Chapter 2: Briefing
From far away, he could hear the sound of the waves. There was a brick wall and a rough bed. Sunlight came from a small window.
It was one of the rooms in an old building.
Sousuke Sagara, in the middle of his hazy consciousness, proceeded through the “Data”, repeating it a thousand times.
Name, time, place.
Other than the name he knew nothing.
After being fatally wounded after killing Kurama, how long had it been since he had collapsed in the “Arena”?
Why was he alive?
Where was that place?
Asking himself those questions, he noticed that he had not asked them just once or twice.
Really. No matter how many times he woke up muddily, he knew that his body could not move, and when the nurse injected something into him, he fell into a deep sleep.
However, this time it was a little less.
He could feel a terrible pain. In his chest, back, and femur there was a slow and heavy pain. Waves of tightening agony spread throughout his whole body, causing his heart to race. His head felt like it had been hit with sandbags. But he was not sluggish.
There were dripping sounds by the side of the bed. There was also a medical monitor. The cord of the Electro-cardiogram was extended into his own body. There was also an oxygen tank and inhalers.
A thin sheet covered his body. Bandages were here and there.
Right toe. Move.
Left toe. Move.
Right hand also, and the left hand.
It seemed that his nerves were still connected. But they might have been “phantom limbs”. For people who lost their arms and legs, there was a phenomenon where they hallucinated about their own arms and legs.
He thought of looking at his limbs firsthand and turned his head with difficulty. In addition to the furniture and medical equipments, on one side of the bed, there was a big picture hanging.
It was a panoramic picture the size of a bed.
It showed two adults extending both their hands that were very close to each other.
In the midst of the blue jungle were yellow skinned people who were half-naked. There were children, dogs and even images of deities. There were relaxed women and suffering men. In the center was a youth in a loincloth, looking up like he was shooting a basketball.
It was big, like buoyantly airing the atmosphere of despair. That was the first time that he has seen that kind of picture, but there was a strange déjà vu and familiarity to it.
“Do you know the title of that painting?” a man’s voice said.
Sousuke was not able to see the face of the person who had entered the room. With a light body, he was pushing aside the agonizing pain.
“Where did we come from, what are we, where are we going-”
Sitting beside the bed, the man peered into the face of Sousuke. He was handsome and blond with round glasses.
“That’s the title” he tried to mutter, but his throat was dry and a voice did not come out; just a hoarse voice, with his lips moving like he was chewing. Even then, Lemon understood him, and said a short “aah”.
“Of course that’s a replica. It’s a famous painting.”
“It’s Gauguin, right?”
This time a voice came out.
“That’s unexpected. Aside from weapons and military, you also know other things.”
“I saw it in an art book.”
Opening his mouth Sousuke nostalgically remembered the complex and difficult speech coming out of his art teacher.
“I see. You also went to high school....”
Pulling the wooden chair nearby, Lemon put the back rest in front and let both his elbow hang on them.
Seeing that appearance, Sousuke said, “What’s the situation?”
Knowing that he was alive was already enough. Without any feelings or greetings, he had to know what he needed to know.
Lemon let out a sound with his nose like he was surprised and shook his shoulders, and then let out a small sigh.
“Situation huh, then let me tell you. It’s been 56 days since Nami died, today is May 20th.”
“Fighting with that man Kurama, you were fatally wounded. The rifle bullets went through your body. It was a miracle that you still lived. Your heart, aorta, and spine are fine but you lost a part of your liver and kidney. Your digestive organs have also been
shortened. You won’t be able to drink alcohol anymore. You also need to moderate your food intake.”
Sousuke didn’t even move his eyebrows.
Not dying would be a cheap compensation. Besides, as far as drinking alcohol, after that one incident in Hong Kong, he had no intention of drinking ever again.
“I should be saying that you’re lucky. If we didn’t administer emergency treatment, it would only have been a matter of time before you died. In actuality, your heart stopped a number of times. There was no doubt that I used a defibrillator. We falsified your identity in the hospital at Namsak, until you could be in a situation to be operated on. But in that hospital there was no surgeon that could save you. With pursuing the enemy being dangerous, we moved you in critical condition, transporting you to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I held my breath until the hospital. By chance there was a good French surgeon who was an NGO on active duty. After revealing your identity the surgery commenced. It took 20 hours. It was difficult to keep away those nosey locals, since there were after incidents we had to deal with---”
After hearing that, Sousuke interrupted Lemon.
“I understand. There has to be a reason you saved me.”
“Well. At least to have a conversation like this.”
Lemon’s voice had a somewhat tedious sound, but at the same time it had a sound that seemed like something was wrong.
Anyhow, the operation to save Sousuke was an immensely difficult task. He tried to think of the reason why he was saved.
As for reasons, there were a number of them that were troublesome.
“You regained consciousness for a number of times, but were in no condition to make conversation. Muttering a number of places, then later only repeating ‘Getting back’ and ‘Take back’.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Well, that’s right.”
After muttering that, Lemon took out a cigarette from the chest pocket of his short sleeved shirt. He lit a match and then blew out some unimpressive smoke. After living with Lemon for more than a month, this was the first time that he had seen Lemon take a smoke.
He must have noticed Sousuke’s look. Lemon glanced at his own cigarette, shrugging his shoulders.
“I really smoked.”
Saying that, the cigarette caught between his fingers-he was winding up the tip.
“When I had the chance of becoming the timid photographer, I thought of quitting. But I guess it’s no use.”
“Is that so?”
Giving a comprehending sound, Sousuke thought of the last moments of Kurama.
“After passing over your difficult condition, we went to bury her. Transporting her until her home village.”
“After the burial, 100 meters away from the grave, I took a puff. Maybe I loved her. After choking on the smoke, I cried a lot. I think I cried a good ten years worth.”
After saying that, Lemon did not show any emotions. His was a voice like it was a thing of the past.
