Editor: MadTix & Masadeer
The sun was setting on Azoran-3.
Lieutenant Imamura was completely dejected after being abandoned by Commander Donna. He was so dejected that he wasn’t even able to pilot the Alter-Armour.
So he was demoted to using a Power-Armour, and Ensign Meihowa reclaimed her right as the Alter-Armour pilot.
And so we started to make camp in the jungle, while dragging the dejected Lieutenant around like baggage.
“Camping preparations are complete.”
Sergeant Aroha was somewhat more cheerful than the rest, and saluted Ensign Meihowa. Meihowa was setting up a bug net to ward off the bugs and responded to the salute.
“It was Luise, wasn’t it? Things really turned out the way you said it would.”
She must’ve remembered what Admiral Luise said about ‘we will become the shields for the higher-ups, if we contact them recklessly’. Admiral Luise wore a bitter smile.
“There must be a lot of soldiers who want to desert right now. Isn’t that right?”
When Admiral Luise asked, Sergeant Aroha nodded.
“That’s right. Chief Technician Yeon-Sik Oh wants to pull out, along with his men…. He says that it’s impossible to protect the Ateu Plains.”
We had to be thankful that the troops were not rebelling against the officers, since Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha were popular.
However, no one would be able to predict what will happen in the future.
I looked up at the sky while drinking some energy gel. There were no Federation or enemy fleets in sight.
“The Federation must now be careful about sending fleets here, especially after Tetragrammaton’s attack. It would be dangerous to send a war fleet only for it to be destroyed by the enemy’s attack. Diablo is also here, so sending reinforcements will be very, very risky, and they will be annihilated.”
“So, you mean we won’t be seeing any reinforcements until either Tetragrammaton or Diablo steps back? But doesn’t the Punishing Wail have a cooldown period between attacks?”
Admiral Luise nodded her head.
“It needs a minimum of 36 hours of recharging.”
“Wow… you sure know your stuff. You must be an Alter-Armour maniac or something?”
When Sergeant Aroha asked suddenly, Pencolt turned around.
“Did you call me?”
“No, not at all.”
“I thought you meant me by maniac, man.”
“And if we have to make the Tetragrammaton or Diablo retreat, we have to wait for Kishins to come. The only remaining Kishins on the Federation’s side are Ursa Major, Wolfschewein, Ladyhawk, and Swangrace.”
Although the Federation only had 4 Kishins in its possession, we had an upper hand over the enemies. Asas and Elcros had 2 Kishins each and counting Diablo, Elcro would have 3 and the Rebels had Omertà, so that’s one. So, none of the enemies stood a chance against the Federation.
However, it is a whole new story if the Asas, Elcros and Rebel Replicant Force formed an alliance. The Federation would fall behind on the Kishin head count.
Although the Federation had a great deal of military force, things would change if the enemy uses the Tetragrammaton. If they recklessly attack with numbers alone, they would be wiped out by Tetragrammaton with ease.
Therefore, with Tetragrammaton in the enemy’s possession, the Federation couldn’t rely on numbers alone, but quality.
“Then what can we do to survive?”
Sergeant Aroha asked the key question.
“It would be suicidal to go to the Ateu Plains for now.”
“But if we don’t go, we cannot escape from the punishment from the higher-ups; we would be going against their orders.”
“Can’t we go there slowly?”
When I voiced my opinion, everyone shook their heads.
“No, if we go there slowly and the enemy takes control of the Ateu Plains, we will still be punished. The granny wanted us to protect the plains, and we would either be charged for disobedience or fleeing from battle. In the worst case scenario, we might be executed.”
It was as Sergeant Aroha said. Ensign Meihowa’s face turned grim.
This truly was a do-or-die, checkmate type situation. However, Admiral Luise had a different idea.
“Let us wait for a little bit longer.”
“The enemy will attack the mining base first, so we will pretend to go to the mining base instead; saying ‘the priority of protecting the higher-ups is far greater than the Ateu Plains’. That way, we will escape from the situation unscathed.”
“But the enemy must attack the mining base first instead of the Ateu Plains for your plan to work.”
“That is not too difficult.”
Admiral Luise winked as she said that. Aroha and Meihowa didn’t appear to be convinced, but I wholly trusted Admiral Luise’s words.
“Then the problem is our complaining soldiers; what should we do with them?”
