Morning came early for the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion.
Even so, Quenser was not pleased as he rubbed his sleepy eyes in the triple bunk bed he was crammed into and glanced over at the glow-in-the-dark hands of the clock.
“You’re kidding, right? It’s not even four yet.”
It was an oppressively hot August night. He had been woken by the vibration of his wristwatch that was synced with his handheld device, so he sluggishly put his usual military uniform over his sweat-soaked shirt and boxers. To his displeasure, he realized he had been bitten all over by mosquitos and scratched at his arms and legs.
He had been received an urgent summons, so he did not have time to brush his hair or wash his face. He descended the ladder and stepped out into the hall while making sure not to wake the other soldiers in the dark barracks. His face and body were uncomfortably sticky.
His handheld device provided details on the summons.
It was from Frolaytia Capistrano.
He left the normal soldiers’ barracks and hurried to the special barracks for officers. He was acting on orders, but he was still blinded by the bright light of a patrolling soldier’s military flashlight.
And that soldier turned out to be his awful friend Heivia.
“Huh? What are you doing out this late?”
“Heivia? You didn’t have patrol duty tonight, did you?”
The two of them exchanged a glance that transformed into a wholehearted look of dread.
Waiting for them in the special barracks was a busty, silver-haired, and highly-educated(?) girl. Despite the late hour, that commanding officer of theirs wore her uniform impeccably.
“When do you sleep?” complained Quenser when he peeked inside her private room which was decorated by her love of the Island Nation.
“I’m more surprised that a battlefield student was sleeping the night away. The lights are still on in the Object maintenance bay, you know?”
Frolaytia tossed him a cylindrical bottle of wet tissues and he wiped off his oily face.
“Could I go observe their work now?”
“Absolutely not.” Their busty commander bluntly rejected the idea. “I called you two here for a reason. And sorry, but I want you to focus on this mission.”
“I don’t think I’m going to have much luck focusing on anything that isn’t peeping on the women’s bath or sneaking a late-night date with a sexually frustrated commander.”
“Do you remember former Councilor Flide?”
“You’re just going to ignore my great sexual harassment joke!? Please stop continuing the conversation like that. Especially when it means bringing up such a super pain-in-the-ass of a guy,” complained Quenser. “Frolaytia, you forgot the part where you tell us there’s no turning back after we hear this and then give us the choice to leave or stay. You’re just dragging us into this without a choice!!”
“That sly old man has nothing to do with this, so calm down. Do you remember the Pilot Elite he raised like a protégé? The one for the Exact Javelin.”
The two idiots exchanged a glance and gave their answers.
“Oh, you mean that one that rose up from its underground base to say hello?”
“No, you moron. It’s the one we fought on some test grounds overflowing with nature.”
“I think you’re getting confused with something else.”
“Hey, I’m dependent on my phone’s address book to make any calls. I doubt I could memorize an eleven digit number. Exact Javelin? It kind of rings a bell, but I can’t quite place it…”
“But I do remember there being a 12-year-old little girl Elite with a blonde braid.”
“But I do remember there being a 12-year-old little girl Elite with a blonde braid.”
“Well, at least I know how awful you two are,” said Frolaytia as she wrote this off as a lost cause.
The two idiots continued tilting their heads, but she got on with the conversation while spinning around her beloved kiseru.
“This is a request from the top brass sitting around in their safe countries. They have finished questioning that 12-year-old Pilot Elite named Catherine Blueangel. Based on the request from her case officer, she wants to retire and return to a normal life instead of living in a military facility while waiting for her ‘next’ Object to be completed…if one ever is. We have no objection there, but this girl was separated from the military as a whole as a part of that pig Flide’s personal troops. There are some legitimate concerns whether or not she can really live a normal life.”
“Isn’t this a job for a school counselor?”
“She is going through the Civilian Acclimation Assistance System. Before she is left with the nonresistance group Archaic Smile, she must have her claws and fangs filed down. As someone who is halfway between military and civilian and as the battlefield student who took part in the operation to destroy the Exact Javelin and rescue Catherine, you would be best for the job, Quenser. And Heivia, you’re only the second best option since you’re an official soldier. Do you understand the situation now?”
Seeing the blatant disgust on the two idiots’ faces, Frolaytia gave a large nod.
“Catherine will accompany you to low-danger battlefields in order to gradually shift her thought processes from those of a battlefield country to those of a safe country. Once her small hands no longer need a gun in them, we can feel comfortable passing her off to a normal school or tutor. We’ll chuck her into a safe country and call it a day. And it won’t take that long. It should be a month or two at most.”
“That explains it,” muttered Heivia.
They were not in a filthy battlefield country like normal. This was still a military mission, but they had received the kind of warm welcome the 37th was usually never lucky enough to receive.
“But I don’t see why you had to wake us up at four in the morning to tell us that.”
“Catherine was the one who requested you two. And she seems to be accustomed to an entirely different time zone. Since the VIP arrived at the maintenance base zone before the newspapers were even delivered, we had to get started early.”
Just as Quenser voiced his confusion, a modest knock came at the door.
