an Elite was developed so utterly, their fate was linked with that of their Object.
Elites could not pilot just any Object. They could only pilot the Object they had been fine-tuned for. In fact, it might not be wrong to think of an Elite as someone who had their brain fine-tuned for a specific Object.
Elites could only pilot the Object developed for them or an Object further developed from the one that used the same tree diagram.
In that case, what would it mean if the type of Object you used was becoming obsolete?
“I might not be able to win,” the Elite girl who piloted the invincible Object said suddenly. “I might not be able to keep up.”
That girl had had her brain fine-tuned for the sole purpose of piloting that Object.
“As someone who has actually worked on the maintenance of the Object rather than just believing in it, you should know. So why did you come here?”
“Because I value things differently,” responded Quenser after thinking for a bit. “Only the soldiers get so obsessed over what is strong and what is weak. I’m a student. If I don’t stay with an Object with academic value, I won’t gain the knowledge and skills I need.”
“If I learn about a standard, basic model, I can use that knowledge anywhere. On the other hand, if I study a model that has already been optimized in one direction, I can’t use that knowledge anywhere else. For a battlefield student, your Object is the best option.”
His opinion did not take any of the serious issues like winning the war into account, but he could say that kind of thing because he was not a soldier.
“If you try for too much on the battlefield, you will not live long.”
“True, and that’s why battlefield students have such a low survival rate. But I’m butting in here on the battlefield in the hopes of getting rich quick, so I won’t complain.”
Hearing Quenser say that, the girl who was a veteran of many battles tilted her head in puzzlement like a normal girl.
“So you’re prepared.”
“Yes, well, I hate working slowly through normal schoolwork, so I’m desperate for this chance to skip ahead. I need to be prepared for whatever it takes.”
“Hmm,” said the Elite in a reaction that gave the impression that she was a little slow.
This time Quenser was left staring at her in puzzlement. However, it seemed the girl had no intention of continuing the conversation. She turned around and left that forested area of Alaska, leaving the boy with his rifle and fishing pole.
In real life, people often did not think back on strange things that happened.
In just such an example, the reason that Elite girl had spoken to him like that was something Quenser probably should have thought back on a little more.
After all, Objects were synonymous with war and flesh-and-blood soldiers had no value.
However, that also meant that just thinking about it may have been pointless.
As expected, they received a lecture.
The two idiots named Quenser and Heivia were dragged to the barracks for the distinguished commissioned officers. Just like everything else, those barracks were inside the large vehicles making up the base. Three vehicles were bolted together alongside each other, creating a rectangular building about the size of a four-story building. Of course, the vehicles could be separated at any time in order to fit on a narrow path.
Quenser and Heivia were within the topmost fourth floor area of the officer barracks.
(Damn Japan-obsessed bourgeois.)
It was not simply due to the splendid interior decoration of the room that the two of them had that same thought in unison. It had a lot more to do with the fact that they were being forced to sit in the Japanese seiza style on the hard floor.
Meanwhile, their superior officer, Froleytia, was not sitting on the hard floor. The inner half of the room was raised up higher than the rest and had tatami mats laid out on it. She was sitting in front of a short-legged desk in the middle of the tatami mats. She was seated upon a zabuton cushion so soft a cat would likely never get up again once it lay down on it.
She was a beautiful woman with long silver hair.
Her hair may have been slightly dyed because the silver was tinged slightly blue.
She was tall, she was slender, and she had large breasts that greatly pushed out her uniform. The legs wrapped in black stockings that stretched down from the tight skirt of a female officer were not simply slender. They were overflowing with a streamlined beauty that somehow drew the eye. Her palely colored lips held a pipe. It was not the short, thick type of pipe loved by European detectives. Instead, it was a long, narrow Japanese kiseru that was just under 30 cm long.
Quenser did not know if it was from the type of tobacco she was smoking or if it was a scent mixed in with her hair, but he could faintly smell sweet aroma.
“…You know why you were called here, correct?”
Her words were colder than the snowy plains outside the window when they stabbed into Quenser and Heivia’s ears.
They of course knew perfectly well why they had been called there.
They had left their snow shoveling duties to search for food outside the maintenance base zone. Since Heivia had also been firing his military rifle all over the place, it would have been odd if she had not been mad at them. It was on a level where they could easily be thrown in the detention barracks or possibly even court martialed.
“(…What are we going to do, Heivia!? This is why I told you to stop!! This was all about the rations, but I’d rather eat nothing but snow for the next three days than this!!)”
“(…Shut up, dammit!! God damn, is she really only 18? I know normal soldiers aren’t needed on the battlefield in this day and age, but I bet she could take on an Object with nothing but a clenched fist!)”