Ensign Meihowa asked seriously to Admiral Luise. Although Admiral Luise was currently a lower rank than Ensign Meihowa, Meihowa was being highly respectful.
I was happy that Admiral Luise was being respected the way she should be, but why wasn’t the Ensign treating me the same way?
“We cannot do anything about the complaining soldiers. We will try to persuade them, but if that fails, we will have to let them go.”
◊ ◊ ◊
After having a simple meal consisting of rations, I sat on top of the Spider. The material used for the Spider’s exterior was cool to the touch. I should sleep here during the night to avoid the humidity and sticky air.
I must’ve not been the only one who had the idea, because someone else was approaching the Spider.
At a closer look, it turned out to be Ensign Meihowa. She leaned against the Spider and lowered herself slowly, sighing in the process.
After pondering whether or not I should strike up a conversation with her, I jumped down from the Spider and landed in front of her.
“Whoa! Ah… it’s just you, Greenie.”
“Hmm, Ensign. Why are you here by yourself? Were you able to convince the complaining soldiers?”
“It was way too much for me. Bravo Squad plans to follow Chief Technician Oh and desert. Charlie Squad will remain and look after the injured Alpha Squad…”
“And what about Lieutenant Imamura?”
“He plans to leave with Chief Technician Oh.”
“That’s for the better. But I’m not sure if Chief Technician Oh will let him survive in that group.”
This situation was largely Lieutenant Imamura’s fault. However, he chose to stay away from the injured Alpha Squad (who were injured because of him) and leave with the others.
However, the issue was that the ones who were staying behind were much nicer than the ones who deserted. So although Lieutenant Imamura was the one who caused this situation, his life would be spared here at least.
But seeing as he left with the Bravo squad… he would be killed in a blink of an eye.
“Well aren’t you talking big, Lezirth. Know your place as a Greenie.”
“Hmm, no. The true Greenie this time around was Lieutenant Imamura, not me. Don’t you agree?”
I did decide to accept being called a Greenie before… but I still didn’t like it. I’m Lezirth Dawnbringer— the Commander of the Dawn Corps! I couldn’t quite tell them to admire me, but the least they could do is to show some respect.
“But will that be okay, Ensign Meihowa? You and Sergeant Aroha aren’t pure Earthlings, are you? Admiral Luise didn’t mention it out loud, but you could always surrender to the enemy.”
It was silly of me, as an officer of the Federation, to say this, but there was no need for her or Sergeant Aroha to risk their lives for the Federation. Ensign Meihowa showed a sad smile.
“What’s gotten into you, Greenie? Saying something great like that.”
Her calm and collected act was over. The girl before my eyes was now an emotional and tender girl. This must be what she’s usually like.
“You do realize saying that will get you straight to the courts, don’t you? You are suggesting me to submit to the enemy. Do you even realize how much of a grave crime that is…”
“The Meihowa I know won’t bring me to the courts for something like that.”
“What do you even know about me?!”
She was someone who never became angry no matter how much her authority as a platoon leader was challenged. However, she was angry now.
Even so, I kept a serious expression and spoke.
“When people are driven to the brink of their patience and life itself, they reveal their true selves. Most of the time, the ugly or the unsightly, to say the least, surfaces. But Ensign Meihowa, you have kept your calm up until now, even when you are inexperienced. That is very commendable and beautiful. You can take pride in that.”
Ensign Meihowa appeared to be shocked at my words. Some colour returned to her face.
“Y-You don’t have to say that. You are a very, very strange person, Lezirth. When I look at you… you really sound old.”
Well, it’s true that I’m very old. Anyhow, Ensign Meihowa coughed after hearing what I said. She appeared to be less agitated than before, and calmed down.
“B-But doesn’t that mean you and Luise, who continued to stay calm, are… um… beautiful as well? Aren’t you just praising yourself?”
Her wings fluttered and sprinkled some specks of light. Her tone was sharp and somewhat stressed, but she definitely appeared to be feeling better than before, so that put my heart at ease.
“In that case, it is ‘cool’ of me to exclude myself from the description.”
“Cool, you say? Ha, ha ha ha. Really now… you really are an interesting person. You’re so relaxed even in a situation like this. I feel like I can forget about the situation, even for a moment, when I’m talking with you.”
Ensign Meihowa smiled for a brief moment, but quickly turned grim as if being reminded of the unfortunate reality.