The two idiots had a bad feeling about this and hesitantly turned around. The door cracked opened, but instead of stepping inside, a 12-year-old poked half her head inside and peered up at the people in the room.
Then the tiny demon nervously spoke.
“It’s August! Summer is in full swing!! This is the season for Monica, the idol reporter who can both dance and sing in a dazzling bikini!! Umm, according to an announcement by the major sightseeing group Resort & Dolce, their affiliated private resorts are 47% busier than average for this time of year. The heat wave caused by this abnormal weather pattern is sitting over a wide section of the world, so the sightseeing business is booming across the board.”
They sat below the scorching sun.
This was the south side of Second Venice. Major Frolaytia Capistrano, the busty silver-haired officer, had changed into a swimsuit and was lying in a beach chair as a cheerful swimsuit idol’s voice came from a nearby waterproof pool TV.
“Ahh,” sighed the busty commander. “Bikinis really are in this year.”
Splashing and the shrill cries of young female soldiers could be heard not far away. The refreshing low-humidity breeze carried a hint of chlorine because this was an outdoor pool, not the ocean.
Villas for the rich were apparently well-equipped with palm trees and hibiscus flowers.
Several beach chairs were lined up along the poolside and the one next to Frolaytia’s was occupied by the delinquent noble named Heivia Winchell.
“Should we really be doing this?” he lazily asked.
“If you don’t like it, you can change back into your sweaty uniform and get back to work.”
“…That’s the problem with this busty commander. She can be so inhumanly cruel.”
“Can’t you tell I’m doing my best to relax here? I’m not going to play along just because you ‘felt like saying it’. I know you have zero intention of getting back to your mission. Did you ditch Catherine Blueangel the first chance you got? She’s a 12-year-old girl, you know?”
“Boo. I mean, yeah, I did, but a student like Quenser can handle something like this. And Catherine wants to attend a safe country school, right?”
“You’re worse than scum. You’re smegma.”
“What did I say about the inhuman cruelty!?”
Heivia really seemed about to cry, but Frolaytia had no interest in that and rolled away from the idiot. She grabbed a toxically blue drink from the side table, took a sip through the straw, and spotted a female soldier (in a frilly pink swimsuit) approaching her.
“M-Major Capistrano! May I have permission to speak!?”
“You already are speaking. What is it, Myonri?”
“The evacuation of Second Venice’s villa district is complete. The people have been distributed between the concert halls, soccer fields, and indoor winter sports facilities and all 128,501 people on the island have been accounted for.”
“It’s possible the harbor companies hired some undocumented porters to cut down on labor costs. Don’t forget to search the empty city. Nothing good will come of only using those drones that are all the rage these days.”
“Um, I know what you mean, but on what basis should we perform this second search?”
“Water consumption. You can fool the documentation, but you can’t fool the meter. And if you check the water department, it doesn’t violate the individual’s privacy. Focus the search to the areas where the documented number of workers doesn’t fit the water consumption. And don’t forget to check for water dispensers that use bottles.”
Myonri bowed, walked away, and began giving instructions over the radio.
Frolaytia sat up in her beach chair, raised her arms, and bent her back. This pushed out and accentuated her large chest all the more.
“Now, it’s about time to get back to work.”
The wind was a little too strong to be called a Mediterranean resort breeze.
They were in a midair park located 150 meters from the ground.
The roof a modern ultra-high-rise building had been turned into a large villa. And this one was not the only one. Either due to limited land or as a status symbol, all of the countless buildings had white marble mansions built on their roofs.
They all had pools and tennis courts, but no one was there to use them.
The city was entirely abandoned.
As Myonri had mentioned, the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion was leading a large scale evacuation.
Frolaytia had been enjoying a brief break at one of the open locations, but now she spoke while staring up into the clear blue sky.
“An outdated satellite drop weapon, hm?”
She looked like she could see a venomous snake’s eyes glaring back at her from within a bush.
“Now, then. It’s time for the world’s largest fireworks show.”
“Should I go with this one or this one…?” asked a voice as clear as a bell.
Quenser wore casual clothing and watched the girl’s back as he tried to keep the boredom from his face.
He was with Catherine Blueangel.
She was a 12-year-old girl with her long blonde hair tied in a waist-length braid. And she wore a blue special suit that showed off her juvenile bodylines as clearly as the Princess’s did hers. Second Venice was known as one of the world’s largest resort cities and she had made a certain request as soon as she had arrived here with Quenser.
“I want to buy some clothes! Or a swimsuit!!”
(Why couldn’t she have been at least three years older? Whyyy!?)
It was disappointing, but he could not fast-forward or rewind time. Idiot #1 did his best to motivate himself by deciding he would train her now to become a wonderful beauty in the future. As an advertisement for an official tie-in, the G-cup Oh Ho Ho idol was winking and pressing her breasts together on the store’s flat-screen monitor. The contrast was incredible.
Catherine turned around, causing her long braid to sway, and showed Quenser the two products she held in her hands.
“Big brother, should I go with the bikini or the one-piece?”
