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Full Metal Panic! - Volume 7 - Chapter 5


Chapter 5: When the Crossbow Breaks

Why couldn’t things ever go smoothly..?

Kurama, who had somehow managed to escape from the roof, didn’t curse, but searched his coat pockets for his cigarettes instead. They weren’t there. That’s right, he had quit.

Now out of options, he cursed quietly to himself.

He had left the school quickly and made it to a convenience store near the shopping district.

The streets were silent due to all the chaos.

There was a loud explosion in the direction of the school, but it wasn’t the bombs he had set.

He also heard the faint sound of an AS’s propulsion system. Kurama gave brief instructions to his subordinate over the radio.

“What about the AS reinforcements?”

“They’re here and in pursuit of the enemy AS, but-”

There came the sound of multiple shots being fired. Two ASes were battling nearby. A black shadow cut through the sky, and a building was smashed in various places.

“What? What’s happening?”

“The enemy AS is turning back towards the school. It seems that our guy is trying to cut that Sagara guy off.”

“Destroy him before that.”

“No, wait, he’s not. It seems he didn’t make it in time. Now the enemy looks like he’s going to counterattack. The squad leader is-”

There was yet another loud explosion right over head. The Codarl M and the enemy’s white AS had collided in mid-air 50 meters above, and were starting to fall, almost intertwined.

“Whoa...”

Kurama quickly threw himself on the ground. Utility poles were snapped, guardrails were flattened, and a magazine shop was half-crushed when the two ASes hit the ground. Shards of glass and concrete went flying and a cloud of dust covered the area.

He could see that they were both a tangled mess, but the winner was clear. The white AS’s monomolecular cutter was sticking out of the Codarl M’s chest, and the Codarl M had also been crushed from the fall.

The monomolecular cutter made a high-pitched squeal as it was extracted from the Codarl.

Then, in order to meet the remaining Codarl Ms, the white AS quickly got up and jumped in the southwest direction.

A blast of wind blew Kurama’s coat around him.

“Damn it.”

“It seems that the squad leader’s machine has been destroyed.”

“Yes. It was right in front of me.”

Now in a sitting position, Kurama picked up a pack of cigarettes that had fallen along with other debris next to him.

“We should leave the AS to ASes. Have you found the girl?”

“Not yet. There’s just some evidence on the roof of shopping center 21-31. There is brand new concrete damage. Probably due to an AS landing.”

“So, what of it? The enemy moves, doesn’t he?”

“I heard from a salesperson who said that that roof is also a parking lot, but right after it opened, there was a woman putting an unconscious girl into a car.”

“...what about descriptions of that woman and car?”

“He couldn’t say anything other than that the woman was young. The car was a white Alfard.”

“Stretch the network out to police headquarters. Get the police camera records for the past three hours.”

“Roger.”

He cut the transmission, unconsciously opening the seal on the cigarettes as he thought suspiciously about it.

What was going on? Did that mean she was going to hand her over? Was that woman from before the one taking away the objective? But if so, then why had she not been aiding them so far?

No, more than that, why had she expressly shown up there?

He received a transmission on a different line. It was from Leonard Testarossa.

“What do you want?”

“It seems to be a close fight.”

Kurama took a cigarette out of the unsealed box. “Thanks to you, it is. Lots of things have gone wrong,” he said, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. It didn’t matter, it was just in his mouth.

It wasn’t as if he had started smoking again.

“We still don’t know where the girl is. It’s pretty much over.”

“No, it’s not.”

“What do you mean?”

“The girl is probably not far. And who do you think would make the most valuable hostage for her?”

“Huh? No...”

“He would. Him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Right now he’s-”

There was the sound of an explosion in the distance. Kurama’s subordinate reported “The second ally unit has been destroyed” over the other radio.

“-on a rampage.”

“Is that so? Three minutes will do. Could you go ahead and tell him to hold out until then?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Three minutes. That will be enough.”

Leonard’s communication cut off there. Kurama clicked his tongue and looked for a lighter to light his cigarette. There wasn’t one. Not in his pocket, or in the trash around him.

“Damn it.”

In the end, he took the cigarette out of his mouth and slung it away.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Inside the dimly lit transport hangar, he checked the condition of the thin globe.

It gripped his right hand, then opened.

Not bad.

