Editor: Thor’s Stone
Kou and Master have arrived in a mountainous area.
There was a large primeval-looking forest as well.
「So there are forests here too.」
「This planet has undergone terraforming after all.」
For Kou who only ever saw uninhabited wastelands while traveling, seeing a lush and huge forest was quite refreshing.
The overall height of the trees in the area was greater than his Silhouette’s as well.
He didn’t encounter any enemies and engaged in combat along the way until they arrived at their current location.
They should have been detected by enemy surveillance already, but there was no sign of an attack so far.
「Why aren’t they attacking us?」
「I think they just don’t want to bother with a lone Silhouette wandering around. It’s not like we’re heading toward an enemy base or facility after all.」
「So that’s it huh.」
「Also, there might be a large blind spot in the distribution of the enemy forces. If we actually stepped within their area of operation, the enemy would probably dispatch units to deal with us.」
「Isn’t there any possibility of them watching us from space?」
Unit 5 was currently advancing in the enemy-controlled territory in Automatic Cruising Mode.
Although Unit 5’s sensors had a relatively wide range, Kou still made sure he stayed alert, especially when taking a quick nap.
But it was certainly great that nothing’s happened so far.
「Relax. Space is a non-combat zone. Even surveillance satellites are no good. Combat between human forces in space is strictly prohibited by treaties. Compared to your time, we place much more importance on the wellbeing of space in this era, and it’s strictly regarded as a completely neutral zone.」
「Well, that’s unexpected. And here I thought space was the main battlefield.」
「The space defense mechanisms built by Sophia are still functioning properly even now. We rely on the old-fashioned approach of scouting for enemies instead.」
In the anime shows Kou watched when he was a kid, the main battlefield of the robots was always in outer space.
He also wondered why the top and bottom were always aligned even though they were out in outer space.
「The various facilities built by Sophia in outer space are still fully functional even now, and their self-defense capabilities are working as intended as well. If something happens to them, the materials they provide will no longer be available. Hence, they are extremely important facilities for the humans living on the surface of the planets, and also for the Stones.」
「What are they making out in space?」
「Mainly steel and nanomaterial composites. Iron manufactured in a vacuum has different properties compared to those made on the planets due to the special arrangement of their molecules. Thus, vacuum material production facilities are especially important. Silhouette cockpits are also manufactured completely by the space facilities.」
「Now it really feels like I’m in the future.」
「That’s just like you, Kou.」
It was hard for Kou to imagine the process of steelmaking within a vacuum, but in his previous company, one of his jobs was involved in processing bar stocks that were produced and delivered by a partner company. They were delivered to their company for processing, heat treatment, and plating.
He managed to get his hands on the information regarding the composition of the materials used to make Silhouette armor from Unit 5’s terminal, and he was familiar with a lot of the chemical symbols he saw. Of course, there were some that were completely new to him as well.
Although he was in the far future, he felt it still had many connections with the world he was familiar with and didn’t seem like a completely different dimension.
One thing he found interesting was that the materials used for the Silhouette’s arms and legs were actually different. The legs were made with a sturdier material. This was probably partly due to the influence of the square-cube law, but the production cost of the legs was comparatively higher.
Head and limb Silhouette parts can actually be regarded as consumables, but since Unit 5 was part of a series of unique prototypes, it seemed it would be that easy to find replacements. This was a concrete example of the disadvantages of using artificial muscle materials in the limbs.
「Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any recon drones or planes flying overhead either. That goes for both our allies and the enemies.」
「Our allies are hindered by the limitations of the Fennel OS. As for the Stones, they have Murder types that can function as flying weapons, but they are easy prey for railguns and light-gas guns. They can be easily shot down, so they simply don’t deploy them. There were aircraft that could be regarded essentially as flying tanks active back in the Interplanetary War era though.」
「I think flying tanks are a lot more intimidating than humanoid weapons.」
「In the Interplanetary War era, those flying tanks were easily cut down by the Silhouette models of that period.」
「Why does everything need to be cut down by humanoid weapons!?」
Couldn’t they at least spare flying weapons from being cut down by swords, Kou thought. Though he acknowledged that it sounded like a man’s romance given form.