“Catherine, they have a swimsuit known as a monokini for greedy people like you. It looks like a one-piece from the front and a bikini from behind, so it provides the same enjoyment as a naked apron.”
“Ehhh? I see.”
It was not that she was disturbed by how seriously he took his answer.
“It’s not fun if you just give the answer. I read in a book that the fun is in trying on a bunch of clothes and trying to figure out what you like best!”
“Oh, so is it like taking your time eating instant noodles so they fill you up more?”
“…How insensitive do you have to be to use a comparison like that in front of a girl?”
Catherine decided to try them both on and disappeared behind the fitting room’s curtain with both swimsuits in hand.
This mall on the south side had soft lighting, cool air conditioning, and music playing from the store speakers, but there were no other customers and no employees. For the operation to intercept the satellite drop weapon, the normal citizens had already been evacuated to sturdy facilities such as theatres and stadiums.
Quenser sighed and a transmission reached his earpiece.
“You seem to be enjoying yourself…”
“You may not have had a choice since these were your orders, but keep in mind that you are being paid with everyone’s taxes, Quenser. Hmph.”
The Princess seemed to be in a bad mood.
However, she needed to do a perfect job.
There was of course a good reason for the Legitimacy Kingdom’s 37th Mobile Maintenance Battalion to be enjoying themselves in this world-class luxury resort (and spy’s paradise).
“…The satellite drop weapon?”
That was a bombing weapon that was placed on standby in satellite orbit and would damage an enemy nation by changing its orbit to drop down toward earth when needed.
The one causing problems now was a Legitimacy Kingdom one known as the Supernova.
The model was loaded with a thermobaric warhead that would turn a 1.2 kilometer radius into ashes and the satellite itself was designed for stealth. It normally remained on standby in orbit, so its boosters did not provide much of a heat source. That made it a powerful but difficult to track weapon.
“I wish this was some kind of joke,” complained Quenser Barbotage.
Most of the large shopping mall was covered in glass, so he could see the outside bay area from the swimsuit section. Second Venice was a giant artificial island that moved as it pleased through the Mediterranean Sea and it was currently “moored” at Malta to resupply. The protruding south side of the megafloat was attached to the natural island. The coasts almost looked like mirror images with their rows of high-rose buildings and a fifty meter mass was located near those coasts.
It was the 1st Generation Object known as the Baby Magnum.
It had a spherical main body, an upside-down Y-shaped static electricity propulsion device, and seven main cannons supported by the seven arms attached to its back. Those main cannons could switch between laser beams, low-stability plasma cannons, and other varieties like a microscope swapping out its lens.
Seeing it through a layer of glass made it look like something happening on TV.
But saying that would only piss off the Princess more, so he held his tongue.
“I really wish they’d done their job managing that thing up there. That bomb was supposed to have been abandoned more than twenty years ago, so why is it about to fall down on us now? And it’s going to fall on an Information Alliance villa region? If this causes any damage, it’ll start a war…”
“It can’t be helped,” said the Princess. “Disarming bombs is part of the military’s job.”
Quenser heard humming from beyond the fitting room curtain. Catherine’s little butt must have been bumping into the curtain because it would sometimes nearly flutter open.
“And despite the impressive-sounding specs, Frolaytia said this won’t be a very difficult mission.”
“Yeah. A satellite drop weapon gives us a lot more opportunities to intercept than a ballistic missile. Plus you’ve got a Generation One, Princess. You have the means to deal with normal weaponry instead of just other Objects. You’ve got a ton of anti-air lasers, so this shouldn’t be hard at all. I mean, your Object was developed to handle an MIRV that breaks apart in midair and scatters twenty or thirty nuclear warheads.”
“H-heh. It’s not that impressive. Heh heh.”
The Princess must have enjoyed having her Object’s specs complimented because it sounded like she had grown imaginary dog ears and an imaginary dog tail.
While looking at the buildings, sea, and sky out the window, Quenser continued with clear annoyance in his voice.
“And I’m not too happy with Frolaytia either. More than half of this is cleaning up after her.”
“You mean that game of musical chairs?”
“This place is called Second Venice, right? And it was originally an Information Alliance luxury resort. But then 37th comes in, accidentally scares off the Object of the group protecting this area of sea, and then takes over Malta as a supply base.”
“But we couldn’t take over Second Venice because it’s a safe country.”
“I think that just put more of a burden on the people defending it. And on top of that, this is where the Supernova is going to fall. That thing was abandoned by the Legitimacy Kingdom and now we’re the only ones that can defend against it since the Information Alliance military withdrew. The timing couldn’t be worse! Why do we have to risk our lives to protect the bulldogs of an enemy nation!? Is this all I’m going to get to do this summer!?”
“Are you that eager to get to the next battlefield, Quenser?”
“Why are enemy nations and battlefields the only options for my summer!? And when I’m standing in a world-class resort no less!!”
Then another transmission reached the radio.
It was from Frolaytia.
“It’s about time for the shooting star to arrive. The fireworks show will begin shortly. Princess, remain on standby in your cockpit.”
“Done!” shouted a high-pitched voice before the fitting room curtain burst open.
