Editor: Thor’s Stone
Kou continued conversing with Yunlan as they walked down a hallway.
「This world is nice. Knowledge is granted equally. Through the use of stuff like universal translators, the concept of a ‘country’ is nonexistent. You don’t need to think about troublesome matters like the power balance between nations. Since the enemies we’re at war with are mostly unmanned machines, your conscience wouldn’t get so troubled either. I’m sure you also prefer Asia to Earth, right, Kou?」
「Yes. Right now, I don’t even feel like going back.」
「I understand quite well.」
Aki’s tail wagged in joy after she heard Kou saying he didn’t want to return. She was truly over the moon, but since she only showed it through wagging her tail, the two men failed to notice.
「You lived in Shenzen before coming here, right, Yunlan-san?」
「Right. I worked at a company manufacturing semiconductors. Oh, and stop it with the polite speech please. It gives me goosebumps.」
「Haha. Understood. I like digital gadgets and often ordered them online, and a lot of them were sent directly from Shenzen.」
「The Shenzen back then had plenty of momentum. It’s been twenty years since I first came to this world. But my time spent on Earth might not be all that different from yours.」
Yunlan laughed in nostalgia.
「Now then, it’s about time I showed you my current subject of research.」
The room they entered first was a place where various parts underwent rigorous durability tests.
Unexpected problems might still occur even with a fully automated production line. Hence, careful operational testing was essential.
There was also a similar test area present in Kou’s arsenal fortress. Astraea will not permit the usage of any equipment until they passed the operational tests.
「Currently, I’ve slowed down the development pace. So I’ll show you the only latest models available.」
「Slowed down? Why?」
「It’s because there might be another technology auction conducted now that Asia has been rescued.」
Yunlan replied to Aki’s question with a sly grin on his face.
「We’ve only managed to glean limited info. There was an Underground Force that launched an offensive on Fortress Area X453 that’s held by the Stones. The operation failed, and they retreated. But immediately afterward, news about Asia’s rescue spread out. I wonder if it’s merely a coincidence?」
「Who knows? It really might be just a coincidence.」
Aki laughed mischievously as she responded. Kou just displayed a strained smile.
「New technology got released suddenly without any warning, and a rare counter-offensive operation was launched against the enemy. Immediately after, Asia got freed. There will be no Development Engineer worth his or her salt who would think nothing big will happen after all that.」
Kou laughed awkwardly. He realized that information can be gleaned from any move they made. It just depended on how perceptive people looking at them were.
「This is all off the record, so don’t worry. I am just a tad bit more curious than others. That’s all. Right then. Let’s head to the next area.」
The next area they entered resembled a garage more than anything else.
There were quite a few armored vehicles that seemed larger than your average tank parked within it.
Their rears particularly stood out. They were equipped with compartments housing kneeling Silhouettes. They carried two Silhouettes each. The Silhouettes had their backs to each other.
「You built armored Silhouette carriers.」
「You’ve probably seen how they tow Silhouettes along by having the Silhouettes fire their grappling wires and attach them to the vehicles. Something like that’s very inefficient, so I went ahead and made these.」
Yunlan began to explain.
「Silhouettes are ultimately flawed weapons, but they serve an excellent role as replacements for regular infantry at the very least. Their notable drawbacks are their low mobility, height, and considerable heft.」
「Yeah, I get that.」
「Silhouettes can go up to 50 to 60 kph at most even at full speed. Even if there have been improvements done to the roller dash function, it was primarily designed as a safety measure in order to avoid accidentally stepping on pedestrians while moving in urban areas, so it doesn’t work all that well in rougher terrain. It can even be considered as a superfluous function in a battlefield.」
「So you want to improve mobility?」
「Yes. The reason why humanity is always on the back foot is because we ultimately don’t possess enough mobility to launch major attacks using Silhouette-centered forces. Even though these can only carry two at a time, if you had at least four of them available, then you can quickly transport and deploy eight Silhouettes to the field. That’s already two full squads. In a typical battlefield back on 21st century Earth, they should be equivalent to personnel carriers able to transport nine infantrymen. I honestly wanted to have them be capable of transporting a bit more Silhouettes, but……」
Yunlan sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
「Current Silhouettes are just too large. They’re like huge square boxes. It’s like those obnoxiously large hitboxes in old 3D games.」
Kou nodded enthusiastically.