“It’s not like I blame you.” he said. “We both are at fault. We mutually used her, got her involved, and then we let her die. That’s how the field is, that’s how it is. Well, someday-”
Throwing away the cigarette by the bed, he extinguished it with his shoe sole.
“..Someday, we will receive retribution.”
Lemon fell silent, staring at a spot in the wall with depressed eyes.
The sunlight coming from the windows created a deep shadow. Sousuke had seen people with that facial expression many
times. He had seen this face before in his comrade in arms. It was the kind of look of death that came as a peculiar characteristic of a life and death occupation. Was it new, or was it there before, he did not know. It was just that the shadow felt like death himself.
“Where is this place?” Sousuke inquired.
Lemon looked over the picture behind him.
“That painting is a hint. The painter had his life ended in this place. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Hiva Oa island of the Marquesas Archipelagos. From the perspective of a Frenchman like me, you would say that it is the furthest end of the world.”
Marquesas Archipelagos. The corner of Polynesia.
Surely that was French Territory, but Sousuke was still thinking of the reason they had moved him into such a remote region.
Most probably, to hide him from someone. That was the only rough conjecture he could make from the organization’s standpoint.
“From now on if you will not clearly answer my questions, your life will also end here.”
“I don’t think so.”
“We didn’t save you just because of friendship and good faith. What we want from you is information. We, the DGSE, want information on both Amalgam and Mithril.”
Pushing up his glasses and looking at Sousuke, Lemon sat in the chair.
“Then, let’s start the questions,” he said in a business like tone.
♦ ♦ ♦
The instant evening arrived, Lemon left Sagara Sousuke’s room.
He came out from a corridor of a temple.
It was an old church which was erected in the 19th century. Although well known among tourists, there was no one there worshiping. In the surrounding area the Special Forces colleagues of Lemon guarded the area, preventing people who knew nothing from coming near.
Havi Oa Island, which was situated near the equator, was incredibly hot that day. The dry sun shone in the wharf and sea outside the window. Coming out from the dark room, Lemon’s eyes absconded. Only the cool winds blowing by the stone path gave relief.
His superior, who had been waiting in the temple, approached him.
His name was Delecour. He was over 40, with black hair and a reserved mouth. He and Lemon were both agents of the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, and had been together in a number of operations.
“How was it? Did the kid say anything?” Delecour asked.
Lemon shrugged his shoulders.
“-slippery as an eel. Keeps repeating ‘I don’t know’ ‘I don’t remember’. Since he doesn’t have the strength, he won’t be able to go through with torture. Although, he spoke about information regarding his annihilated organization with no hesitation.”
“He was discrete with the information about the submarine and his unit. Rather, he was trying to figure out what we already know.”
With regards to news about the ship that the American Navy calls “Toy Box”, their organization had not been able to get any information.
There was information that it was sunk. There was also information that it was currently hidden in the Pacific Ocean. The truth was, Lemon and the other still did not know.
Even Sousuke, who was affiliated with that unit, really did not have any news of his colleagues.
“How about the others? It doesn’t matter about the mysterious submarine. What we want is the information about Amalgam”
Hiding his irritation, Delecour cross-examined Lemon.
“Originally, the investigation was a blatant interference in the market for weapons, taking place from this year, it was still clearly taking place. They controlled the international conflict, forcibly preserving the rottenness of the cold war structure, and what is more important- they left us outside of the mosquito net. Either conciliation of confrontation, I’m not able to grasp their motive-”
Lemon was fed up and shook his head.
He didn’t like Delecour much. Progressing in elite courses since childhood, Delecour desired to be a high class bureaucrat. He had this scorn for Lemon who had worked his way up. A son of a graduate school.
“Sagara Sousuke said something about a condition in his cooperation.”
“What kind of condition?”
“Weapons and ammunition, and then funds. Obtaining one unit of a simple Arm Slave, and a Transport ship. And then the preparation of a safe house in a designated place.”
After relaying Sousuke’s words, Delecour’s brow wrinkled.
“Does he intend to fight with Amalgam?”
“That seems to be what he intends to do.”
“After saving his life, he treats us like servants. Taking advantage of us.”
“Shall we meet his demands?”
“Out of the question.”
Delecour spit out the words.
“We have not yet decided to go against Amalgam. The condition that he go out will not guarantee his life.”
“Well, that’s right.”
“We will wait for him a little more to recover. Then I will directly screw with him.”
After saying that Delecour must have been serious. Waiting for his strength to recover, the scrupulous medicine dosage was already prepared for Sousuke’s severe torture.
Lemon had no authority to stop it. Thinking of what had been happening, he felt gloominess.
“Do you disapprove?”
“We will be needing restraints soon. Put on some handcuffs.”
“It’s still not necessary. He can only nod. There is nothing unusual at the time being.”
♦ ♦ ♦
But what was unusual happened that night.
The church that housed Sousuke was built on the slop of a mountain facing the sea, in the southeastern portion of a lone island in the distant seas. The agents, who were dressed in tourist garments, did not stand out. It was a reasonable place to be a safe house for a spy organization.
The locals had not heard that the church was bought by a rich man to be used casually. There were also no traders around.
There were several 29SA-DGSE Special Forces members alternating in guard duty. They were in civilian clothes with a sunglass type of night vision, and small machine pistols hidden under their aloha shirts.
Of course it was hopeless equipment for perfect security.
But if a local youth or tourist happened to get lost- the largest possibility of happening- chasing them away by showing them body armor and carbine guns was not a good plan. They would be calling for big trouble.
On that night, there was a young sentry on duty that walked alone by the wharf where the waves were breaking. Originating from the army, he passed the severe training and test and was finally able to go on a mission.
He couldn’t help but sigh over the boring mission. He was not an old guard, but he was taken into the position of a patrol mission. He doubted that whoever was transferred into the church was an important person. Even if he was a sentry in a remote region, being a man who was unlucky with his work, he was not selected as a member of the Special Forces.