“I would be seen as a more hateful enemy compared to a human in their eyes… because I am an officer of the Federation. Think about it. Me, this winged girl who is willing to kill her fellow Elcros for her own selfish reasons. Do you think they can forgive someone like that?”
Saying that, she buried her face in her knees. She was hurt by her own words.
“Then why did you join the Armed Forces?”
“Well… because the general idea of an Elcro woman is to be obedient and be treated like dirt. It was suffocating to live among people who had that sort of mentality. My biological father wanted to write me off to some big shot in the Federation as a wife. But I wanted to escape from my father’s control and the only way to do so was to join the Armed Forces.”
I heard a lot about officers who offered bribes for their promotion, and I’ve personally had bribes come in and had been quite taken aback by them before.
But to think there are people who would offer their own daughter as a bribe…. How can a bastard like that be allowed to exist?
“Well, he argued for his actions saying that it was to secure the future in the Federation or some rubbish. So I wanted escape from him, and the fastest way to do so was to join the Armed Forces. I didn’t think too deeply about it, to be honest. Then I finally realized something while training in the academy. That I would have to aim my gun at Elcros in the future…”
After saying so, Meihowa became quiet as a mouse.
I could feel something rising up inside me as I looked at her. It was impossible for me to understand the pain this girl went through in her life.
However, my heart was aching with her as I saw her in pain.
She was a victim of the Federation. Because of the war with the Elcro race, slaves were taken and from the slavery and discrimination in the Federation, she found the only way to protect herself—to join the Armed Forces.
I raised my voice just for the change of mood. I was slightly worried that she might think of me weirdly, because of what I’m about to say next.
“During the AD period, humans formed militaries to fight against other humans. So the right-wing conservatives argued that the military was no different than an organized massacre.”
“However, most of the militants did not conscript themselves to kill. They simply wanted a stable income and life, and for self-realization—they didn’t join the military to kill.”
“I understand why you had to conscript yourself to the Armed Forces, Ensign. And you mustn't blame yourself for that. Didn’t you conscript yourself to run away from your demanding father because there was no other way to protect yourself?”
When I said that, Ensign Meihowa’s eyes became watery. She looked up at me with rabbit-like eyes.
“N-No one has ever told me those kinds of things before. Thank you for your words, Lezirth…”
“Don’t sweat it. I mean it from the bottom of my heart, Ensign.”
Ensign Meihowa blushed and averted her gaze away from me.
“B-But I will die here, without changing anything. To think that I would die by the hands of Elcros, after fleeing the arranged marriage that my father decided on, and the discrimination against Elcros. I’m doing this out of my own self-satisfaction, but what about you, Recruit Lezirth? No, Apprentice Lezirth, what about…”
I shook my head.
Meihowa’s emerald eyes looked back at me. I cleared my throat and extended my hand to her.
“Your finger, if you will, Ensign Meihowa.”
“Just do it.”
I was going to make her make a pinky promise with me; just as I had done with Admiral Luise. Still hesitant, she extended her hand and I forced her fingers around my own.
“Ensign Meihowa, you are a splendid officer, but also a splendid human before that. There is no need for you to degrade yourself. You mustn’t degrade yourself.”
“Have some self-respect. And I will protect you. This is not the place you’re supposed to die. Understood? Promise me.”
Meihowa studied my face to see if I was being serious. But she quickly smiled brightly.
“Y-You Greenie… what’s making you so confident?”
“I’m no Greenie.”
I shook my head.
“I am the Vice Admiral, Lezirth Dawnbringer—the Commander of the Dawn Corps!”
◊ ◊ ◊
Elcros were held as slaves in the mines. So even if the Elcro launch an attack on the mines, they would have to hold their firepower in check.
Weapons mounted on spacecraft did not have the ability to differentiate between friends or foes, so there was no reason for the Elcros to launch a full power offensive on the mines.
Hence, one could say that the mines were holding hostages. And we were the ones who came to those who held the hostages, and tried to ask them to share some of their space with us.
So Commander Donna was being fair in some sense when she ordered our platoon to go on a suicide mission. Although this platoon consisted of mainly Replicants and half-breeds, she still would’ve ordered the same mission to any other platoon.
I chose to understand Commander Donna for now.
And she better understand what we were about to do now.
Admiral Luise stretched her fingers and took out the keyboard for the military computer. By using the computer, she hacked into the temporary security camera circuit and loaded up some visuals.