He could hear the Captain’s report over the receiver in his ear. Now over Tokyo. Altitude, 5,000 meters. Estimated arrival time, around three minutes.

“Good work. I’ll be boarding from here.”

“Do you need to go?” a woman’s calm voice said on another line in the receiver. She was right in front of him, but the roar of the plane drowned out her voice.

“For a change. I have to go and get my exercise,” he said, looking down self-derisively at his own figure in a pilot’s suit. “Plus it seems that they have misunderstood me.”

“Is that so? Then take care.”

“Thank you. I’ll be back soon.”

 

 

 

 

Reversing his steps, he walked out towards the machine crouched down inside the darkened hangar. The machine vibrated, and the dimly shining sensor on the head shook slightly.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

When the damaged Arbalest went to battle the enemy ASes, Wraith began to treat Kyouko’s injuries.

There were bruises and cuts on the right side of her face. They weren’t bleeding from what she could see.

She was more worried about the blood coming from her right side.

Wraith cut Kyouko’s clothes with an army knife and looked at the injury. It was probably about the size of the end of her pinky finger- a piece of shrapnel was embedded in her diaphragm under the ribs. It was a lodged-shrapnel wound. She couldn’t tell how much damage the internal organs had received. She would have no choice but to perform first-aid, then quickly carry her to a hospital.

She couldn’t rely on an ambulance in this kind of mess. Wraith picked up the limp girl and hurried to the parking lot two blocks away.

This is ridiculous.

Why in the world was she doing this? She could leave this girl and run to the car. It would be enough to say to the girl waiting inside, “I rescued her like I promised, now come with me”. But Wraith didn’t do that. So that this girl wouldn’t die, she was carefully supporting her as she ran to a white van parked in the lot. She released the lock and opened the automatic door to the back seat.

“Kyouko...?”

Kaname Chidori, who had been lying down inside, looked at Kyouko’s figure and dizzily got up.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Right, left. Up, down.

The enemy AS ran all over the midday Sengawa streets in his shaking target box.

The cherry trees he was accustomed to were in pieces.

The doughnut shop that everyone went to all the time had collapsed.

The small truck from the bread shop that came and went to the school had been blown up.

Everything was being instantly destroyed- all of the scenery that had gratified him, been almost like a friend to him.

<Proximity alert!>

An alarm sounded. The enemy was approaching, pointing its rifle straight at him.

It fired.

The Arbalest thrust out its left hand, and the atmosphere shimmered. The entire bullet scattered. The enemy closed in on him from on high. Sousuke crouched down as it passed, catching his enemy’s foot. He then flipped it into a row of trees and telephone poles.

He had no intention of giving the enemy time to recover. He quickly turned aside and threw his anti-tank dagger. It received an explosion of plastic explosives in the side, and the third enemy AS moved no more.

The streets grew quiet.

He stood on the road that ran in front of Jindai High School, using his active sensors to search for any remaining enemies. He

received no response. Most of the students had already evacuated to the residential areas, but a few remained in the schoolyard, staring up dumbfounded at the figure of the Arbalest.

He could see several of his classmates.

Shinji Kazama was there. And so was Koutarou Onodera.

On closer inspection of the damage, he found that the ECS unit had been nearly half destroyed.

It would be difficult to become invisible and move around the city as he pleased.

What will I do...?

He would remove himself by force, collect Kaname and escape to the suburbs at full speed then-

Alarms went off.

<Large transport plane approaching. Direction, 187. Range 20. One plane. Speed, 500. Slowing down from 1000.>

He couldn’t turn the head. His field of vision was dimming, probably because of fatigue and blood loss.

Sousuke shook his head and blinked his eyes. On the screen, a transport plane was coming from the southern sky. The target box said it was a “low-level threat”. It was a model C-17.

Whether it was enemy or ally was “unknown”.

The transport was coming closer.

It was going fairly fast, and slowing down. Probably already 300 meters or thereabouts.

The roar of the turbo fan engines shook the surrounding rubble. He was not going to shoot it down by any means- this was a town area. As Sousuke put himself on his guard, the transport plane passed.

In that moment, the transport plane as well as something else cast a shadow overhead.

His eyes caught up with it. The parachute that it cut off fluttered in the sky over the north school building, but he couldn’t see anything else. The lone transport plane ascended, and continued off towards the west.