For that reason, from the ocean below the wharf, he discovered three men trying to disembark. They had dark diving equipment and the newest carbine guns. They were also wearing waterproof Tactical Vests. It was obvious at one look that those were not local youths or tourists.
Of course he made a stance with his gun at the development, but he did not say “Stop! What are you doing!”. He immediately informed the wireless radio hidden on his body with a small voice.
“Efemel 4 to Efemel 1. There are three men, armed intruders, discovered in E12. Please give instructions.”
Immediately the officer, Delecour, responded.
“This is Efemel 1. Continue observation. Reinforcements will arrive within three minutes.”
“Efemel 4 Roger. Out.”
After cutting off the communication, he silently moved near the shadowy rock. From there he was in the blind spot of the disembarking enemy. He moved up about100 meters to observe them.
At that time, there was a hand from behind wrapping its way around his neck.
He was unable to shake it off. A knife was pointed at his throat.
There had been four of them.
“Where is Sagara Sousuke?”
A whisper like the God of Death.
“I ask you again. Where is Sagara Sousuke?”
He did not answer.
In response to the silence, the man said, “I admire your guts.”
There was a burning pain in his back. The knife had penetrated his kidney. The enemy, without mercy, drove the knife into his body. With the shock of an external wound and with no will to resist, he did not utter a sound.
The knife was pulled out.
That was followed by two stabs in the left chest, and finished off with a slash to the throat. He collapsed on the rocky area. Not finishing it with one blow, but certainly killing him by stabbing him in various vital spots, it was an exemplary method of killing with a knife.
♦ ♦ ♦
Something was strange.
That was what Sousuke felt. He heard the sound of hurried footsteps in the corridor in a defense formation.
He could hear dim exchanges over wireless radios. It would have been best if he had a French dictionary at hand to read. As it was, he was not able to understand the subject of the conversation. There seemed to be a change in the situation. He was certain that he felt something.
There was a presence in that place.
The thirst for blood.
Riding the sea breeze from somewhere, the smell of blood was drifting around him. It was from somewhere far away, but his sensitive sense of smell did not overlook it.
Someone had died.
At the same time as that realization he heard the sounds of gunfire outside.
The sound of small caliber and submachine guns firing. Probably an M4 or MP5. Aside from the obvious cover fire, there was no use of burst firing or full auto firing. Firing only when needed, the rhythm of a battle between professionals.
Waking up, and immediately realizing that-
Sousuke endured the pain and tried to get his head up. Again the violent pain attacked him. With an irregular movement in his head, he shook his fingertips bit by bit.
But he had to get up.
He had nothing to do with the noise outside- there was the temptation to just go back to sleep. He endured the pain and put aside that urge. If the situation was as Lemon had said, he considered that the battle outside would come around.
Planting his hand firmly on the bed, he somehow managed to lift his upper body. It was difficult, like lifting a hundred kilos of sandbags. Enduring the pain, he raised his body. Turning his body, he took off the pipes and cords connected to him. He somehow managed to carry himself and got up from the bed.
His strength was surprisingly weak. If he believed Lemon’s words, he had been asleep for a month and a half. And then-
After looking at his arm, Sousuke uttered an abusive word. It looked like this body was someone else’s, thin and weak. It was like a girl’s arm. Without joke, he might even lose in arm wrestling with Teletha Testarossa or Tokiwa Kyouko.
The gunfire continued intermittently, slowly getting nearer to him.
What about weapons....?
What was available there were the droplets of needles.
How about an escape route....?
The door of the room was locked with a key. When Lemon left, he heard the lock of the door turning. He could break the suspicious glass window, but it was high up and small. Crawling out that way was impossible the way he was right then.
In the first place, he doubted that he could stand or even walk.
He heard the gunshots and screams from the corridor.
It was not that far. No, it was near. There was no mistake that the enemy would break into his room.
Sousuke smacks his lips, only seeing a handful of items inside the room.
What was available was medical equipment, needle sets, a medical use tank, and a mineral water bottle. And then he himself remained. He had no chance of fighting with a trained enemy, much less winning.
When the enemy came in he would be at his wit’s end and shot to death.
There was no way to counterattack.
With only instinct and knowledge, Sousuke moved.
Enduring the agony with all his strength, he lowered his feet from the bed. If he could not stand then it will be over, but Sousuke succeeded in supporting his body with both his legs.
Walking unsteadily with the electro-cardiogram on the side, he extended his hands to the medical use oxygen tank. He tried to tear off the tube attached to the tank. He couldn’t do it; he didn’t have the strength. He opened the tank valve to its maximum, and hit the inhaler mask a number of times on the wall.
The valve broke, and the sound of vapor leaking out resounded.
Just breaking off the inhaler had exhausted his physical strength. Sousuke raised and lowered his shoulders. He left the crude desk and grabbed the pet bottle. It was an absurd weight. He sprinkled the contents of the mineral water on top of the bed sheet. It was a difficult effort.
He wet his head with the remaining one-fifth water of the bottle. Rolling on the wet sheet, he wreathed it around his tired body.
He waited like that.
He rest would be a gamble.
He crouched down by the side of the bed. In his right hand was a needle that had previously been stuck inside him. He prepared himself for troubled breathing.
There were gunshots outside. The sounds of leaking vapor from the oxygen tank still filled the room. There was pain throughout his body, he ignored it. He had done this a number of times in the past. In one way or another.
This time it was close.
In less than a few seconds, the door of the room was kicked open; there was one man in a black combat uniform stepping in. There was no wasted movement.
Aiming the barrel of his carbine gun, the man asked, “You’re Sagara Sousuke right?”
“Even if I say your mistaken you’ll shoot right?”
The man fired.
At the same time Sousuke turned his body.