“Heh heh. Bikinis are in this year, aren’t they?”
“I know. Anything but a bikini isn’t even an option. One-pieces are too kiddy.”
For some reason, the Princess agreed with her.
Catherine Blueangel had apparently chosen the black bikini. The student viewed her with the look of a classy gentleman walking through a quiet art museum.
(Yes, her taste shows promise for the future. Now I just have to hope she develops all the right curves.)
Frolaytia interrupted Art Appraiser Quenser.
“And Quenser, you need to regroup with Heivia and get to work.”
“Will we be taking Catherine’s little hand and guiding her to a shelter?”
It was unlikely, but there was a chance they would fail to shoot down the satellite drop weapon. And if it was shot down too low to the ground, the nearby windows could still shatter and create a downpour of glass shards.
Quenser focused on the conversation in his earpiece and used his empty hand to gesture Catherine over.
“Unfortunately, we discovered someone on the list who was not evacuated. His name is Faires Appetizer. He seems to be an Information Alliance astronomer, but the point is we can’t find the old man. Search the city before the fireworks show begins. Looking at the situation, you have less than twenty minutes.”
“Oh, goddammit! We’re stuck working to the very, very end!?”
“The site isn’t far. It’s in the south side where we are. We fortunately, picked up his smartphone’s GPS signal, so you can use that. If you don’t collect him soon, you’ll be caught in the middle of the fireworks show. Even if the Princess intercepts the Supernova itself, the shockwave could shatter all the windows in the buildings. If you don’t want shards of glass pouring down on you, then get this over with and find a building basement to shelter in. That is all.”
“That is all!? What about Catherine!?”
“Take her with you. Think of this as a form of recreation. You aren’t her guardian and when it comes to pure combat technique, she’s a hundred times more powerful than you thanks to the various measures taken to artificially strengthen her.”
“…A hundred times?”
“I’m not exaggerating. And I’m hanging up.”
The transmission ended.
Quenser sighed and the 12-year-old girl placed her hands on her bikini-wearing hips after listening in to the conversation.
“That’s right. A hundred times. Nee hee.”
“Well, that’s good to hear. …Princess, talk to you later.”
“Understood. Don’t do anything reckless, Quenser.”
As a Pilot Elite, Catherine seemed to have quite a lot of money. She operated the card reader to pay for the swimsuit with electronic money. Being able to pay without a cashier present was convenient.
“Here, big brother, give me a stamp!”
Catherine held out a waterproof case and Quenser pulled out something like a cardboard bingo card and made a round stamp on one corner. This was her quota for a normal life. Once she completed everything on the card, she levelled up to the next stage. This was effectively the first and last hurdle and she only had a simple interview afterwards. The process was known as the Civilian Acclimation Assistance System. It sounded strict, but it was actually made so hopeful participants could efficiently be given the go-ahead on moving to a safe country. It worked differently than the exams for an elite university or an international certification where failing was the standard outcome.
“Heh heh heh.”
“Hm? You’re in a good mood, Catherine.”
“You don’t get it? A girl’s swimsuit has a special meaning!”
Catherine stuffed her special suit inside the waterproof paper bag to a trendy store that would likely act as a status symbol itself. She then walked with Quenser through the large mall while still in her bikini. People must have dropped things during the confusion of the evacuation because bouquets of flowers and bead accessories were lying on the floor. Of course, they were all products with an egregious mark up to rip off ignorant tourists. Those tourist traps were apparently found in malls as well as along the roads near the airport.
After leaving the air conditioned building, they found Heivia in his uniform that had to be torture in the sweltering sun.
“Took you long enough.”
“What’s with the camo pants? Second Venice is all about operas and musicals, so there’s no place for a street dancer here. Yo yo.”
“Dammit, just you watch. Ahh, I shouldn’t have left her with you just because she’s outside my strike zone. All I did was enjoy the view of that busty commander in her bikini, and this is what I get. I’m right back into my uniform. Anyway, your bomb-filled backpack is in the sidecar.”
However, that awful friend of a noble was not on a motorcycle.
He was on a water scooter floating in a seawater canal. He must have been planning on picking up Quenser and Catherine to begin with because something like a motorcycle sidecar was attached.
“Let’s go nab that old astronomer and get to shelter. I can’t stand seeing all this luxury. It’s pointless if I can’t visit here on my time off!!”
The water scooter had two open spots: behind Heivia and the sidecar.
(Well, Heivia’s a pervert, so I guess I’ll sit behind him so Catherine can have the sidecar.)
With that in mind, Quenser stepped from the edge of the canal and toward the back seat of the water scooter.
Then he heard an odd voice behind him.
“On you go!”
“Wait, Catherine? Dwabh!?”
Just as he started shifting his center of gravity, she kicked him in the back. He flipped over, missed his target, and rolled into the sidecar.
And it did not end there.
The small 12-year-old in a black bikini hopped on top of his lap. She ignored the confused student and opened up the sidecar’s dashboard.
“ ‘Use a map to give someone directions.’ …There it is. That’s another stamp!!”