According to Master, the Silhouette models produced during the Interplanetary War era were collectively called Antique Silhouettes. They were occasionally excavated from ruins during the present era, and they possessed functions and combat strength incomparable to most modern Silhouettes.
Conversely, they were extremely expensive, and some of their components were impossible to reproduce in the current era, so it was pretty difficult to repair and maintain them. Their overall abilities should be able to compensate for these drawbacks, but in actual practice, they aren’t deployed much in this era’s battles.
「Let’s get back on topic. There is practically no combat in outer space, but you can still transport troops through it. Even if land warfare is the standard nowadays, it doesn’t diminish the significance of space carriers in the least.」
「Come to think of it, you said something about that before, Master. Something about large-scale Underground Forces having space carriers, I mean.」
「There are also people who make their living by discovering and excavating ancient damaged carriers and weapons. They are considered different from mercenaries and are called Searchers. They also pilot Silhouettes though.」
「Is there really that much ancient stuff sleeping all over the planet?」
「Yes, indeed there are. We probably haven’t discovered more than 1% of them. Even though they can’t be made good as new, as long as they could be made fairly useable after some repairs, they are still very valuable resources.」
「It feels like you’d make a killing by finding lots of them.」
「It’s a great way to get rich quickly, but it actually results in a lot of casualties as well. There’s a problem, you see. Those sleeping maintenance facilities and carriers are equipped with active defense systems, so as long as they couldn’t rely on allies to rescue them out of a pinch, it’s an occupation that’s far more dangerous than being a normal mercenary.」
「You can’t rely on reinforcements unless you’re fighting in a defensive battle after all.」
「And what we’re going to do right now is basically the same thing as what those Searchers do.」
「We’re going to be entering an ancient site as well. But don’t worry. There will be no problems.」
「Understood. I trust you, Master.」
Kou and Unit 5 didn’t show a trace of hesitation. They fully believed in Master’s guidance.
Unit 5 continued to advance.
It continuously cut a path through the dense jungle.
「It’s a passageway that’s hidden via optical camouflage. It only appeared now that we’re here. Under my authority, of course.」
「Yes. I sent a command to the facility we are heading to.」
The hidden passageway that now revealed itself to them was large enough for a Silhouette to pass through unimpeded. However, it led to a downward slope that turned into a sharp curve after going forward for a while.
Even Unit 5 that boasts excellent stability had to struggle to keep itself from careening uncontrollably downward.
「It’s fortunate that we were able to arrive here without being detected by the Murders.」
「Okay, Master. But isn’t it about time you told me what this place exactly is?」
「To put it simply, it’s like a secret base.」
「Well, of course, it is! I mean, just look at it! What I want to know is what your goal is and what this place is actually for.」
「It’s an ancient site. You can even say it’s very ancient.」
「You mean this place was built way before humanity was reset to a quantum data state again?」
「That’s right. I’ll tell you the rest later once you’ve taken a look at the place personally.」
Unit 5 kept going, but there wasn’t any sign of the path ending anytime soon.
「It’s pretty deep underground.」
「It was made by hollowing out the bottom of the mountain range above. The underground facility should be about five kilometers below the surface.」
「What about the scale of the underground facility itself?」
「It’s about 880 square kilometers across. It also has multiple layers. It’s large enough to accommodate all 23 wards of Tokyo as well as Sado island.」
「Thank you for that easy-to-understand analogy! It’s freaking huge.」
「Even during the Interplanetary War era, underground facilities had particularly good defense capabilities. Thus, there were a great variety of facilities that were built underground.」
「Most of the important facilities survived those turbulent times relatively undamaged. However, the underground facilities were built too far underground, and as a result, many of the newly awakened humans still remain unaware of their existence.」
「So they kinda became like geofronts huh. Did no one tell the newly awakened humans about them? What about you Familiars or Okeanos?」
「The more important facilities were located in space anyway, and it was decided that it was unnecessary for the newly awakened humans to be aware of underground facilities like the one we’re heading to right now.」
「I see… Come to think of it, this passageway seems specifically designed for Silhouettes……」
Kou was stunned by just how vast the facility supposedly was but he was convinced once he figured that it was actually designed and built with Silhouettes in mind.