“...?”

Something had fallen from that plane. That’s all that Sousuke knew.

But, what was it..?

<Six o’clock, Range Zero!>

An AS was standing right behind him.

Sousuke moved at the same time the “enemy” AS’s right arm moved as quick as lightning, slicing the Arbalest’s shoulder armor. Faster than the equipment could drop to the ground, the Arbalest defended, pulling the shot cannon from its waist and firing. The “enemy figure” quickly wavered, and the shots cut uselessly through the air, disappearing into the distance.

“Uh...”

He jumped back to gain some distance, but the enemy was still there.

Quietly. So quietly it was almost suffocating.

It had dark silver armor, and a sharp form.

It seemed to be from the same family as the Codarls he had fought many times before, but it was a machine he had never seen. Its slender extremities gave the impression of delicateness about them, but it was definitely not weak. There was something coming from the shoulders- large components like wings or a cape that gave this machine a certain gravity and magnificence.

That was it.

This AS was more like the polished silver figure of a god than a weapon. It was a much stronger, more beautiful, and more overpowering entity than the beat-up Arbalest.

 

 

 

 

<There are no models applicable to this data.>

“Try to estimate the specs.”

<It has greater output, maneuverability, and stealth than the Codarl type. More than likely, it is equipped with a Lambda Driver. It is impossible to estimate further.>

“Are we of the same opinion, then?”

<Affirmative. It is dangerous. I recommend immediate withdrawal.>

“Do you think we can?”

<Negative.>

“Then we’re of the same opinion.”

The enemy was empty-handed. It wasn’t holding one rifle or firearm.

The AS, as if it couldn’t see Sousuke at all, turned its head to the people in the schoolyard and slowly put its right hand on its hip.

“Well then- Sousuke Sagara,” the voice rang out over the enemy’s external speakers. It was the cool voice of a young man that he knew. “-I have no intention of taking these people hostage. I don’t even see the point of it. But, I will go ahead and say this. This is your final warning. You don’t intend on giving up and handing the girl over, do you?”

“You already know the answer,” Sousuke said over his external speakers, even though he knew that his classmates still in the schoolyard could hear his voice.

“Well, I thought so,” Leonard said. “But you know, that kind of impudence... do you think it’s cool?”

“What are you talking about?”

“A little, huh? Because I hate that kind of thing.”

Sousuke was hit by a hush, and the enemy opened the “wings” on its shoulders.

Its toes lifted up, as if there were no gravity. The atmosphere around it shimmered and clouds of dust swirled around as the AS danced easily in the air.

It wasn’t jumping by kicking off the ground.

It was simply floating.

The eyes set in the asymmetrically-cornered head lorded over Sousuke. The attack that continued after that was as fierce as a muddy river.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Kaname could do nothing but cry and watch as Wraith took out the medical kit inside the car to perform first aid on Kyouko’s injuries.

“Wi... will you save her?”

“I can.”

“Is she okay?!”

“She’s just as you see.”

Wraith worked silently, her hands stained red with fresh blood.

“Kyouko... I’m sorry, Kyouko...”

It’s my fault.

Everything is my fault. Everything. Because I took so long. Because I couldn’t decide.

My best friend. My symbol of happiness.

It’s all my fault.

Someone, please help. God. Don’t let my friend die. Please. I’ll do whatever, just somehow. Somehow-

Just then, she heard another call.

It was the voice of the young man who was trying to kill the other important person in her life.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

So, it seemed that the white AS wasn’t a bad machine after all.

Compared to its M9 base, its maneuverability and power were fair enough. Even with all the damage it had received, its operational ability was truly admirable. And its toughness was beyond the level of an experimental machine. It probably hypothesized and designed perfect combat scenarios.

“But, you see...”

His “Belial” spun in mid-air, stopped, zigzagged, and flew towards the enemy’s back. Right now his thoughts were concentrated on his intentions and all of the laws of physics.

He hadn’t yet used any of the weapons fixed on his back.

A strike from his hand was enough.

Sousuke’s machine turned around, and he cut off its left arm below the shoulder. Even though the damaged AS lost its balance, it pointed the shot cannon at him.

It fired.