The circuit was cut off to all connections apart from the military one, and we were able to see everything in the mines by hacking into it. But of course, hacking into the circuit was like stealing candy from a baby for Admiral Luise. She was the one who created the Federation computer system in the first place.
If she was able to get visuals from the military connection, then that must mean she already finished hacking into the entire military computer system with ease. An ordinary hacker would boast about hacking into the system, but she must’ve kept quiet about it because it was elementary for her.
“Now, I will hack into the system to camouflage ourselves onto the Ateu Plains, so we’ll trick them into thinking we were there. Also, please keep it a secret that I’m capable of something like this.”
Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha were flabbergasted, after seeing what Admiral Luise just did. Someone who was able to hack into the military computer posed a threat to the entire Federation.
Asa and Elcro civilizations had no connections to the Human-Race. However, Replicants shared the same fundamental basis as human beings, and a Replicant being able to hack into the system was a game changing piece.
Hence, Replicant Rebels must be attempting to hack into the Federation system on a daily basis, but they wouldn’t have succeeded just yet.
But Admiral Luise was hacking into the Federation system right before their eyes. Thanks to her, we were able to stay safe and ‘carry out’ Commander Donna’s orders.
However, we realized there might not have been the need to go to all that trouble. Elcro miners were currently tied up and sprawled on the ground.
Damn it… Are they using them as human shields? If they plan to leave the Elcros like that for extended periods of time, they will all die from dehydration. This planet’s heat was nothing to scoff at, after all.
“Hmm. The enemy won’t lightly overlook the situation if there’s something like that.”
Admiral Luise started to concentrate. She must’ve used clairvoyance to sense any enemy’s space fleets.
“The enemy is fast approaching. They are headed to the mines.”
As expected. Having the Elcros act as human shields aggravated the enemy to launch an attack.
On this planet where the temperature would stay approximately 50 degrees Celsius during the day, the Elcro captives will die in one or two hours from dehydration.
The mining base must’ve used the Elcro captives as a warning and a hostage to the enemy, using a cruel method at that. But the enemy saw that action as an obligation to launch an attack.
Unmanned drones started to pour down from the sky like rain. The enemy must’ve deployed drones instead of the warships to intimidate the mining base first.
Surface-to-air missiles and rockets started to fire from the base in response. However, the unmanned drones outnumbered the missiles.
If that wasn’t despairing enough, the sky split in half and a black object fell straight down like lightning from the sky, and stopped to hover slightly above the ground.
The air burst into flames all of a sudden, and from the fire emerged a giant, black, beetle-shaped Alter-Armour.
Two gigantic horns, long limbs, a slim body but a frightening face, the gigantic Alter-Armour measuring over 40m.
It was the Kishin Diablo, nicknamed Black Tyrant!
The Diablo, one of the 12 Kishin-class Alter-Armours, originally in the Federation’s possession, but was now in the hands of the Elcro. It descended from the atmosphere and landed near the mines.
The Kishin, while still hovering, rolled its neck and flexed its arms like a human fighter would before stepping into the ring. Two spots of light that shone from its black, shiny, armour on his head resembled human eyes.
Every single movement that it made was arrogant and prideful. Everyone could agree that it was overly arrogant, even though it didn’t have any facial expressions. Also, Diablo didn’t have any special equipment apart from the cape on its back.
[S-Shoot down the Diablo! We can break down the enemy’s will if we destroy that!]
Commander Donna’s voice echoed out from the military terminals.
Is this lady out of her mind? A Kishin wouldn’t be called a Kishin if it could be defeated by something like surface-to-air missiles.
However, soldiers lived and died by the orders given. When the Commander’s order was issued, every soldier stationed at the mines started to focus their attacks on Diablo.
A tremendous amount of missiles, plasma cannons and high-mass beams bombarded Diablo. However, when Diablo flapped its cape, its entire body turned half-transparent and all attacks passed through it.
It escaped the attack by using Phase Shift to remove itself from reality for a few moments.
Diablo escaped the attacks unscathed with ease. The soldiers’ despair-ridden voices resounded over the terminals.
[Is that what Kishins are like?!]
[We’re all gonna die!]
Complaints arose from the soldiers in the mines.
That was understandable of course, because all of their attacks were ignored by the Diablo in vain. Well, Phase Shift was not that much of a big deal, and seeing how the Federation soldiers were in despair, it seemed like they had never seen an Alter-Armour equipped with the ability before.
Ensign Meihowa clenched her lips.