He evaded the first bullet, and Sousuke understood that there would be continuous firing. But in the next instant the air in front of the man’s eyes exploded.
The fierce flame swelled in the hand of the man.
Just like a gas burner, in an instant the flames surrounded the man three to four meters wide. He could hear the slow and heavy sound of an explosion.
It was the oxygen coming out of the medical use tank that had filled the room.
If it caught fire, it would cause an explosion instantly. Although not comparable to the military plastic explosives, like a giant gas lighter, it would attack the eyes when ignited.
The flames rushed over to Sousuke, who was on top of the bed. It was like a violent fever all over his body.
In spite of holding his breath the hot air jumped into his nose and throat. If he were not covered with the wet sheets, he might have received a heavy injury.
Overcoming his body’s “high fever”, he heard the screams of the enemy.
“Aaah~!! A, aah~!”
The man had let go of this gun and was screaming with both of his hands covering his eyes. The flames burned his eyes. Sousuke immediately stood from the bed- he was fast at first- staggering to the door he stood and headed for the enemy.
The painting on the wall was burning.
Where did we come from, what are we, where are we going.
“Chidori....” he muttered with a delirious voice.
Sousuke immediately grappled with the other man, taking the automatic pistol from the holster behind him. Then, clinging to the opponent, he pushed the mouth of the gun to below the chin of the man. The man cried out in confusion, then Sousuke pulled the trigger.
With a deafening scream, the man broke down and died.
There was something burning in the rear, it might have been because of the painting that had disappeared into blackness. Sousuke somehow felt an excessively unbearable mood. He did not know what kind of guy that man was, but he had been trying to kill
him. He had no reason to think about pity. Even then, continuing with something like that, he felt a heavy helplessness.
The nightmare still continued-
It would have been better if he had died in that arena. There was some unknown will that was ordering him “don’t die yet, continue killing”.
Sousuke knelt beside the corpse, taking the equipment off the enemy.
Tactical Vest. Digital Communicator. Carbine gun. Ammunitions. The blood stained knife. Phosphorous grenade. The medical kit of the survival kit. He put the vest on his naked upper body. Putting the pistol by his hip, he slung the carbine gun over his shoulder. Like this, Sousuke stepped out of the room.
It looked like the building was some kind of old church. He didn’t know what had happened to Lemon and the others. Did they run away to somewhere, or were they dead?
Anyway he had to get away from that place. And then go hide somewhere. It would be unpleasant to be in a place full of people, so it should be on a nearby mountain. And somehow he would recover his strength.
That was at least what he thought then.
His breathing was rough. His legs felt heavy.
The carbine gun he took from the enemy and the other equipment were very heavy. He felt like he was carrying 50 kilo cement bags on both his shoulders. He couldn’t believe he had ever carried something like that as though it were light.
There was a corpse in front of him.
He was wearing civilian clothes; it must have been a colleague of Lemon. Black hair with a reserved mouth. A man over 40.
Looking at the face of that dead person, why did Sousuke feel like he remembered it? Could it be that during the vague consciousness during his critical condition a month and a half ago, that he had met the man a number of times?
Coming out of the path was a wide space.
It was a church after all. When he went out, he saw that it was a place of worship with a high ceiling.
In the gloomy darkness, there was the silver light of the moonlight falling through the stained glass. In that beam of light, Lemon and a number of men were standing.
“Don’t shoot!” Lemon sharply ordered to the men who were aiming at Sousuke.
“Look carefully. It’s him.”
After saying that Lemon and the others came near. Sousuke, with staggering arms, stopped aiming the carbine gun at them.
“Sousuke. You were alright.” Lemon said.
“Unfortunately. What about the enemy?”
“The enemy outside were mostly taken care of. It seems that one of the enemy headed in here. Then we heard a large explosion a while ago...”
After saying that, Lemon glanced at the gun and equipment of Sousuke, knitting his brows.
“Those are the enemy’s weapons. Did you kill him?”
“Then, we repelled the enemy.... but, they were able to attack this far.”
In front of Lemon, smacking his lips, Sousuke staggered unsteadily, leaning in the nearby wall.
“Your colleague died over there.”
“What kind of guy?”
“About 40 years old, a reserved mouth and black hair.”
After hearing that, Lemon’s eye widened. Looking down he closed his eyes.
“Delecour huh. Dammit.”
“But it looks like the enemy was after me.”
“Yeah. Why do you say that?”
“They knew my name.”
“Is that so?”
Standing there was difficult, Sousuke gave his back to the wall.
“And then? With that Rambo appearance, what do you plan to do now?”
“I plan to get away. But, it looks impossible.”
At Sousuke’s exhausted words, Lemon let out a smile.
“Aah, that’s right. You’re not the invincible Superman. Now you have to get your strength back.”
“The problem is, even to this opposite side of the world, there are guys who came here to kill you”
“Do you know the reason for that? They regard you highly, purposely dispatching military personnel to kill you. Although I can guess, I don’t have the confidence. Can you tell us why?”
Walking to the side, Lemon looked into the face of Sousuke.
“I don’t know.” Sousuke muttered, covered with wounds not yet fully healed. “They really hate me.”
“That’s not the only reason is it?”
“There is another possible reason I can think of.”
“And that is?”
“It’s Al.” Sousuke told them the name of his partner.
“It might mean that guy’s still alive. If Amalgam has gotten hold of that kind of information… Well, they think the combination of me and him would be a ‘threat’ to them. They’re trying to test which one of us they can kill.”
♦ ♦ ♦
There were piles of problems for Teletha Testarossa.
Playing the drama for a whole week was very tiring for her body and the mind and she was not able to rest well.
Firstly, there was the settlement of the operation in San Francisco. In terms of the flashy AS battle, at least there were very few eye-witnesses. There was no talk of it as far as they could tell. Before, with Mithril’s power, they could easily falsify information and claim things like “it was a dispute between drug cartels” or some such reason. But, isolated as they were now, that was no longer possible. She needed a way to manage the information but the ship’s AI, Dana, and the subordinates were busy with various operational checks. Eventually she had to take care of it herself.