Just by having their names called, the two straightened up in shock. Froleytia was not even looking in their direction. She was playing with a long, narrow hairpin about 20 cm long that was modeled after a Japanese kanzashi while running a pen-like object across a board on top of her desk.
The board was known as a tablet.
Quenser had thought the devices were normally used to draw using a computer, but…
“Does this interest you, Quenser?”
“It may not be on the same level as you two who spend all your time searching for food, but I am quite busy. It may seem like nothing compared to you desperately burying the meat and fish you caught in the snow so it would keep, but I have to remotely command an operation on a small island in the Pacific while remaining here in this Alaskan base zone.”
Quenser moved only his eyes to look at the wall to the side. The entire wall was a giant LCD monitor and it was displaying a large map of the ocean and some islands. V-like red checkmarks continued appearing in relation to how Froleytia manipulated the tablet.
“Yes, it’s actually quite simple. I make marks on this board and the giant Object on standby there fires a long distance bombardment that blows away the bases of the guerrillas. It really is simple, isn’t it? Please tell me you think so,” Froleytia said nonchalantly as she continued adding more checkmarks. “Tablets really are nice. For one thing, it seems it can read the intensity of my guts from how hard I press down it as I write. I get the feeling that the long distance operation today is going especially smoothly.”
She must have actually been quite angry as she gave her commands because a creaking noise was coming from the plastic pen-shaped tool she held.
When they imagined the bits of flesh flying through the air somewhere in the world each time she made a checkmark, Quenser and Heivia started trembling.
“As I was saying, I am quite busy commanding multiple base zones and units at once, but then some idiots decided to give me even more to deal with. …By the way, can you imagine what is going on within my heart right now?”
“Yes, ma’am!! I would very much rather not envision it though! I can tell that you are quite pissed, Froleytia!!”
“Good. I am glad I have such excellent subordinates. I do, don’t I? Nod if you agree,” Froleytia said, finally looking in their direction with a sadistic smile.
After she had finished giving her orders to the units in the Pacific and had checked that the operation was complete, her expression suddenly changed to a carefree one.
“So what did you manage to get? I’ve had just about enough of those giant edible erasers they call rations.”
Ultimately, the issue ended such that dinner that night sounded like it would be quite nice (Quenser and Heivia still had to run 20 km in the snow later as punishment though), but there was still some time before mealtime.
“You mean that hellish run is starting now!?” said Quenser as he braced himself for the announcement, but Froleytia shook her head.
“You are a battlefield student. If I don’t send you over to the maintenance area to study the Object, I think the old lady in charge there would end up yelling at me.”
“Uuh!? I forgot I’d skipped out on that, too!! That means I’m also going to get a lecture from the old lady who can outdo even you!!”
“Oh, and Heivia, you can continue shoveling snow on your own. Make sure that runway is useable by sunset. The air unit has been complaining.”
“Noo!! That sounds worse than the 20 kilometer dash!! And why doesn’t the air unit get off their asses and help!?”
And so Quenser parted ways with Heivia and headed for the Object maintenance area.
It was a giant building that completely enveloped the giant weapon that was over 50 meters long. Just like the officer barracks, it too was created from several vehicles linked together.
Vehicles with flat beds 15 meters long and 10 meters across were lined up on both sides and two quickly constructed walls had been set up with a roof connecting them. Overall, it looked something like a cross section of a warehouse. The large maintenance area was constructed of a few of those linked together.
In addition to the standard shutters, the maintenance area also had an emergency means of letting the Object out. The base vehicles making up the maintenance area were linked together surrounding the Object, so they would instead break apart and move away from the Object when it needed to leave. Since that method destroyed the floor of the area, it was not normally used.
Quenser entered the giant building through a small back entrance for maintenance soldiers.
The giant 50 meter Object that was a symbol of military might was an overwhelming sight.
Surrounding the reactor at its center was a thick wall like one for a nuclear shelter. The wall created a sphere-like form. Its undercarriage was in a reverse Y-shape and it did not walk or roll on wheels like a normal vehicle. Instead, it used static electricity to float just a bit off the ground. The theory behind it was completely different, but its movements made it look a bit like the ground beneath it was moving to slide it along.
Of course, merely covering the ground with static electricity was not enough to make such a large construction float. A spray that acted as a repellent to the electrified Object was sprayed on the ground as it advanced.
It used a laser as a means of propulsion.
The power of static electricity created a small gap between the Object and the ground and the air in that gap was heated up by repeatedly firing a laser that was reflected and concentrated. This heating caused the air to explosively expand which provided propulsion. It was the same theory used in the laser launch pads for shuttles.
Its main pieces of military equipment were the 7 arms stretching from the back of the sphere.
The 7 giant guns attached to them could pierce through even Objects of the same rank.