“They’ll be annihilated like this. What should we do? Should we go and aid them?”
I stopped her. The enemy had a Kishin-class Alter-Armour on the field and it would be suicidal to go aid them with a half-filled platoon. I could survive and hold up against it on my own, but I couldn’t guarantee the safety of the other soldiers.
And furthermore, the Elcro miners were being held hostage, so the odds of great attacks from the enemy was low.
However, something surprising happened.
After avoiding the barrage of attacks, Diablo crossed its arms and spoke arrogantly while looking down at the mines. No, it was the pilot who spoke from the speakers on the Diablo, to be specific.
[I cannot sacrifice my innocent kin just to chase off you vile people, albeit the terrible crimes you’ve committed. Surrender. If you surrender now, I will spare your lives and spare you any torture. It is a waste to hold any emotions for ants like you.]
The pilot sure doesn’t sound like someone who is recommending people to surrender.
Diablo bent down and stared at the mining base and shells began to pour down from the sky. Elcro-Asa-Replicant soldiers jumped out from the shells and surrounded the base.
The Federation soldiers abandoned their arms at the sight.
Ensign Meihowa turned off the visuals of the mining base.
“At least they won’t die.”
“That’s a relief. We should stay low for now. Although the mining base soldiers won’t die, there is no need for us to also be captured, is there?”
Ensign Meihowa sighed at what Admiral Luise said. She must’ve been really worried about the safety of the soldiers at the mining base. She was unusually sensitive for a soldier.
I also sighed in relief. Although I did not know who the pilot of Diablo was, I was glad that the pilot spared the lives of the Federation soldiers and wrapped up the situation nicely.
That was very commendable even though the pilot was an enemy.
However, something happened then.
A yell sounded over the terminals. I jumped up in surprise and checked the computer visuals only to see the deserted platoon members, Chief Technician Oh and Lieutenant Imamura shooting at the unmanned drones.
Those fools! Why aren’t they hiding when the enemy has a Kishin and other soldiers!
Just for the reference, we were currently hiding near the sea where mangrove-like plants were growing. This was a point that we chose after much consideration to hide the Spider and the Minion-class Alter-Armour. We were safe from the unmanned drones and surveillance vehicles.
“Oh no, Bravo Squad and the rest were just moving through the jungle when they were spotted by the unmanned surveillance vehicles.”
Admiral Luise quickly explained the situation to us.
Damn it, why didn’t they just surrender….
The pilot of Diablo appeared to be someone who disliked bloodshed, but there was a slim chance of the Kishin not attacking the squad that was acting independently, and without a hostage at that. Also, that chance was further reduced as Bravo Squad opened fire first.
[Arrgg! Die you alien fuckers!]
Shouting lines that might be heard in an SF film from the AD, they fired their Coil Rifles. The rifles spat fire and hit the drones.
What was displayed on the computer was like a scene out of a war film.
“W-What should we do?”
Charlie Squad muttered to themselves while hiding in the water.
“What can we do—we’ll die if we come out of here!”
“But are you saying that we should just watch Bravo Squad being killed?!”
“Damn it! Lieutenant Imamura can die for all I care! But Bravo Squad is…”
Conflict started to take place among the soldiers. Even Ensign Meihowa was trembling.
As their officer, she must not disregard the lives of her soldiers so easily. However, going to rescue them was suicidal and she knew that she would be sentencing everyone here to death if she ordered them to go and aid the Bravo squad.
Seeing her being torn between the choices that she had before her, I made my decision.
“I’ll go. Ensign Meihowa, you stay here and calm down Charlie Squad.”
“Are you out of your mind?! Bravo Squad is 130 kilometers away from us! By the time you arrive, they’ll…”
Ensign Meihowa’s words trailed off. Then, the other soldiers all complained.
“You’ll have to be a SSS-class Teleporter to travel 130km in an instant.”
“He must really think that he’s the Dawn Corps Commander.”
“T-Then isn’t he just a lunatic? Is it really OK to arm a lunatic?”
“OK, Lezirth. I’ll give you full support!”
Admiral Luise looked at me and hacked into the computer system again. She disconnected the communication between me and the other soldiers and ordered the others to take cover.
Other soldiers took cover, disappearing from my sight in the process and only Ensign Meihowa, Sergeant Aroha and Admiral Luise remained by my side.
“Please keep what you’re about to see a secret, Meihowa, Aroha.”
I winked at both of them, and attempted to teleport.