Leonard stopped the shot without difficulty, throwing it back on his opponent. It hit. Metal fragments went flying, and the enemy’s right knee bent back in the opposite direction.

There was no way he could win.

Against someone like himself. Someone who could freely use the “Omni Sphere” and bring out all of the Lambda Driver’s power, like himself.

You can see, can’t you?

“Stop it”

You understand now, right?

“Don’t kill him”

I’m annoyed

“I’m begging you”

Only you can stop it

“You can love me”

Turn that courage into strength

“I’ll help you”

Why for this man...!

“I’ll forget him”

Sousuke Sagara still hadn’t gone down.

He was preventing himself from falling over with just one arm and one leg, taking refuge in the school’s courtyard and firing his shot cannon. Leonard easily dodged the bullets, approached with a dim fury, and blew away the cannon.

There was an explosion right behind him.

A delayed fuse and a claymore landmine. A trap like this, at a time like this. What obstinacy. What strength. And still the white AS was firing its head-mounted machine gun as it tried to take out its last anti-tank dagger with its right hand.

“How pathetic.”

The Belial opened the weapon bay in its left arm, firing the 40mm gun inside. The bullets tore the enemy’s right arm, right leg, and head all to pieces. The power of the enemy’s Lambda Driver was insignificant.

He stomped on the abdomen of the enemy AS, which had now lost both arms, its head, and all of its weapons, and forcibly tore the armor off the chest. In the middle of a warped, cracked screen with sparks flying everywhere, he could see the figure of the pilot.

There wasn’t the panic that he had been expecting anywhere. Sousuke Sagara let go of the controller and pointed an automatic pistol at him. From across the cracked screen. His face

was covered in blood, but the look in his eyes said he wouldn’t succumb to anything in this world.

“...”

He fired the pistol.

He was aiming at Leonard’s sensor. From the level of an AS battle, this really was a very weak attack. All it did was create unpleasant scratches on the sensor area.

He could hear the voice of the enemy’s AI.

<Generator... stopped. All condensers broken. Recommend abandoning unit and.... es... cape....>

Silence.

Missing both arms, the right leg, its head, and even its central area destroyed, the ARX-7 was a complete wreck. A gentle breeze blew through the school courtyard, in which there was one giant who had lost its life, and another giant, which was stepping on the body.

“Good work, Al,” the pilot said, the muzzle of his gun shaking. “Your discharge... is granted.”

Sousuke Sagara shot again.

It made two more unsightly marks.

Leonard felt like there was a mosquito buzzing around his ear. It was probably the first time he ever felt that kind of discomfort.

I don’t care anymore. I’ll crush him- he thought. He knew that it wasn’t connected at all to wanting to make this man yield to him. He knew that from experience.

But that was okay.

If you’re going to refuse to the very end-

“Stop it already...”

He saw a girl in the corner of his screen. She was standing in front of the shrubbery, her shoulders heaving, looking up at his AS.

It was Kaname Chidori.

“Put an end to it. I’ll go.”

“With whom, I wonder?”

The girl’s black hair blew in the gentle breeze.

There was a long silence. No, she had already clearly stated her answer.

“With you.”

Leonard turned his AS to face Sousuke Sagara and said, “Did you hear that, Sousuke Sagara?”

His Belial left the wreckage of the Arbalest and reverently kneeled down in front of her, sticking out its right hand. Looking downcast, she slowly sat down in its palm.

The Belial stood up, looking down at the loser.

“Chidori... stop it...” Sousuke Sagara mumbled.

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay.”

“I’m alright. And so are you...”

“I will... bring you back...”

His arm, sapped of its strength, hit the warped frame.

“Bring you back... to this place...”

The Belial’s tactile sensors didn’t pick it up, but Leonard knew that she was shaking. She was desperately choking back her sobs.

“Let’s go...” the girl in the hand of the AS said over the screen. Leonard shrugged, and quietly maneuvered his machine away.

The moment that he turned his back, Kaname Chidori said something to Sousuke Sagara.

Since he only caught the movement of her lips, he couldn’t tell what it was she had said.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

She could hear ambulance sirens.

Also fire engines and police cars. Wraith was driving to a nearby emergency clinic when something flying from the direction of the school passed overhead.

It was a dark-silver AS. There was absolutely no sound of rotors or jets.

Was that... an arm slave?