After the confluence of the Tuatha de Danaan, which was on standby on the Californian Sea, it was difficult to erase themselves from the prying eyes of the US Navy and Coast guard.
The people in the American Navy were not fools. And the de Danaan had been commissioned for more than one and a half years. As for developing a means to detect the ship, they were in the process of finishing the results. With their detection system steadily progressing, Tessa and the others were more restricted in making moves.
After three days of secretly cruising, and after reaching 120 miles off the coast of Mexico, Tessa finally reduced the alert level of the ship. The order was repeated by the Vice Captain Mardukas,
and the ship’s AI silently announced the news. The crew that finally received the order let out a sigh of relief.
“Captain, 2 hours from now Lt. Clouseau will be waiting.” Mardukas informed her.
“That’s right. Let’s go.”
She stood up from the Captain’s seat. Usually her ash blond hair was carefully braided, casually bundled in the back of her head. It had been around two days since she took a shower. There was no time for her to groom herself; the situation in those three days had left her no personal time. If she had been a male captain, the unshaved face would be left as is.
Leaving the maneuvering and observation to the officer on duty, she headed into the briefing room with Mardukas from the bridge. The sailor and officers that they met on route saluted to her, even in that kind of situation. At the same time that the military organization Mithril was annihilated, there was no longer a need for such salutes, but no matter how many times it was said, the crew would not abide.
“Everyone is tired.” Tessa muttered, who was completely exhausted herself. But she had to put on an air for her subordinates. Using all of her will to straighten up, she energetically walked with a quick pace.
“Yes Captain. Although our morale has not yet been influenced, we are worried about a miss or an accident” Mardukas, following behind, said with a small voice. “If possible half a day. They need at least 8 hours of rest.”
“Impossible. We rest six hours then head south.”
Because Mardukas was the one who said it, Tessa knew better than to take his words lightly. But 6 hours was all they could spare, so they had to compromise. Remaining any longer than that would be equivalent to handing themselves over to the US navy.
In addition, the Navy’s information could also be stolen by Amalgam.
“It’s not for the subordinates. It’s for you.”
As expected, Mardukas was persistent.
“After the decoy in San Francisco, you have not yet rested. You have secluded yourself into ordering the crew. Right about now, on the bridge, Lt. Godard is telling the crew ‘The Captain is tired’.”
“If there was consent, would it be alright to proceed?” Tessa asked while trying to kill the desperate irritation gushing from inside her. And she immediately regretted what she said. “I’m sorry, it is as you said. I will be careful.”
“But, the limit of taking a rest is 6 hours. There will be plenty of time to rest later. Let’s try our best a little more.”
Reasserting her perfect smile, it seemed that there was no effect on Mardukas. He halted and, briefly affirming that there was no one eavesdropping, he formally said. “Captain, would it be alright for a little while?”
“My loyalty has not changed. The crew also. After escaping from Merida Island, the details are certainly clear.”
Agreeing, Tessa remembered receiving the aggressiveness of the enemy while escaping Merida Island.
♦ ♦ ♦
Narrowly escaping the attacks of the three giant Behemoths, the de Danaan, which had received large damage, managed to escape. Tessa and the others, with their experience and knowledge,
mobilized. One way or another they had managed to get away from the enemy pursuit. If the attack had gotten the attention of the American army, it would have been difficult to escape their watching eyes. If it had been an ordinary submarine and commander, they would not have been able to escape the siege.
Shaking off the enemy in the mean time, they arrived at the coast of Indonesia, Tessa announced. Inside the ship she informed her subordinates that the other squads had received the same attack.
In essence, it was plain that Mithril had been destroyed.
Without the organization that had been supporting them, they chased after the enemy in isolation.
The enemy, Amalgam, had people setting up conflicts all over the world. They effectively produced civil war and regional conflicts, changing the state of the world. From those conflicts they made their profits.
And in those circumstances, after the explaining the basis and source of her information, she had said:
“-of course the construction of ‘Absolute peace’, or ‘Permanent peace’ would not be possible. Basing it on that, Mithril was using violence to aim at having ‘Peace as much as possible’. Following the right or wrong of military power, there was no intention of saying this or that. Although it is called the waste of humans from the advocates of ideal peace, you cannot shake the fragments of it. Even if you call it that, it is still violence. There is no honor or merit. On top of that, with this ship- I will not let go of history’s greatest device of violence. Completely interfering with them, I plan to completely corner them. Let’s stop with the whitewashing. This is just revenge. The debt to the many people who died on Merida Island, I plan on repaying that. Although it is difficult, there is also no reason why we cannot win.”
Tessa fully remembered saying these words, along with the sensation of gripping the mic.
“Satisfactory wages can no longer be paid. From now on everyone will be exposed to danger. As mercenaries, you are not obligated to comply. There is a helicopter in the storage deck for personnel to get on. The helicopter will fly to Jakarta, from then on everyone is free to live their life. There is no need for Commissioned and non-commissioned officers to hesitate. For those who wish to leave, go to the storage deck after one hour. That is all.”
At the end, with an unconcerned expression, Tessa finished her long speech and switched off the mic.
She also thought that the essential members of the bridge needed time to think.
Leaving her seat on the bridge, she had secluded herself in the Captain’s quarters and waited for one hour. In that time Mardukas tried to speak with her, but she had firmly rejected him. Also, her close friend, Melissa Mao, had knocked on her door. But she turned her away from behind the door saying “return to the waiting room, I’m thinking.”
At the most, it would be good if thirty percent of the crew remained, she thought.
No, it would not be strange if only twenty percent were left. At least she was conscious of that kind of reasonable state. The helicopter that could carry a hundred personnel might have required a return trip a number of times. Thinking of that arrangement, while considering the problem of insufficient supplies, an hour passed.