It also had about 100 other gun batteries covering the surface of the sphere. It looked less like an optimized weapon and more like a strange weapon that had every piece of weaponry its creator could think of stuck on.
In modern times, it was the cornerstone of the military.
It was the cutting edge in the history of war.
It was an Object.
Over 200 thick wires similar to the ones used on cranes were connected to the walls and ceiling, anchoring its giant form in place. Countless walkways ran through the air and many maintenance soldiers wearing work clothes were immersed in various types of work.
Suddenly, the high-pitched sound of a wrench striking a metal railing echoed throughout the area.
Quenser looked up in surprise and saw an old lady yelling at him from a third-floor passageway.
“So you’re here, boy! You should thank me! I’m willing to take any help I can get, so I’ll even use an unrefined boy like you! Grab some tools and get on up here!!”
“Sorry I’m late!! About my punishment…!!”
“I don’t mind, I don’t mind. A maintenance soldier shows his worth with his results!!”
Hearing that, Quenser headed for the third floor using a simple stairway that could detach at the press of a button.
“(...Ohh. Thank goodness she’s an understanding old lady. And here I thought I needed to be afraid of her.)”
“(…Well, if he ends up not being of any use I can stuff him inside an empty drum and hit it with a metal bat from the outside.)”
As they muttered their respective comments such that the other could not hear, the two of them started their work on the third-floor passageway.
The old lady was working on something related to the system.
The Object’s cockpit (and emergency escape hatch) was located on the upper back part of the main spherical body. No one wanted to think about it, but the piloting Elite would be ejected in an upwards diagonal trajectory from the back in case of an emergency.
Currently, dozens of barriers were opened to create a route to the center of the sphere and the light from the cockpit’s monitors could be seen shining deep within like it was the opening to a tunnel. The tunnel was not simply a path to the cockpit. It also branched off to connect to various other places such as the maintenance room for the reactor, the thick double-layer door where additional fuel was added, or the room to exchange the attached box in which exhaust gases were compressed and sealed. It was reminiscent of a subway tunnel made of barriers and switching rails.
Meanwhile, the old lady was leaning back against a railing near that tunnel and looking at a handheld device.
“That connects directly with the Object’s system wirelessly, right? If you don’t need a long cable to connect it, is there really any need to open all the barriers down to the cockpit…?”
“You idiot. The Object’s barrier walls cut off electromagnetic signals. If they didn’t, an enemy Object could mess with the system mid-battle.”
Suddenly, a bluish-white flash of light surged up in the corner of their vision, so they both fell silent. A welder was working on the Object’s armor.
The main body of the Object alone was over 50 meters, but it was not made by pouring melted steel into a ridiculously huge mold. Steel sheets about the size of a curved tatami mat were prepared and dozens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of them were put together to create the giant sphere.
The point of the many thin sheets was to disperse and distribute an impact rather than provide the defensive power of a thick wall. The theory was similar to that of a simple bulletproof vest, but it used so many steel sheets that it could even hold back the shockwave of a nuclear strike.
“It’s called onion armor, right? Not only is it tough, but pieces can be easily switched out when an enemy Object damages it. Whoever came up with the idea deserves a Nobel Prize.”
“It may sound simple, but each individual sheet of armor is custom made and tempered by a skilled artisan like a Japanese sword.”
“The heated steel has a few milligrams of a powdered fireproofing agent added in, right? From what I’ve heard, that makes it stronger, but makes the metal difficult to reuse.”
“It’s all thanks to the skilled hands of the artisans. A machine just can’t get the distribution right, so it ends up actually being more brittle.”
Quenser and the old lady looked down from the passageway just as a forklift carrying spare curved steel sheets passed by below. The forklift had “A beautiful victory for Princess Milinda!!” written on the side in large English letters.
(That’s the princess from before.)
As Quenser had that thought, the old lady continued to speak beside him.
“Personally, I was more surprised by the mechanism with which electricity is supplied from the reactor in the center out even to the laser cannons on the outer surface without using a single cable.”
“It uses a printed circuit board-style of power supply, right? By setting insulating material and conductive material in place and burning them onto the steel plates, power can be supplied without having to lower its defenses by opening holes in the armor for cables. The person that came up with that deserves a Nobel Prize, too.”
“Really, boy. You make it sound like everything is so easily made.”
The old lady slowly shook her head. At the same time, she carried out maintenance on the Object’s software with quick motions of her wrinkled fingers over the handheld device.
As she continued to work, she asked Quenser a question.
“So you’re hoping to be a weapon engineer?”
“Eh? Oh, about me wanting to be an Object designer. Well, for a commoner like me, I was thinking that would be the best position to get a wealthy life out of. As far as money and social status go, it easily outdoes some of the lower classes of nobles.”