The machine activated its ECS, and disappeared into the ashen sky.

She only saw that the unit was carrying someone in its arms for a moment, but even so, Wraith knew who that person was.

After all, it had been Wraith herself that didn’t stop Kaname Chidori from leaving the car.

Her decision had been in direct violation of the intelligence department’s intentions. General Amit would probably never forgive her.

Damn it...

After checking this girl in the back seat into the hospital, she would have no choice but to go into hiding. Somewhere far away. Somewhere where no one knew her. This would be the second time she had worked for an organization, originally coming from the intelligence department in North Korea. In fact, she might not go back into this business.

She would go with her feelings, and forget her mission.

It might just be as that girl said. She might be more suited to be a kind of unknown actor.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

The battle with the enemy landing forces on Merida Island was still continuing within the underground base. The surface battle was already pretty much over.

Most of the base’s personnel had taken up guns and, under temporary organization, met the enemy. The air conditioner was blown up, as well as a number of other facilities. It was far better than handing it over to the enemy.

The sounds of gunshots and explosions had reached the Command Center in the middle of the base. There was yelling and screaming, too.

The Command Center would fall very shortly.

Tessa had finally been forced to order evacuation of the Command Center. The remaining personnel took up arms and hurried to the uninjured submarine’s dock, led by Corporal Yang of the SRT. Lieutenant Commander Kalinin took up the rear.

They didn’t know the condition of the dock, since the communications network within the base had been cut to pieces and it was difficult for each station to communicate with each other.

They couldn’t even announce the order to evacuate to the dock, and they didn’t know how long it would take to reach most of the base personnel, who were still fighting.

When they took the supposedly still-safe number 3 passage down to the dock, they were attacked from an unexpected direction. The communications ensign took a bullet and fell. He didn’t even scream.

Protect the Captain.

Someone yelled this. Some became a shield, other returned fire, and one by one, her subordinates fell.

Bullets were flying all over the corridor, and the fierce reverberations of exploding hand grenades echoed through the dim passageway.

Lieutenant Commander Kalinin yelled “Never mind it, just go” to someone as he fired his submachine gun. Corporal Yang returned through the smoke and pulled Tessa’s hand with a “This way”.

Stumbling, choking, and dragging her feet, she continued to run down the corridor. Kalinin wasn’t there. Neither were several of her other subordinates. From well behind them, she could clearly hear the sounds of intermittent gunshots. He had stayed behind to fight.

Now the only one with her was Yang.

“The Lieutenant Commander-”

“It’s no good. Hurry.”

But the enemy was sly, as if they knew the layout of the base really well. Four enemy soldiers carrying carbines jumped out at them from a corner of their path.

“!”

The enemy had been anticipating them. The submarine dock was only a little further.

Even so, Yang shot first. The first guy took a bullet to the head, falling back and hitting the floor like a spring. But the other soldiers, unperturbed, fired their submachine guns at Yang. The bullets hit him square in the chest, and Yang threw his head back.

“Captain-”

Yang steadied himself, and shot again. A second enemy fell in front of them.

“Run-”

It was no good. He took a number of other shots, and collapsed helplessly to the floor.

Tessa could do nothing but support his back.

No, there was still something.

She took the carbine from his hand, and, surprised at its weight, aimed the muzzle of it straight in front of her. But the remaining enemies easily closed in on her and kicked the carbine away to the side.

“...!”

In a voice of stifled hatred, the one of them said, “This brat’s the leader?”

“Seems so. Let’s give her some trouble.”

“She’s ours. Strip her.”

“Good idea. Shall we?”

“There won’t be a problem afterwards if we do. We’ve got time.”

Just then, there was another voice from the side.

“Time? You’re out of it.”

And aiming at the men as they responded, Melissa Mao fired her submachine gun on full auto. There was dancing gunpowder smoke and ammunition, and the two enemy soldiers collapsed in a spray of blood.

“Melissa.”

Her pilot’s suit was dirty all over, she was breathing loudly as she approached. “Let’s go,” she said shortly.

“Yang is-”

“He’s fine. He’s wearing body armor, although it looks like he took a couple in the leg and stomach- for better or for worse, the SRT are without a doubt the best, aren’t they, Yang?”

“Ow... hah hah...” Yang said in a pain-wracked voice as the two of them helped him up.