Tessa headed to the storage deck from the Captain’s quarters. Opening the heavy door on her own, she entered.
There were at least 100 crew members stationed in the storage deck. Kurz, Mao and even Clouseau were there. There was no state of tension in their appearance as they all chattered individually.
“Only this?” Tessa asked them, thinking it was unexpectedly small.
And then Mao knitted her brow and said, “What?”
“What you mean... the people who would leave the ship…”
“Aah. Then that would be them over there.”
Mao pointed her chin on the other direction.
Beside the transport helicopter, there was a group of 20 people. There were 10 people who needed medical treatment. There were 3 attending nurses. Overall 33 people.
Only 33 people.
“The ones leaving have wives and kids. Well, it’s not unreasonable.” Kurz said.
“How about you people?”
They glanced at Tessa and shrugged their shoulders.
“Take a look Tessa. The ones stationed here, landing unit, Base personnel, and Maintenance crew. Right now, there’s nothing to do so they are here. Incidentally the other base personnel were helping in the ships work, studying the duties of here and there.”
“B..but....how about the others? There has got to be someone who has doubts?”
After Tessa emphasized, all personnel exchanged glances.
“I give up. Hey, anybody there?”
No one replied. No, there was a lone second class soldier in charge of supplies who raised his hand and called.
“Captain. There is a video tape of a drama, will you give me permission to disembark? No, I’ll come back immediately…”
At once the 100 personnel all laughed. In the center of their ring, there was a giant Maintenance Officer who was gulping down a cola, Sachs, who pushed his way through the crowd.
“....well, that’s about it, Captain. It’s just, the livelihood in this ship, we can live off it, if you want to fire us now is the time! Right Master?” Sachs said turning his head.
From the crowd there was a plump middle aged man- the owner of the tavern, Darza, on Merida Island base- waved his hand and shouted out with “idiot” in a loud voice.
“If you think we’re useless, then that’s a big mistake. Are you stupid? For me, we are mercenaries with severe military fame in Africa. It would be better if we appoint a successor to the Russian.”
“That’s right. In place of Lt. Commander Kalinin the old man can take charge of the operation. From now on you’re Perth One!”
“Well everyone really can’t drink while working.”
“Fool, we didn’t even have the time to move a single drop of alcohol. Bringing in worthless things, there’s already a mountain of idiotic luggage. Really, those idiots.”
Everyone hit his hand.
Tessa only found out later, the owner of Darza indeed didn’t bring a single drop of alcohol. However the decoration in the tavern with Lt. McAllen and the pictures of those who were killed in action had been crammed together in the sack he brought onto the ship.
“If we run away then Man will become obsolete, right?”
“Oh my? Please don’t forget that there are also women here.” the Technical Officer, Lemming, raised her voice from the crowd.
Immediately beside her Viran, the secretary of Tessa, and Shinohara, who was in charge of communication (who had a bottle of cola), said “same here” in unison.
“Still, but....a number of people were already lost right? We don’t know what will happen, I want to explain clearly. Even then, why, this is....”
Losing her words there, Tessa stood stock still. Mardukas, who was coming near, unnoticed, from behind her said, “Really...there is no other way with this unsatisfactory mob.”
“Well, I’m also one of them.”
At those words everyone laughed. Only this time Mardukas did not let out the rough scolding of “Silence!”.
In the noisiness he informed Tessa.
“Captain. To be able to work for you, everyone is happy. Among the soldiers it is like a dream. That is you. Of course we did think of you as an ignorant and conceited girl the first time. But this time it’s different.”
“For something a veteran with long military service was not able to do, you brought us this far. And it is because you said to fight, we are happy to follow you. In addition you said those words with the real motive of your heart. If ever you had said ‘For the sake of peace’ in that speech of yours, I too would have left this ship.”
Only for revenge.
Tessa herself didn’t think that it was that simple. However, it had moved them strongly; the fact was that it was a primitive move.
Not because of morality. Not because of Honor.
The soldiers followed her for their own revenge. Most of it had been in response to her expectations, but it was completely unexpected. Leaving behind the abusive curses, in the end they could not complain.
If it was her previous self, she would have crumbled and cried right there. But that was not so. No subordinates would demand such a thing.
Instead she put both her hands on her hips, informing them at the same time with a clear voice.
“I understand. But, as I said earlier there will be no salary okay? We can at least somehow manage food. And that is all. Would that be alright?”
“Well, it can’t be helped…”
Broken responses were made. She drew a big breath, then shouted at once.
“Wrong. What would be your response!?”
Everyone, in confusion, put their voices together.
Nodding with a composed face, a queer silence controlled the place. And then unable to bear it, Tessa burst out into laughter, followed by a loud laugh by everyone. An inappropriate laughter flowed in the hanger, echoing.
She herself did not know what was strange. It might be due to the tension following tension that there was no longer a strange feeling in her nerves. Rolling around in laughter, finally the tears she barred started to flow. Everyone did not put on airs, she only told them “dismissed”, and everyone departed.
When the goodbyes had been said to those who would disembark, it took about 30 minutes and they were gone.
♦ ♦ ♦
“Captain?” Mardukas said to Tessa who had an unsettled reflection.
“Eh? Ah, I’m sorry”
Returning to her face, her face that was tired of the long operation, Mardukas carefully observed.
“....... right now, as I said before, what I am worried about is your fatigue. With the subordinates having these conditions, do you still feel responsible?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if I’m thinking too much. Originally, I feel that you should go to a tourist spot somewhere to relax for about a month.”
“I can’t, right?”
Although he said it with a sort of snorting, Mardukas did not laugh.
“The former you would have answered with a lot more wit. ‘Then everyone should go occupy that island, and enjoy themselves’, or something like that..... No, I have no talent for such jokes, I can’t say it very well-- at the very least, you would not reply with ‘I can’t’.”