“You aren’t gonna get a proper life out of being a wealthy merchant. …Well, it’s your life, boy, so I won’t stop you. So what are you thinking of making your field of expertise as a weapon engineer?”
“I was hoping to go with the total frame.”
“You idiot. No newcomer in the making is going to get a job putting together an entire Object. That’s like saying your dream for the future is to become a billionaire. It’s just too vague. Don’t students like you usually start by studying the something convenient like the replicant field in order get a job with a defense contractor and then learn the more complex things there?”
“Yeah, well, I’m not too fond of the whole replicant thing.” The idea must have brought something to mind, because Quenser made an unpleasant expression. “That’s the field that comes up with new ways for machines to move based on the movements of insects and other animals, and I don’t like spiders and roaches and things like that. Although you basically just observe bugs, so I’ll admit the research for that field is pretty cheap.”
“You coward. You’re the one that’ll be crying later because you failed to build up the basics.”
“I wanted to study an Object with standard features like the princess’s as a battlefield student in order to quickly learn those basics without having to go through all that other crap.”
“Why do you think the leaders of the home country built zoos and insect museums in all the major cities? They’ve spent the people’s taxes in order to supply inspiration to the promising youths who are trying to design Objects.”
The old lady sighed.
Quenser then looked over toward the entrance to the tunnel-like route leading to the cockpit.
“Speaking of promising youths, isn’t it about time for the pilot…or rather, the Elite selection scouting? When I was at school in the safe country, government officials dressed all in black would come loiter around the school.”
“They have to do it four times a year, but they probably won’t find anyone qualified this time either.”
“Elites have to conform to something called Element, right? What is that?”
“…It’s a general term for the conditions an Object pilot must meet.” The old lady’s fingers stopped moving along the handheld device and her tone grew a bit colder. “That said, it isn’t some kind of esper power that allows them to operate the special equipment. Well, it’s true there is an aspect to it that they are naturally born with, but the Elites are a military project to thoroughly refine natural talent using even things like electric stimuli and suggestions. With that method of creating them, the biggest impediment comes from human rights issues rather than a lack of money or equipment.”
“Those who qualify have their human rights completely ignored, but no one complains and even the Elites themselves truly wish to fight for their country even after having been developed like that. People that meet those conditions are not exactly common. …The Elites being raised will be piloting the ultimate weapons and it would be a problem if they turned their weapons on their home country.”
They heard a mechanical noise and the old lady added in a whisper, “Don’t speak with her.”
A seat exited from the tunnel-like route using the cockpit elevator. The Elite princess was sitting in the seat with her upper body strapped in with an H-shaped belt.
“So you’re finally here, sleepyhead.”
“I apologize. I have no excuse.”
“Here, boy, I have a job for you. Service the emergency ejection device. No one else’ll do it because they say it’s a bad omen.”
In any age, that was the kind of job left to an amateur. The amateur would take care of the ill-omened, useless jobs while watching how the pros did their work out of the corner of his eye.
Quenser circled around to the back of the chair the girl was sitting in and started working.
“Speaking of superstitions, is that why the Object is completely white? Or is it just camouflage for the snow?”
“At first, it was properly camouflaged to match its environment,” said the girl.
“But the king of beasts that has no natural enemies does not need to hide and paying for the paint got expensive, so now it’s just white. …Not to mention that something 50 meters long can’t be hidden so easily,” added the old lady.
“Hehh. It’s not the same as the replicant stuff we were talking about, but I heard rumors that there was a project to intimidate the enemy with patterns based on ferocious beasts or insects.”
“There was also a plan to create a terrible mode where it would continually make a horrible scraping noise from changing gears. Neither plan ever got anywhere.”
“The enemy is not the only one that sees the Object. It would be pointless if it wore away at your allies’ morale as well and they can’t exactly show some horrible looking Object off to the citizens in a parade in a safe country.”
“I see,” responded Quenser. “Then what about that rapier hanging down from the ceiling on a rope?”
“That’s a traditional good luck charm.”
“It ensures victory,” chimed in the girl.
As he listened, Quenser continued moving his wrench.
He heard a slight clicking noise and then the girl’s head shook just as she was about to say more about the good luck charm. Quenser looked questioningly over from the back of the seat at the back of the girl’s head.
“I can’t breathe.”
“Oh, shit! You idiot!! Don’t mess with the setting of the belt!! You’re constricting the princess!!”
“What!? Did I just do something really bad!?”
“I can’t breathe,” the girl repeated.
Quenser frantically grabbed the tool again, but he did not know what he had done to affect the belt.
The old lady ran to the small work elevator.
“I’ll go find a knife!! Boy, you take care of the physical work! Pull on the belt to make a gap so the princess doesn’t suffocate before I get back!!”
As Quenser was still panicking, the old lady left.
He quickly circled around to the front of the seat.