“Check inside the dashboard if you like, but don’t lift your hips like that, Catherine. Your butt is in a pretty dangerous spot there. And it’s only covered by a black bikini.”
“Oh, whoops. How indecent of me. A lady needs to sit properly, doesn’t she?”
“I’m not sure nestling down on my lap like that is better. Your butt just likes to cause trouble, doesn’t it?”
“You really are completely indiscriminate now, aren’t you?” commented Heivia while holding the handlebars.
“I don’t like being blamed when I’m the one under attack here. And I don’t know why she’s so fond of me either. Hey, Catherine, why am I the only one you call ‘big brother’?”
“Hm? Because you’re big brother!”
She had plenty of energy, but her answer was not very helpful. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and they could not wait around. Heivia twisted the handlebar grip, opened the throttle, and sent the water scooter racing along the canal that reflected the bright sun.
The scenery around them was an endless spider web of various-sized canals and countless bridges passing by overhead. A boat loaded with containers or an empty aquatic bus would occasionally pass them by, but they must have been unmanned.
To complete the task on her quota card, Catherine pointed out the way and Heivia steered them through the many canals. As usual, Quenser was nothing more than ballast as the young girl sat on his lap.
“It’s amazing how there really isn’t a single road in this city.”
“Second Venice is all about reminding you of the good old days. If you were making a city of slopes and stairs, adding an elevator would ruin it, right? They dug a bunch of grooves along the surface of the pizza and let the seawater fill them. This kind of ‘comfortable inconvenience’ is something you see in the hospitality industry as well as tourist sites. If everything is too perfect, people get tired of it pretty quickly. It’s the same as a popular restaurant intentionally reducing the number of seats so a line forms out front or like increasing the difficulty level in a video game.”
Their maintenance base zone was made from more than one hundred giant wheeled vehicles, so it was poorly suited for Second Venice where canals were the only form of travel. The base was deployed on nearby Malta.
They passed through the gap between high-rise buildings and squeezed past an aquatic bus as they continued on their way to the astronomer.
“Didn’t they say the land here is twenty times as expensive as in London? That’s why these tall buildings are all crammed in so tight.”
“The construction companies are the ones making the real money. They use fancy words like artificial island and megafloat, but it’s really a bunch of giant boxes made of aluminum. They’ve just marked up the price like crazy. It’s worse than the diamond or gold markets.”
“Yeah, the winners tend to win big. …Catherine, don’t squirm like that. Try to keep in mind what your little butt is sitting on.”
“Nn,” was all the braid girl said, but she seemed to be in a bad mood.
But not because she was focused on reading the map. She was having trouble breaking into the two idiots’ conversation.
“But it’s a hell of a coincidence that this is where the Supernova is falling, so I believe it’s partially a form of divine punishment. God is watching and the commoner’s prayers are reaching him.”
“Aren’t you a super-spoiled noble?”
Quenser sat in the egg-shaped sidecar with Catherine on his lap. Like a human seatbelt, he naturally ended up wrapping his arms around her slender body to take a look at his handheld device.
It showed a map of Second Venice’s south side. But unlike Catherine’s paper map, it was zoomed in and their target was displayed as a dot.
“An astronomer, huh? …Why did that old man run off?”
“How should I know? Rumors spread pretty easily during disasters. Maybe he’s afraid the Legitimacy Kingdom has an ulterior motive for rounding all the tourists up in one spot. Maybe he thinks we’ll ransack the city while everyone’s away or slaughter everyone on the indoor ski slope. Putting unseen worries into concrete words is a stereotypical way of dealing with that anxiety.”
“You didn’t know, Quenser? Natural disasters aren’t the only kind. Our military receives funding for retrieval of unexploded ordnance as disaster relief.”
“So we bury the ordnance and then get paid to dig it back up?”
As they chatted, Heivia stopped the water scooter on the side of the canal.
“He’d probably notice if we drove any closer.” Heivia reached toward the sidecar. “Little bikini devil? There’s a pair of binoculars in the dashboard.”
“I can see without them. The package is 120 meters ahead.”
But since she could not share that information, Quenser reached below the girl’s arms and pulled out the binoculars. This required leaning forward, so he could not help but stick his nose toward the nape of her neck.
“Big brother, that tickles.”
“Hmm, so they have a feminine scent to their hair even at this age.”
“I get it, so just let me do my job!!” tearfully shouted Heivia.
Quenser handed him the binoculars.
“Oh, there he is. That old man must be Faires Appetizer. But something isn’t right.”
“What is it?”
“He’s at the harbor, but there aren’t any boats. He’s holding his hands in the air. And there are several men and women around him. The one behind him is holding out something long and narrow. What is it? An assault rifle?”
Swimsuit Catherine added her own information from Quenser’s lap.
“There is a boat. Check the water’s surface more carefully. You can see a glimpse of a sunken yacht’s mast.”
Quenser was a complete amateur and had no way of checking on the situation, but he could tell this sounded like a pain in the ass. The old man had ignored the need to evacuate despite the risk and now someone had the kind of high-firepower gun unlikely to be found in the hands of anyone respectable.