「The Silhouette is an evolution of the heavy working machines used during the Planetary Pioneering era. The Whis-treated high-dimensional projection armor was also originally intended as a countermeasure against space debris.」
「Space debris fly around in outer space at about 10 kilometers per second. The light-gas guns during your time were also used in debris experiments.」
「I’m not aware anything like that was happening at all!」
「Now I’m having doubts if the data we have on the 21st century is actually accurate.」
「Anyway, more than that, I wanna know what we’re gonna find down there already.」
Before long, Unit 5 finally reached its destination.
It took about thirty minutes to traverse the entire length of the passageway.
「A wall? No, is it a gate?」
「If you barged in here alone, you would have been attacked by the interceptors from this bulkhead.」
「This is a full-on secret base. You have to be prepared if you want to enter the place.」
「It’s alright. Because you have me with you.」
The wall separating the rest of the facility from the outside world slip upward, and Kou finally managed to enter the vast underground space from the now-opened bulkhead.
He found a large structure floating on a huge underground lake within.
It was clearly man-made. Unit 5 halted its advance.
Kou muttered under his breath. The place really reminded him of a factory.
The underground lake got converted into a port facility. There was a pier on one side of the lake, a large crane, and wide passages along the outer walls; two of which have been laid with what seemed to be railroad tracks.
「Correct. This is a secret arsenal fortress. Of course, it can function perfectly well even now.」
「It looks like there isn’t anyone else here.」
「It’s been over a thousand years since it first went dormant. Alright. Go ahead and get a move on. We need to enter that structure over there.」
「That’s…… a container ship? No, that’s not it. An aircraft carrier? But I don’t see anything resembling a bridge on it.」
The structure before them was floating quietly on the lake.
The structure somewhat resembled a whale in shape. An armed metal whale, to be exact. That was Kou’s impression of it.
Unit 5’s main cameras captured most of the underground space in great detail using telephoto mode.
「That’s a good observation. You really have great insight when it comes to things like this. It is indeed technically somewhat similar to an aircraft carrier. The structure before you is its stern.」
「It’s freaking huge then. Even if you’re riding inside a Silhouette…… No, I suppose it’s this huge because it’s designed to accommodate Silhouettes, huh.」
The structure before Kou really was a gigantic carrier ship.
It did somewhat look like a ship, but it was far bigger than the ships Kou was familiar with.
「Doesn’t that thing look like it’s about a kilometer long?」
「It’s just over 800 meters. It doesn’t actually reach a kilometer in length. It’s a medium-class Silhouette ship.」
「You said it only resembled a carrier. What exactly is it?」
「This entire facility functions as an unmanned weapons factory with the ship as its core. And the thing before you is its official ship for business trips and also its flagship.」
「Whoah, now just hold on a moment. This thing is basically a weapons factory, right? You can actually go on business trips with it?」
「In Japanese terms, it’s a【Mobile Factory Platform】. It’s an armed mobile factory. It’s a ship that functions as a carrier, repair ship, and an amphibious ship all in one.」
「I don’t really get it, but that still sounds awesome. Can’t we make the name a bit shorter though?」
「Eh? Alright, let’s call it an Arsenal Carrier then. I want you to reactivate this facility, Kou.」
「It should be possible for you since you have unrestricted access due to your Development Engineer rank.」
「……Hm. I understand. I’m not sure what to do, so please guide me, Master.」
Kou resolved himself and made Unit 5 advance forward once more.