“I don’t mind… Just do something.”
Quenser decided to do as the old lady had instructed and pull on the belt to keep the girl from suffocating.
…But the H-shaped belt was digging into her chest in such a way that it emphasized her breasts.
Quenser’s fingers stiffened somewhat.
To grab the belt, he would have to make a hook shape with his fingers and dig down under the belt, but that would require him to touch the bulges on the girl’s chest.
(Despite her childlike proportions, she has quite a bit there…)
As useless thoughts like that raced through Quenser’s mind, he heard the girl’s quiet voice.
“…I’m going to die.”
That was right. He could not hesitate in a situation like that.
(I’m saving someone’s life here. This is serious. I screwed up. I need to make up for that. But those are her tits. No, no, that’s not the issue here. I need to stay serious. If I don’t hurry, her life is in danger. I need to save her. I need to do what I can for this princess. Tits!!)
Having finally prepared himself, Quenser reached out for the girl’s chest with everything he had before his jumbled thoughts could weaken his resolve.
The princess gave a small shriek like that of a small animal and he stopped.
(Not good. I just locked onto her tits rather than the belt, didn’t I? I can’t be grabbing her tits with an aroused look on my face that would make her feel her chastity was in danger. But what am I supposed to do? How can I save her without defiling her!?)
“E-emergency…measures…” said the princess as her face was growing paler and paler.
“What? Do you have some way out of this!?”
As she spoke, the girl pressed a button hidden under the seat.
Immediately afterwards, the seat she was sitting in exploded.
The H-shaped belt binding her was automatically severed and her small frame flew high into the air. However, Quenser was not able to just watch that. A mass of compressed air struck his body sending him flying a few meters away.
He landed rolling on the walkway and he saw a large white flower out of the corner of his eye.
It was the emergency escape parachute.
Normally, the high speed elevator would take her from the cockpit to the outer surface, the entire seat would be launched into the air, and finally the compressed air emitter in the suit would activate as the third stage. However, she had only activated that final stage which had sent her flying up almost to the ceiling.
(That ejection device really is a bad omen.)
As he muttered that in his heart, Quenser heard a voice.
“That’s the first time I’ve had to use that.”
Once the sun had set, it was time for dinner.
Instead of heading for the mess hall, Quenser headed out into the falling snow. He was having a barbecue that night. As he had caught the deer, Heivia was of course joining him, but it seemed their superior, Froleytia, would be there too because she claimed to just care about her subordinates that much.
Everyone was bored since they left everything about the war to the Object. If they had offered, it seemed likely all 800 soldiers would have come along, but Froleytia decided it should remain a confidential matter between the three of them. After all, they only had a limited amount of meat.
And so the three of them had their barbecue.
They held their barbecue within the grounds of the maintenance base zone.
The base zone was nothing more than a collection of large base vehicles and they had secretly gathered in a space surrounded by facilities on all sides so the winter wind would not blow on them too much. There, they built a fire and placed a metal sheet above it.
Froleytia, the superior officer, had gotten there first and was warming her hands on the fire she had started. She may have been the one looking forward to the dinner the most.
“Even if I warm myself, the cold still permeates my body. I need to eat some fatty meat to warm myself from the inside.”
Quenser glanced at Froleytia’s legs.
“Aren’t stockings warmer than bare legs?”
“Do you want me to shove them over your head so you can find out, Quenser? These are just for my appearance. They give nothing but peace of mind. Do you choose your socks based on what will keep out the cold best? I’m jealous of you guys that get to wear pants year-round,” said the woman in the tight skirt before turning to Heivia. “Good work, Heivia. Thanks to you, the runway can be used to take off from at any time. I’m sure that the STOL group from the air unit will thank you as well.”
“Heh heh. It was nothing.”
“But really the air unit is completely unnecessary. Those cowards removed all the weapons from their own planes, claiming it was to improve agility and stealth functionality. Really, they’re just afraid of having the enemy decide to shoot them down because they see them as a threat. They brazenly claim to specialize in reconnaissance, but almost all of the information on enemy Objects is brought back from the princess’s actual battles.”
“Dammit!! I had a vague idea that what I was doing was useless, but it really pisses me off to have someone else say it!! And given the condition out here, the snow’ll probably all be back by morning!!”
“Well, the age of fighters started going on the decline as far back as when chemical oxygen iodine lasers started being put on bombers. …The units were simply too big to fit on a small fighter. Once light came into play, being able to fly at the speed of sound didn’t matter so much. And then Objects came along. They have all sorts of different kinds of lasers. They can shoot repeatedly and in any direction. It’s impossible to fight against that in a fighter. All air units can do these days is bring in pizza from the safe country before it gets cold.”
“…That was 700 meters. I cleared snow from all 700 meters of that short takeoff runway all on my own!!”