“Who are they?”
“It doesn’t matter. As long as they aren’t amateurs.”
“We’re about 120 meters away, but do you think you can take them out with your rifle, Heivia?”
“I could shoot them easily enough, but don’t forget what I just said.” Heivia gave an annoyed shrug. “We have to check to make sure they aren’t amateurs. Simply put, we have to say ‘stop’ and ‘put your hands up’. We can’t shoot unless they show intent to resist. This isn’t a battlefield country after all.”
“Even though they have a hostage?”
“Waste time doing that and they’ll shoot the old man,” said Catherine.
Quenser’s awful friend grinned.
And then he pointed up at the sweltering sun.
“I know a bit of a trick we can use. Care to try it, student?”
The Princess sat in the cockpit of the Baby Magnum which had naval floats equipped. The transmissions from Frolaytia and the Legitimacy Kingdom were not the only ones she was picking up.
There were some from their enemies in the Information Alliance.
“Oh ho ho. That Supernova thing will be falling soon. This should be a good chance to see what you can do.”
“I know that.”
“Yes, I can see a Legitimacy Kingdom Object take responsibility for a Legitimacy Kingdom satellite drop weapon. Pu hu hu! You have become the guardian deities of Second Venice, an Information Alliance luxury resort, haven’t you?”
“Again, I know that!!”
“I’d really like for you to get this over with. Oh ho ho. Unlike some filthy Elites I could mention, I am quite busy. Right at this moment, I am in the middle of the final planning meeting for an online concert. I will show you that a truly exciting Second Venice vacation involves a passionate musical performance in a swimsuit. Ho ho ho. Oh ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!!”
The angry Princess considered switching off her radio, but she just barely managed to resist.
(I could easily handle this ballistic weapon on my own.)
She pouted her lips, but more than one hundred thousand lives (even if they were from an enemy nation) rested on her shoulders. The more air defense weapons and anti-air lasers they had, the better.
She sighed and spoke to the other Elite.
“A Generation One will have better missile defense capabilities. I will take the lead role, so try not to get in my way.”
“Oh ho ho. Not to worry. I will leave this odd job to you.”
With a quiet beeping, new information was added to the monitor.
“Princess, the Supernova has begun reentry. As we suspected, it isn’t looking like it will burn up on the way. We are beginning the countdown based on the expected descent route. 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25…”
She did not wait.
A moment later, both the Baby Magnum and the Rush filled the entire sky with a spider web of blinding light.
The entire sky was wrapped in flashes as bright as welding light.
Laser light itself could not be seen by the human eye. This light was the accumulated energy being released in every direction when the laser light struck the surface of the Supernova satellite drop weapon as it reentered the atmosphere.
And on the south side, Heivia used that exact timing to drive the water scooter full speed ahead while yelling.
“Attention suspicious people!! Put your guns down and your hands in the air!! You appear to have a hostage, so if you resist, we will follow the Legitimacy Kingdom peace preservation manual by opening fire!!”
“There’s no way they can hear you during this explosion…”
“That’s fine. If they did hear us, they’d probably actually shoot back.”
“You’re setting it up so we warned them, but they ‘just so happened’ not to hear it? You monster.”
As Heivia drove the water scooter with sidecar, they managed to arrive near the harbor in question while staying hidden behind an unmanned transportation boat loaded with containers. Heivia operated the throttle with one hand, and…
“I can’t fire my assault rifle with just one hand. Hey, student, I’ll give you the assault rifle, so you shoot.”
It was Catherine whose eyebrows twitched, not Quenser.
“Aim carefully and you can’t miss. This will start the second we move out from behind this boat. It’s shoot or be shot. That’s all there is to it.”
“Please no! I’ll probably end up shooting you right in the ass!”
“If you’re wearing casual clothes and you can’t even shoot, why did you even come along!?”
“I’m just a spectator!! Why couldn’t you figure that out!? You’re stupid and incompetent!!”
Heivia did not seem to hear Quenser’s complaints. His mind apparently filtered out all verbal abuse that did not come from a cute girl. He pulled out the large handgun that he kept as a sidearm and tossed the assault rifle to the sidecar.
Then something unexpected happened.
As the firearm flew through the air, two hands not belonging to Quenser grabbed it.
They belonged to Catherine Blueangel, the little black bikini devil.
“Hee hee hee. Since you can’t do it, I’ll help out☆”
Before they could say anything, Catherine hopped from the sidecar to the back seat of the water scooter. Then she built up her momentum and climbed up onto the unmanned transportation boat.
“If I let you two go in without a real plan, you’ll just get killed. I’ll attack from a different angle, so let’s finish them off with some crossfire, okay? Big brother, make sure to give me my stamp for giving directions afterwards. Adieu.”
They did not have time to go after her.
Quenser ducked down as the gunfire started.
“Now she’s done it!”
“That kid’s got a light trigger finger!! I can see why they didn’t think an elegant safe country tutor could handle her. They’d get their hand bit!!”