“Right now you do not have enough humor. Your mind being tired is proof enough that you’re thinking of too many things.”
At the words of Mardukas, Tessa calmly scrutinized. Certainly what he said really hit the spot, but it did not mean that she needed rest in their current condition.
She finally noticed.
Mardukas- For a stubborn and straight faced man like him to say with sarcasm “You do not have enough humor” was something strange, why did she not notice earlier? Was that not proof enough that she was tired herself?
“That’s right....” Tessa answered without strength. “I will remember. But, anyway right now we have to discuss this.”
“Yes.” Mardukas replied in a voice mixed with shame.
They began walking again. Finally they reached the briefing room. Inside were Ben Clouseau and Melissa Mao. Kurz Weber was also waiting.
Since the commander of the landing team, Kalinin, was no longer there, his successor became Clouseau. They had also lost the commissioned officer, Castello, and his responsibilities had fallen to Mao.
And most recently Kurz carried various assignments. Previously Mao was the sub-leader of the SRT, and also arranged the work of the non-commissioned soldiers. After the destruction of Mithril, it would be natural that their ranks would be on a skeletal force. In order make clear their chain of command, Tessa bequeathed the general idea of their ranking. Clouseau was designated to Lt. Commander, Mao became the First Lieutenant.
Kurz was designated as Master Sergeant. His promotion was the recommendation of Tessa, she thought that Kurz and Clouseau had a dog and monkey relationship.
At that time Tessa asked Clouseau “Do you think he can do it?”, and he had said, “If it’s him then he can do it. His experience and skill is top class, you will know if you see it. Even Lt. Commander McAllen recognized this. Although there is some reluctance” with discomfort.
Kurz himself liked the idea of “Master Sergeant Weber”. The soldiers even said “The Master Sergeant is calling”. At most,
plenty of soldiers were milling in their ears, “Master Sergeant Weber. The 10 dollars you borrowed the other day, hurry in paying it up idiot” or “Master Sergeant Weber, if you have so much time help out in peeling the potatoes, stupid”, they said it as much as they wanted.
Although he had a different method from a typical senior non-commissioned officer, this must have been because of his personal sociability and friendliness. In actuality, Kurz had no problems regarding troubles arising from the soldiers. Although he was as talkative as ever, he no longer made disruptions as he pleased. And it seemed that he had become something of an advisor to the inexperienced soldiers.
Clouseau and Mao had noticed it earlier; Kurz had the character of a leader. Mostly, similar to Tessa, there was a variation in the responsibilities of a commissioned officer. If you looked at it, it was close to a captain of a baseball or basketball team.
Incidentally Yang Jun-Kyu and Sandarapta (who were injured during the battle on Merida Island), who were the remains of the SRT, remained on the ship for medical treatment, at that time they were in rehabilitation and basic training.
The current situation of the de Danaan had roughly become like that.
The greatest pending question, the problem of resupplying, had been settled.
Nobody knew but off the coast of Indonesia, on a solitary island, there was information regarding reserved supplies, which was inputted by someone into the de Danaan. One day after the escape from Merida Island, the de Danaan received that information.
Of course it might have been a trap from someone. However, there was no other choice. With vigilance the de Danaan headed to the accurate coordinates of the information. What awaited them, left on the solitary island, were dozens of containers full of ammunitions, fuel, food, and spare parts.
There was clearly no one who could have prepared the supplies, but Tessa and Mardukas had a vague feeling.
There was someone who could possibly do that. Taking Mithril on a different and opposite route, with heavy prudence, making de Danaan pinpoint the necessary supplies.
Aside from Andrei Kalinin they could think of no one else.
At that point in time, they thought that in eight or nine cases out of ten that he was dead. Even then, how he could have prepared such a detailed cache while Tessa and the others did not notice was still a mystery.
“Thank you for waiting” Tessa told Clouseau, Mao, and Kurz in the briefing room. She said “As you were” to Clouseau, who stood up, and took a seat herself in a chair.
“As you have thought, the tides are flowing fast. We really took our time. I’m sorry about that.”
“No” Clouseau answered with his hips falling.
“And then on top of the damage in capturing Fowler, for us in following the compass in our mobilization...”
“Yes, but unfortunately, we were not able to capture the tail of Leonard Testarossa. It’s not that we have to find another route but...”
Tessa, who spoke the name of her own brother like a complete stranger, was already familiar with that face. Her brother managed Amalgam into action, contributing greatly to the organization with his technical skills. He had already taken them in all directions.
“Even if we do follow them, we can’t really locate them. For a situation like this, we had to dispatch the majority of the base personnel. In these few months they would construct the information network.”
The base personnel, who had escaped Merida Island, had already disembarked. They were going to different locations around the world, doing activities in their fields of expertise: buying supplies, computing the budget, the program for resupply, and their escorts.
Of course there was also information gathering and the search and contact of the remnants of Mithril.
In order to maintain the means of contacting and secrecy of their allies, Tessa and the others devoted one month for the preparation.
“That’s why, it’s not that easy to pinpoint the whereabouts of the enemy right? They’re not even professional spies” Mao said.
“Yes. That is why, for those who were dispatched, it’s a priority that we contact the remains of Mithril. ....For example, Sagara-san would also search for us from somewhere. If we can contact people such as him, we would be getting some sort of clue.”
Saying the name of Sagara Sousuke, Mao and the others were a bit sad.
“Sousuke huh...” said, Mao.
“We don’t know if he’s still alive.” said Clouseau.
“Ha. I don’t think that guy would die that easily” said Kurz with a strange confidence. Then he sighed.
“...even then, you have to make this clear, Tessa.”
“The reason for your prejudice towards your brother. Because you’re simply relatives, or because he’s the manager, that
kind of reason is not acceptable. There’s definitely some other reason right?” Kurz said strongly.