As Heivia trembled in anger, Froleytia stuck her tongue out where he could not see her. She then spoke to Quenser much more familiarly than how she gave orders to her many subordinates.
“By the way, I hear you spoke with the princess outside the base zone,” asked his beautiful superior officer who even had carefully-maintained manicured nails despite being a soldier on the front lines.
Her tone made it sound like that was more important than the fact that he had disobeyed his orders.
“Umm, is that a problem? I talk with her occasionally in the maintenance area, so I just interacted with her in the same way. Should I have thought more about our positions?”
“I don’t see a problem with it. Apparently, the medical group feeds her rations even worse than ours to make absolutely sure her health does not suffer, but I say that will lead to the stress doing her in before poor nutrition ever would.”
“Doesn’t the Elite princess have an exclusive recreation building? From what I hear, it is supposed to be filled with devices that have digitalized healing effects,” said Heivia more politely than he was wont to do.
Froleytia grabbed a juicy piece of cooked venison with the chopsticks she used as part of her Japan obsession.
“That thing costs us all sorts of money, but does no real good. Do you think you could actually have fun playing with teaching materials your teachers at school handed out? Apparently, the princess dropped by once and has never gone there again.”
“So that’s how it is,” replied Quenser as he was reminded of the conversation with her from earlier that day.
He could not imagine anything making that girl smile.
That was the girl who had ominously said she might not be able to win in the next battle.
As those words of hers floated up in his mind, Quenser asked, “Have you ever lost, Froleytia?”
“Yes,” she readily affirmed while looking like she wished she had some beer to go with the meat. “I’ve lost three times when commanding remotely and once with the unit I was stationed with. It was terrible. The criticism when I returned home was worse than the flight itself. But that isn’t too surprising. I had lost a weapon used for strategies on a national scale after all.”
“Eh? Objects are synonymous with war, right? What do you do once the other side destroys your Object? I doubt you could manage with a tank or a fighter,” asked Heivia, brimming with curiosity.
“It’s simple. You raise the white flag,” responded Froleytia nonchalantly.
“Wars these days are not all-out wars. Once one side’s Object has been destroyed, the victor has been decided. And this victor doesn’t have the time to spare needed to pursue all of the powerless infantry units. No treaty has been formally made in that regard, but it’s one of the basic facts of war that no one even feels the need to bring up. If the unit quickly retreats and surrenders the territory, there is no need to make things more complicated and hunt them down.”
Seeing the gaping mouths of the two novices, Froleytia put on a carefree smile.
“Ha ha. I understand why you’re so surprised by that. When they train you, they don’t want to lower the tension, so they don’t tell you about conventions like that. But just look at me. I joined the military as a child soldier at 13 and have been on various campaigns ever since, but I do not have a single scar. In order to prevent any unnecessary deaths, we use clean weapons like Objects that gather all the military might in one place rather than spreading it out. My lovely skin shows that this is truly a ‘safe battlefield’.” Froleytia spun her chopsticks around a little. “Did you know that the #1 reason for soldiers to be sent home from this unit is not being shot by the enemy or carelessly stepping on a landmine? It’s actually due to fights between men and women within the base zone. On the modern battlefield, you need to be more afraid of love affairs than bullets. Do you see just how peaceful this place is?”
Quenser started to agree, but then a question popped into his mind.
“Wait. But Froleytia, weren’t you sending bombardments directly on enemy bases using a friendly Object in the Pacific earlier today?”
“You have a good eye, Quenser. That was not a war against another proper army. Attacks against guerillas or terrorists are nothing but suppression operations, so the previous conventions do not apply. …Listen up and remember this. That is the most efficient plan for using an Object. Large nations need some kind of mechanism for skillfully pushing back opposing forces.”
As the unpleasant turn of the conversation was ruining the taste of his food, Quenser decided to change the subject. The only subject other than the Objects he could come up with was the food.
Quenser looked at the venison that was acting as the main part of their dinner and then looked over at Heivia who had hunted it down.
“So are soldiers trained in how to hunt for food? I’m only at the level where I might be able to catch a single salmon after 3 hours.”
“Modern rifles have more than just optical scopes. They also have infrared cameras and microphones for searching for the enemy. It’s made so you can trace your target in multiple different ways. I wouldn’t end up with anything either if I headed into the great outdoors with just a fishing pole. Although the rifles are a complete waste of taxes since all the fighting is left to the Object.”
Froleytia then spoke up while skillfully using her chopsticks.
“Unless the supply line to the base zone is cut off, we can get as much food as we want from the home country. And the base will never be taken out as long as we have the Object. Even when I was a new soldier, they didn’t always train us in how to hunt animals. At the very least, it certainly isn’t a skill combat engineers like you need.”