With multiple enemies, Catherine on her own would get caught in some crossfire, so Heivia sent the water scooter out from behind the boat they were using for cover. He prepared to fire toward the harbor with his large handgun.
But then he came to a stop because he could not believe his eyes.
Catherine Blueangel was there.
She was not firing the assault rifle toward the harbor from the top of the boat. She ran along the deck, made a large leap, landed directly on the harbor, and continued firing at point-blank range.
It looked like a dance.
Her young body was too light to fully suppress the assault rifle’s recoil. Instead, she actually let the explosive force of the gunpowder swing her around. She spun around and around to the left, to the right, vertically, and horizontally. She pulled off some acrobatic movements that would have normally been impossible. She was exposed to multiple guns, but she never once crossed even one line of fire. Each time she swung her arms, raised her legs, or bent her torso, the flying bullets whizzed right past her but never even grazed her.
“What happened to that crossfire idea, you damn hornet? You’ve run out there on your own!!”
Her movements were so unconventional that Heivia could not even provide covering fire.
And before he could figure out what to do, it was all over.
The armed men and women had been wiped out.
Only the gray-haired old man remained and had collapsed into a sitting position.
“Ah, ahh, ahhhh…”
The black bikini girl used one hand to casually aim the assault rifle at the back of the old man’s head. And she asked an innocent question.
“Umm, am I supposed to shoot him or not?”
“Stop, Catherine!! He’s the package we’re supposed to protect!!”
“Nn,” was all Catherine said as she lifted the assault rifle up and away from the old man. As if he had suddenly realize something frightening, the old man tried to crawl away, but she did not hesitate to slam the rifle’s stock against the back of his head.
Catherine seemed to hug the rifle to her body.
No. She was quickly holding a certain piece of cloth in place.
“Biiiig broooother, my top came untied.”
“Oh, honestly. Why would you start a gunfight in a bikini!?”
“Uuh… Could you retie it for me?”
She held the top with her hands and turned her small, bared back toward Quenser who sighed and grabbed the fluttering strings.
“Your fingers tickle.”
“Don’t move, Catherine. I’ll tie you a nice bow.”
Heivia looked at the old man who had been knocked out by the blow to the head, at the corpses littering the area, and at Catherine who was defenselessly showing off her dazzling back as if she were asking someone to apply sun oil. Finally, he summed it all up.
“What a dangerous girl.”
“But we should have a chance to give some course corrections. We could make her into a class rep type that looks good in glasses or we could make her into a track girl with a dazzling brown tan. What matters is that we at least make her into something hot.”
Before they could say anything more, the blue sky was covered by another flash of light that could not be good for their health.
Quenser looked up in confusion.
“Wait a second… Wasn’t there only one Supernova dropping down toward here?”
Heivia trailed off when he seemed to realize something.
Quenser had finished tying the bow, so Catherine could move again and she collected the mysterious old man who had been tossed aside like a garbage bag.
“Then what dropped down to create that second flash…?”
After changing from her swimsuit into her uniform and boarding the antenna-covered mission command patrol boat stopped at the base of the high-rise building, Frolaytia listened to the report with a look of displeasure.
“What do you mean!? That isn’t what we were told!!”
“N-no, but it seems there was more than just the one Supernova. Um, 15, 20, 40, 80…you’re kidding. The number’s still growing…!?”
“It can’t possibly be in the triple digits. Don’t fall for this deception! The Supernovas are scattering chaff or flares to prevent anyone from shooting them down. There weren’t that many satellite drop weapons left!!”
“But that means…”
Even the operators in the same patrol boat gave Frolaytia anxious looks.
“Right. These aren’t old abandoned weapons that just so happened to fall. Their systems are up and running and some idiot intentionally dropped them down on this trajectory!”
The screen displayed all sorts of information on the Supernovas. They would scatter chaff or flares to break any targeting locks. They would fire their boosters at random to move around like living creatures. They would hide behind another Supernova to use that one as a shield. They had several strategies for escaping an Object’s anti-air lasers.
They were old weapons that had been abandoned more than two decades ago.
Just like performing a cyber attack on a computer with no updates at all, anyone could hijack them. But…
“What idiot is borrowing them for some cheap plot?”
Frolaytia clenched her teeth.
No matter who did this or why, the Supernovas were loaded with thermobaric warheads capable of turning everything within 1.2 kilometers into ash. What if the Princess missed just one? If it landed on a domed stadium or soccer field being used as a shelter, tens of thousands of lives would be burned away in an instant.
And now dozens of those Supernovas were descending at once.
The Princess also clenched her teeth.
“…Ksshh… Tch. There’s a drop in my accuracy…ksshh!”
“I think the Supernova fragments are functioning like chaff.”
“How are you managing?”
“I am still fine.”
“Oh ho ho. Yes, I should probably leave this type of job to the First Generation.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling you.”
They had not been coordinating their actions. They had simply been aiming for the same target with multiple laser beams to increase the density of their barrage. So even if the Information Alliance’s Rush began to malfunction, it would not create a hole right away. The Princess had not been relying on her to that extent.
She could still do this.
Everything was fine.