“But... it seems like... all the good lines... are taken.”

“Idiot. Can you walk?”

“Yeah. I’m fine... uh!”

Supporting Yang under both arms as he dripped blood, Tessa and Melissa hurried towards the submarine dock.

“What’s the situation?” Mao asked through broken breaths. She was also extremely exhausted.

“This base is falling. The personnel are evacuating. We were attacked even here, and the five last remaining people from the command center and I...”

Tessa swallowed.

“Then Mr. Kalinin stayed behind. He’s... gone, isn’t he?”

“...yes.”

“We also lost Mr. Castero.”

Mao’s jaw tightened.

“We haven’t heard from Mr. Clouseau or Mr. Weber. When you consider the situation above ground...”

“...there’s nothing that can be done. This sort of thing happens when you fight a losing battle,” Mao said, but in a thin, shaking voice. “Damn it. I’ll... I’ll make them pay for this.”

“That was my plan, also.”

“Hah hah,” for the first time, Mao laughed without letting out a small sigh.

“So I have to come. I love you, Tessa.”

“I love you, too.”

Yang was getting vague, muttering “Umm, I’m...” almost deliriously.

Their legs felt heavy, they were panting and their bodies hurt all over as they slowly came closer to the dock entrance.

“Almost there.”

“Yeah.”

 

 

 

Someone was yelling on the other side of the barricade to the door. Rifle in hand, he beckoned Tessa and Mao to hurry. They were helped by several members of the PRT, and when they entered the submarine dock, the several hundred people gathered there from the base personnel as well as the crew were waiting on her.

“Attention!!”

And- unbelievably- even in this situation, they were all lined up in perfect order. Three lines of people stretched into the distance in front of the Tuatha de Danaan, which was waiting to depart now that the flooding of the dock had finished.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, Miss Captain,” said her second-in-command, Commander Richard Mardukas, who was standing at the very end of the first line. “The strongest submarine in human history to ever dominate the seven seas, the Tuatha de Danaan, is ready to sail when you are. Your orders, please!”

He had probably been helping with the fitting-out work until the very last moment. He was covered in oil and soot, but still possessed an unwavering dignity and pride.

“...really. I’m amazed,” Tessa said as she handed the unconscious Yang over to an orderly.

“Keeping discipline at a time like this?”

“Yes, ma’am. Discipline is even more important at a time like this.”

Mardukas wasn’t grinning at all. It was an answer that almost wasn’t like him.

They could still hear the gun battle in the distance, and the surviving Behemoth was waiting for them where the dock came out on the exterior of the island.

Even so, she said in a resonant voice, “All hands, take your stations!”

“Aye aye, ma’am!” everyone replied at the same time.

The ship’s generator was satisfactory. Using disposable M6s, they fired at the enemies, who were only waiting on the rear garrison after they had infiltrated the submarine dock, and the very last person jumped on the boat. At that moment-

Tessa gave the order from her Captain’s chair on the bridge.

“Ahead one-third!”

“Aye, ma’am. Ahead one-third!”

The submarine slowly began to move. They headed towards the great deep waiting outside the underground base. When the rushing enemies tried to shoot a rocket at the boat, the explosives hidden in the dock ceiling blew up. Countless pieces of steel frame and rocks poured down on top of the enemy soldiers, raising a cloud of dust.

“Go ahead and open hatch number 4.”

“Hatch 4? Why?” Mardukas gave a puzzled look at her order to open the large AS hatch on the top of the deck- the same one the Arbalest entered during the time in Shun On.

“If they are still alive, they will definitely come.”

“I see. Open hatch number 4!” Mardukas ordered without any further hesitation.

The Tuatha de Danaan continued on through the enormous water passageway that was supported by steel frames.

They sped up. And sped up. And sped up some more.

The exit to the underwater channel- a bright white light was growing closer. The exit had been made in the middle of a cliff. The shutter that had been fitted into the rock was already open.

The enemy would definitely come. They were waiting.

“Load tubes one through six with ADCAPs. Flood the tubes. Open all doors.”

“Aye, Captain. Load tubes one through six with ADCAPs. Flood tubes, open all doors!” her second-in-command repeated, and the firearms control officer executed the order.

“Warning! To the crew in the torpedo room and storage deck, please evacuate to the aft!”