“A combat engineer…hm? I just can’t get used to how that sounds.”
“The management of the base zone revolves around taxes. If we didn’t give a job to the students that hang around, it could affect the number of votes the politicians get. The climax of the council election is coming up back in the home country and Councilor Flide is getting worried.”
There were many different kinds of combat engineers, but the ones Quenser and the others were talking about were soldiers that dealt with explosives. However, they were not professionals that used them to kill enemy soldiers. Instead, they destroyed bridges to cut off the enemy’s path or blew stones out of the way of their own path.
For a student who was full of strange knowledge and did not have the guts to actually shoot someone, that role was perfect. There was also the course of being a medic, but Quenser’s specialty was machines and he did not know much about living things.
“But then our base is made up of the base vehicles, so we can set up camp just by driving those vehicles around, and we also have the Object. There really isn’t much for combat engineers to do.”
“That isn’t just the combat engineers. It’s pretty much the same for everyone in the base zone,” said Froleytia as she reached her chopsticks for one of the few pieces of salmon. “God damn this is a peaceful world. It feels like my gun could rust over and I could get zits from over-nutrition.”
“I know. As long as we have the Object, we’re safe. After three years in a base, I have the path of a noble waiting for me and Quenser here can go back to the safe country and become one of those distinguished scholars,” said Heivia with a smile as he patted Quenser familiarly on the shoulder.
“You kids are making me jealous,” spat out Froleytia, but there was not the slightest hint of jealousy on her face. Most likely, she preferred staying on the safe battlefield to being promoted from the military to a strict political post.
“Yeah,” Quenser said. “As long as we have the Object, even those dulled by peace like us can fight a war.”
Quenser’s words there addressed one truth of the world.
It was true as long as they had the Object.
A day later they would know.
They would know what kind of hell awaited soldiers utterly dulled by peace once their Object was destroyed by an enemy Object.
Froleytia had said that they merely had to raise the white flag if they lost.
However, she had also said something else.
No treaty has been formally made in that regard.
An explosion tore through snowy Alaska.
The giant invincible Object that had been fighting 10 kilometers away through the snowstorm started emitting black smoke and stopped moving. Through binoculars, the pilot’s seat could be seen being ejected and slowly floating down to the snowy ground with its parachute.
An unpleasant noise that echoed in his gut reached Quenser’s ears over the wind. The symbol of their safety, the Object, had been blown away by the enemy Object.
Its main body was a giant sphere covered in thick armor. In four directions, long insect-like legs stretched out to the ground. Its main weapons were sets of two low-stability plasma cannons, each measuring 50 meters. After a special gas was loaded into the cannon, a massive amount of energy from the reactor artificially created superhot plasma which was then fired. The sets of two were located on the front, back, left, and right creating a horizontal cross of cannons that allowed it to fire in any direction. It had a total of 8 of those cannons. Its spherical main body and four legs had countless laser beams, railguns, and coilguns, giving it over 100 guns in total.
The main body alone was 50 meters and the cannons stretching in each direction gave it a size of over 140 meters. The mountain-sized mass was slowly pointing its mid-range steel bridge-sized cannons their way. The set of two low-stability plasma cannons could melt a nuclear shelter buried deep in the earth in a single shot.
“…Hey,” said Heivia suddenly as he stood dumbfounded next to Quenser. “Why is it aiming in our direction? If the Object loses, we just have to raise the white flag and it’s over, right? That’s what Froleytia said, right!? So why!? This isn’t something to be slow about. Hurry and raise the fucking white flaaaaaaaagggggggggg!!”
Quenser looked at the radio he had been issued.
He could hear an intermittent signal coming from it.
That was most likely the modern digitalized white flag.
Froleytia must have followed the convention she had spoken of in order to bring the battle to an end. She may have made up her mind quickly in order to keep the number of sacrificed subordinates as low as possible.
However, the enemy Object had not stopped.
The sound of the cannons making slight adjustments to their aim seemed to be implicitly saying it did not care about the convention.
“Run…” someone said.
It was possible it was Quenser himself who had said it.
Had the 800 soldiers in the area been able to react?
A great roar and flash of light pounded Quenser’s senses.
Something seemed to be trying to smash his skull, much less his eardrums. The Object was not firing metal shells. It was using brutal low-stability plasma cannons that made use of the excess energy it produced.
What temperature did it reach?
Before he could think that, his consciousness was sent flying.
A beam from one of the low-stability plasma cannons had struck some of the base vehicles a short distance from Quenser. The vehicles used to construct the Object maintenance area were the largest of the greater than 100 large base vehicles that made up the maintenance base zone and one of those became distorted like a sugar sculpture before exploding like an erupting volcano.
The blast blew Quenser onto the thick snow.
Even while buried in snow that had to be below zero degrees, Quenser’s body was wrapped in an unpleasant sweat.