The Baby Magnum was designed to intercept a MIRV that broke apart at high altitude and scattered dozens of small nuclear warheads, so its anti-air defenses were more than enough.
That was when something else happened.
The Princess was overcome by a sense that something was wrong.
“It’s all over…”
The old man was muttering something as Quenser held onto him.
He repeated the same thing over and over again.
“We’re done for. It wouldn’t take that trajectory. There’s only one explanation…”
“What are you on about?”
“It’s a little soon to get all apocalyptic, old man. Our Princess will blow away the Supernovas. You shouldn’t make those meaningful sounding comments. All those books explaining Nostradamus became nothing but laughing stocks once the new millennium began. Of course, those people are just like the ones who write diet books; no matter how many times they fail, they’ll always look for new material.”
“Should I make him talk?” asked Catherine with a tilt of the head.
Quenser held out his empty hand to stop her. She may have just wanted to show off, but he had to stop her from hurting or harming the old man. And this would not get her any stamps for her quota sheet.
“No, not that.”
Faires Appetizer’s shoulders shook as he cut in.
He looked to the two idiots and continued his confession.
“That puny manmade model doesn’t matter.”
“You don’t know?”
He actually looked shocked.
One of the Information Alliance’s leading astronomers revealed a piece of trivia.
“Today we will receive an astronomy show that occurs only once every 500 years. This is the day the Appetizer Asteroid passes closest to earth.”
“This is not good…”
Frolaytia gulped inside the mission command patrol boat.
She wanted to believe the report was in error, but praying would not change reality.
“Princess!! There’s another problem making a descent along with the Supernova! It’s a 500 meter mass. It’s almost certainly the Appetizer Asteroid!!”
“…What? No one told me about that!”
“I only just learned about it. I want to punch that Appetizer old man who so casually announced the predicted trajectory of approach, but we have to respond to the situation as it is. We’ve left the safe track we all thought we were on. At this rate, it’ll fall right on Second Venice!!”
“We have to do it. It’s 500 meters, so if it hits, we can’t avoid a new ice age. This problem is no longer isolated to the resort island.”
“My anti-air lasers can’t completely destroy an asteroid. And when it breaks apart in midair, a shockwave will pummel the area!”
On occasion, a giant scorch mark with a radius of several dozen to a hundred kilometers would be found in the empty mountains or desert. However, that was not caused by a UFO crashing or an out-of-place artifact. It came from the explosion caused by a meteor or asteroid breaking apart in midair before striking the surface.
If the same thing happened here, it would cause great damage to Second Venice and Malta.
At 500 meters, even the smaller fragments were a serious threat. They could create craters across the artificial island and even knock over the high-rise buildings.
“If we let it hit, the entire earth will fall into an ice age.”
“So do it, Princess!! The responsibility falls on me. Focus on that asteroid!!”
In that instant, the Information Alliance’s Second Generation Rush calmly passed the baton even though it was meant to protect Second Venice. Was the Elite leaving this to the Legitimacy Kingdom First Generation because she was not used to this sort of ballistic interception, or was she refusing to take responsibility for any actions not in her manual?
The Princess clenched her teeth.
Her goggles read the movements of her eyes and targeted the giant mass.
Her fingertip touched the protrusion on the surface of the lever she held.
She breathed in and out.
She made up her mind.
Blinding light surrounded the Appetizer Asteroid and it was broken into six blocks in midair.
They had no idea what had happened.
Quenser and Heivia dove into a nearby building as a violent gust of wind blew gray dust toward them. The building seemed to be a bank that specialized in the foreign accounts the wealthy tended to use. Quenser realized he no longer held onto Faires Appetizer, but now was not the time to worry about that. All of the glass in the city shattered and a downpour of transparent blades poured down toward them.
“Are you okay?”
Catherine Blueangel alone did not seem particular bothered.
That little bikini devil’s specs were on an entirely different level, but they did not have time to comment on that.
“Dammit… What was that!?”
They heard the deep, unpleasant sound of something bending. Quenser got up using the small hand Catherine held out to him and then he looked to the ceiling. Large cracks were running through it and they were spreading.
“Oh, no. Oh, no! Is the building going to collapse!?”
“Idiot! Don’t just run outside! It’s more dangerous out there!!”
Quenser immediately tried to run, but Heivia grabbed his arm and pulled him back just as an adjacent building collapsed. Gray dust spread like cotton candy and entered their building thanks to the broken glass.
“What? Cough. I don’t have any survival training. What’s the right thing to do!?”
“I don’t know either, dammit. Frolaytia! Hey, busty commander! Tell us what happened!!”
Beyond the thick curtain of dust, Heivia shouted angrily into his radio, but no one replied. Was the dust reflecting the signal like chaff, or were the people on the other end in no state to reply?
“Oh, good. My stamp card is safe.”
Catherine peeked inside the bag that held her special suit and gave a cheerfully out-of-place comment, so Quenser grabbed her small hand and started to move.
“Hm? Wait, big brother. I think my bikini is about to come undone again.”
“The one on my left hip.”
They broke through the dusty air as he took care of that.
They wanted to see what had happened.