“Warning!”

All hands were informed. Through the shrill sirens that reverberated through the ship, the sonar room yelled, “Contact on the sonar array! Very big, right in front of us!”

“Yes, and superior, too.”

Tessa smiled.

“Fire tubes one through six!”

The Tuatha de Danaan fired all six ADCAP torpedoes from its torpedo tubes. Each was a 300 kilo warhead that could incapacitate a large warship with one hit. A total of 1.8 megatons of explosives shot towards the tunnel exit at high speed, where the Behemoth was lying in wait in front of the cliff, on the shore.

Every one of them hit.

The fierce sound and shock of the explosion hit the de Danaan itself. The floor jumped up, and they were shaken up and down, left and right.

The sonar operator yelled, “Damn it to hell, it’s still alive!”

They could see the image in the periscope. In the entrance of the tunnel directly in front of them stood the enraged Behemoth. It had already lost its howitzer, but it still had its head-mounted machine gun. Although it had been shaken by the enormous explosion, it spread its arms and tried to shoot at them.

“Ram straight into it!”

“Tha-”

“We’ll steamroll it!”

“Aye aye, ma’am! We’ll take it to hell!” the helmsman shouted. The 210,000 horsepower generator roared. All of the propellers let out screams of delight, and the enormous submarine sped up even more.

“All hands, brace for impact!”

Just then, the Behemoth’s head was hit by a number of explosions. In an instant, the giant had lost it balance. It had been attacked from somewhere. More than likely, from the top of the cliff-

Impact.

The bow of the de Danaan crashed into the Behemoth’s hip. There was the terrible shriek of warping metal as the two enormous machines met, but the de Danaan had the better chance of success. The Behemoth only weighed a few thousand tons, while the De Danaan weight 44,000 tons. It may have been able to defend itself against all sorts of shells, but there was no way it could stop such mass. It was like a truck flying into a pro-wrestler.

The Behemoth was unable to stand in the face of such overwhelming power, and was thrown back. A large sheet of spray was flung up as it slowly turned.

Perhaps it was because of the surprise attack it had received just before the collision, but it seemed that the enemy hadn’t even used its Lambda Driver. The Behemoth had been squarely damaged and collapsed. The armor on its waist and abdomen blew off, and it fell headlong into the sea’s surface as it went to pieces-

Now the Tuatha de Danaan had been released into the wide open sea.

“...heh heh. I thought she’d do it. She’s violent when pushed,” came a voice they knew well over the U1 line. It was Kurz. His location was unknown, but his range was zero.

“For once I agree with this guy. It seems we made it just in time,” came the voice of Clouseau similarly. His whereabouts were also unknown, but his range was also zero.

The optical sensor on the periscope moved automatically.

Right in front of the ship’s sail, standing next to the open number 4 hatch, were two M9swhere the black and grey ASes, their armor damaged all over, were hanging on.

“Mr. Weber, Mr. Clouseau...!!”

With miraculous timing, they had jumped down from the top of the cliff containing the water channel’s exit. The surprise attack on the Behemoth had been from these two, too.

“Aren’t we awesome?”

“I agree again. Well then... requesting permission to board, Captain.”

Although Tessa was still surprised at the sight of these two with their good grace, she said in a lively voice, “Of course. Enter through hatch 4.”

“Roger, thank you.”

Mardukas, who was standing next to the Captain’s chair, just shrugged.

“Good grief... those guys are obstinate.”

“Maybe. But our loss today was enormous. Very much so.”

Mardukas pinched the rim of his hat, and bent his head as if in silent prayer.

“Yes...”

They had indeed lost much. Too many people. Too much of everything. This curse would probably forever haunt them. And they couldn’t even begin to imagine the many hardships they still faced.

They would fight alone. But-

“We’ll worry about it next week. It’s still too early to relax.”

The deck officer reported that the two ASes were docked. Number 4 hatch was closed. The electronics war officer reported that the enemy helicopters had begun pursuit of the de Danaan.

Tessa stood up once, then sat down again in her Captain’s chair.

“We’re breaking through their net. Emergency maneuvers. Vent MBTs.”

“Aye, ma’am! Emergency maneuvers! Vent MBTs!”

And the sound of the piercing, yet reassuring buzzer rang throughout the ship.


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