“Weber…” Clouseau rebuked from the side.
“It’s alright, Clouseau-san.”
“I think it is high time you know. Because I’m not even sure myself, and it has been vague until now, but I will tell you.”
Actually, she had not told anyone of this. Why was she targeting Leonard herself? Why was she persistently chasing after him? She did not know up to where she would talk, but daring to prostrate herself up to that point, she explained to the four subordinates that she trusted the most.
“Amalgam is an unusually tough organization” Tessa said, choosing her words carefully. “The construction of their organization is unlike the pyramid type of Mithril, but more like a spider’s web with an usually complex command system. Of course among them there is a manager. Speaking of this manager, you can think of this net as a ‘node’. More or less a ‘highly efficient node’. However, even if we render the manager powerless, the damage to the organization would be insignificant.”
“Why is that? Won’t the command system be in confusion?” Kurz asked blankly.
“Because it’s a scale free network. There are other hubs that will take its place” Mao muttered.
“That is correct. You already know of this, but, the internet originally was a system made for the survival of the command system of the US which was scattered into various places to protect from the whole nuclear threat of the Russians. Amalgam took the concept of this system, an eccentric secret society. There is a man of influence in the organization, but his true significance does not exists as the ‘Summit of the Pyramid’. Everyone can carry the part
of decision making, everyone has the ability to make use of the arms.”
“Oh my, like a democracy” Mardukas complained with sarcasm.
“It is democracy. That is why the decision making is slow. But difficult to break with overwhelming strength. That kind of bothersome organization.”
“Um? In other words? Sorry, I really don’t understand it well” Kurz said with a scowling face.
Then Clouseau hesitantly replied, “In the example of a game or anime, there is no boss character to defeat in order to get the conclusion.”
“There are many bosses there. And nobody can pinpoint them. But if you were to exterminate them, the other bosses will organically move and complete the organization. Like hitting moles that will not end.”
“I see. ...then, hey hey! How do we fight with those guys?” Kurz’s voice nearly reached a scream.
“At first glimpse, they look invincible right. You’d think they are like an unusually tough opponent. However, they are not everlasting.” Tessa said. “Like I said before, there is a ‘Prospect for victory’. Following that line of thought, I only noticed it after the Christmas incident. The report was also sent to Admiral Borda. Although the Admiral thought of seriously accepting it, before we could deal with it headquarters was exterminated... but, the author of the report on Amalgam’s weakness- in other words me- is still alive. And this type of organization’s weakness is clearly biological and engineering.”
“What do you mean?
“I see, a virus” Mao said prudently.
Tessa expressed a smile.
“We don’t know if this will completely exterminate the organization. But, we can make them powerless similar to being dead. To the point where they could not recover. This is what I thought about our ‘Prospect of victory’.”
“But Captain-” Clouseau said. “The opponent is neither a living thing nor a computer. They are a group of people that have communications in many ways. Its exact nature can’t be understood. No matter how we prepare the virus, what would that tangible thing be able to do, I myself cannot imagine it.”
“That’s right. Me too.”
“As far as I know, the idea of the virus, a genius capable of preparing it, and also capable of implementing it by infiltrating the organization and who can understand the information, there is only one man. ....do you understand now?”
“You mean your brother?” Kurz said.
“That is correct. I know full well his character and abilities. Of course he would have created it, in preparation for everything. The other managers did not notice it. That is why we have to search thoroughly and attack Amalgam’s connected institutions by destroying the manufacturing plant of their fuselage. We have to capture Leonard Testarossa alive, by all means necessary, and have him cooperate with us.”
“By all means, you mean...”
Tessa with cold eyes, nodded unconcerned.
“By all means. You don’t need any explanations right?”
“Thank you. But it’s alright.”
Tessa silently smiled. Kurz stopped himself from shaking. Clouseau and Mao looked seriously at her profile. Mardukas faced down with a pitiful expression.
“Fowler got away, but he did give us some useful information. Dana’s analysis is also proceeding. I will be heading this ship south, and will be on standby in the Pacific Ocean. It may also be the case that we’ll have to head to the Atlantic Ocean, but with this ships cruising capability it will take some time to get there from South America. Are there no objections?”
“Yes Captain.” Mardukas said first. The other three followed shortly. After the consultations, the meeting was over. Mardukas, Clouseau and Kurz left the room. Mao remained and asked Tessa.
“Are you alright?”
Mao’s look was serious.
“Why... Well, I think there was something but…”
“Mardukas-san was also worried some time ago. But I’m alright.”
Tessa smiled. Mao did not smile.
“Then it’s alright. At most its 5 more hours. Eat something, and get some rest okay?”
“Yes, I plan to do so.”
“The ship’s doctor, Goldbery, also said it right? If you have an appetite..”
“Yes yes! ‘If you have an appetite, having some rest would be alright’, right? That is true, so don’t worry.”
Tessa forcefully showed a yawn, and left the briefing room.
She immediately returned to the Captain’s quarters. There was a club sandwich and vegetable juice left on top of the desk. Private Kasuya from the kitchen must have left it.
It had already been half a day and she hadn’t had anything to eat.
She took a bite on the club sandwich, and forced it down her throat. But she couldn’t take a second bite. She drank at least half of the vegetable juice. Then she threw the club sandwich in the bedpan of the bathroom, feeling like a criminal destroying the evidence.
She thought of taking a shower, but she didn’t feel like it. She dimmed the lights, changed her clothes, and turned down the blanket on the side of the bed.
10 minutes passed. 30 minutes passed-
An hour passed, and she gave up.
She couldn’t sleep.
She sat up, sluggishly taking off the blanket and keeping her back to the wall, she stared into the darkness.
Both her eyes were open.
Swirling in her head were the faces and names of her dead subordinates. The men and women who had died.
Keeping silent, she stared at a dot on the opposite wall.