He could not even hear his own voice.
He frantically tried to check on the situation despite having lost over half of his ability to see and somehow managed to determine that he was in one piece. The low-stability plasma cannon must have moved along a straight path as it fired because he noticed an empty trench cutting through the deep snow.
(Was the heat so great…it melted the snow…and then caused a phreatic explosion…?)
It was possible even the steel had evaporated and then stuck to the ground.
As Quenser lay dazed on the ground, someone grabbed his arm.
It was Heivia who had bloodshot eyes and was breathing erratically.
“Hey, we need to get out of here.”
“We need to get the hell out of here!! Our Object was taken out and their Object is perfectly fine!! We wouldn’t be able to do a thing even if we had 100 tanks. If we don’t get out of here, we’ll be slaughtered like a line of ants!!”
What that meant finally hit home with Quenser.
When he looked around, he saw the other soldiers beginning to take action. The base zone was made up of over 100 large base vehicles. The soldiers were climbing or jumping aboard the nearest base vehicle and the vehicles were breaking their normal formation and scattering in a panic.
Shouts could be heard from all directions.
None of the soldiers were saying a single thing about fighting.
“Dammit!! Send out all the UAVs! Draw the Object’s attention away from us!!”
“Do we have a set escape route!? Is there any narrow mountain path that 50 meter monster can’t get through!?”
“Do we have a proper stock of chaff and flares!? Even if we can’t fight, we might be able to make it lose its lock on-…!!”
Because they were real soldiers, they knew just how hopeless it was to attack the Object head on.
As he watched it all, Quenser blankly spoke to Heivia.
“Run away…but where to?”
Heivia’s expression grew distorted out of fear rather than anger.
It was as if hearing how hopeless the situation was from someone else had brought the full brunt of the shock back all over again.
Immediately afterwards, they heard an odd noise.
Looking over, they saw the Object that was over 10 kilometers away approaching as if it were sliding. It was not moving using tires like a car. By using repeated small accelerations like a water strider, it moved smoothly around on both level ground and the steep slopes of mountain surfaces. It seemed to completely ignore the terrain just like a spotlight moving along the ground.
A low sound like an approaching thundercloud remained in Quenser’s ears.
(Oh, shit. So it uses static electricity just like our princess’s one…!)
Even as the frantically fleeing base vehicles started leaving him behind, Quenser merely stood in a daze amid the snow.
That Object was floating just slightly above the ground using static electricity. It weighed over 20 tons, but the reactor within it was both clean and more powerful than a nuclear reactor. It used that ability to create enough electric energy to make itself float.
A faint but distinctive smell reached Quenser’s nose. Most likely, the Object was spraying out the material that repelled its giant electrified form. Generally, the repellant would break down naturally in a few days and it was made to be harmless to plants and animals, but it smelled even more repulsive than blood to Quenser.
Something that huge moving as if the surface below it were sliding was a very strange sight indeed.
The base vehicles were trying to escape through a valley between two mountains.
With a sound like a thundercloud, the Object moved as if to circle around the vehicles and passed right up the diagonal side of one of the mountains. It then moved down into the path inside the valley to block their escape.
Their escape route had been cut off in only 20 seconds.
What awaited them now was clear.
“Shit!! Get off of there!!” shouted Froleytia.
Immediately afterwards, the 50 meter Object opened fire with its cannons.
No, it was more than that.
The Object had more than just the low-stability plasma cannons. After all, the huge 50 meter mass had a reactor that was both clean and more powerful than a nuclear reactor. With its low-stability plasma cannons, laser beams, railguns, and coilguns, it had over 100 different weapons.
It opened fire with all of those.
Each of the high output weapons was so large that it would likely cause a normal battleship to tilt just by being installed and yet it had over 100 of them.
There was no point in trying to count how many times one heard a weapon fire.
Thousands and tens of thousands of roars piled atop each other and combined together creating a single giant explosive din.
As the base vehicles broke formation in an attempt to find anywhere they could flee to, countless shells and beams of light mercilessly assaulted them.
The block-shaped facility walls could withstand a direct hit from a normal shell, but they were blown away along with the beds of the vehicles like they were made of paper. Repeated explosions were heard as gasoline caught fire and soldiers’ bodies were thrown high into the air.
Heivia immediately grabbed Quenser’s head and dove down into the deep snow to hide. Even so, it was nothing short of a miracle that the Object’s bombardment did not tear their bodies in half.
Quenser’s head alone remained clear while the rest of him was in a state where he could not even tell what temperature the cold snow was.
(There aren’t any miracles or coincidences when it comes to Objects. An Object doesn’t leave enough of an opening for that kind of thing!! There has to be a reason. There has to be a logical reason we weren’t killed…!!)