「Right. I really get that.」
「I bet you do. They’re nearly four meters wide. That’s quite a bit larger than 21st-century tanks. That also goes for their general length. They can basically only run on their own right now.」
「And your solution… are these armored carriers.」
「These are twelve meters in length. They can easily carry two of those boxy behemoths. They’re basically similar to trailers. Like trailers, their back compartments are detachable from the main car. So they can participate in battle as regular support vehicles or use the function to escape in an emergency.」
It was a very helpful reference material for Kou.
「Even though Familiars and Therianthropes can’t pilot Silhouettes, humanity has no choice but to ask for their help due to the lack of manpower. However, it’s difficult for the present lightly armored vehicle models to serve as part of the main combat forces.」
「And I want to do something about that if possible.」
「It’s the same for me. I think it’s important for them to be able to coordinate well with Silhouettes and play larger roles in battles.」
Yunlan brought Kou and Aki to see the next weapon he was developing.
The next one was a large tank.
It also had a Silhouette riding behind it. But it looked like it was actually combined with the tank itself. The Silhouette seemed like it was fixed to the tank in a kneeling position.
The striking thing was that the tank body resembled a turretless tank in appearance. The cannon barrel and chassis were integrated.
But with the addition of the Silhouette wielding rifles in both hands, it was transformed into something similar to a multi-turreted tank instead.
「Are these Silhouette-linked tanks?」
「They are designed to be deployed on the frontlines. One good point of Silhouettes is that they can fire accurately even while on their knees. With this, their general height can be reduced.」
「These are basically turretless tanks, right? Or maybe assault guns?」
「They do resemble turretless tanks, but they’re a bit different, actually. The gun turret and the frame are completely integrated. It was designed for single-seat operation. There were similar design concepts for defensive tanks in the 20th century. The main difference between them and this tank is that this one is capable of adjusting its elevation angle. In other words, you can move the cannon barrel up and down.」
「So it’s basically a large-caliber railgun fully integrated with the vehicle’s frame huh. The design would also minimize the risk of the cannon barrel being torn away.」
「The integration of the turret and the frame increases its stability. This can basically be considered as a light tank.」
「It’s something like an airborne tank. It just looks big because of the Silhouette combined with it. Its armor is composed of a lot of lighter metals and nanoceramics that are used in Silhouettes instead of materials regularly used in tank armor which are comparatively harder to manufacture. It’s actually less than 30 tons. But the trade-off is that it’s more expensive than regular tanks.」
「I’ve seen data regarding shield tanks that are able to deploy Whis-reinforced shields before. But this one replaces the shield with a Silhouette……」
「But it can only combine with one unit though. Colossus Cavalry-a concept where Silhouettes replace human infantry to employ the tank desant tactic.」
「So this is a Development Engineer’s bricolage huh……」
After seeing the ingenious implementation of light materials, Kou became ashamed of his uninspired decision to use regular armor in his vehicle designs.
In fact, all the tanks in operation in the Nemesis system were designed with using that kind of armor in mind.
「The U.S. military was actually planning on developing a next-generation tank that was considerably lighter than its predecessor in the 21st century. It was supposed to be 25 tons in overall weight. Even so, it still needed to sport defensive performance that allowed it to withstand a direct hit by a 50 mm gun. Because it was primarily designed with deployment in conflict areas in mind, the focus was on reducing its weight so it can easily be transported by air.」
Yunlan approached the weapon he was currently developing.
「I also considered designing a lighter and smaller Silhouette. However, developing a Silhouette exclusively tailored to working with tanks will significantly reduce its versatility. Silhouettes need to serve as equal partners with tanks. Just like humans need to be with Familiars. That’s why I completely abandoned the concept of miniaturization.」
「If you evaluate this tank on its own merits alone, it would appear to be impractical. It seems counterintuitive to produce a large tank with armor that’s only comparable to a fighter plane. But things would change if you factor in cooperation with Silhouettes, right?」
「That’s how it is. With these, it will be possible to rapidly deploy Silhouettes and support tanks to the battlefield in sets. It would be akin to Silhouette cavalry.」
「Large transport trucks are severely lacking in combat ability. There aren’t that many Underground Forces that are able to deploy on a large scale……」
「That’s right. Hangar carriers are more than enough for troop transport. What’s needed now is mobility combined with firepower.」
For the first time since meeting him, Kou witnessed Yunlan grumble in complaint.
「The bottleneck I ended up facing is the thinness of the tank’s armor relative to its price. There’s even an opinion floating around that basically claims there’s no need to spend that much money to protect Familiars. What should I do, I wonder?」
He might be grumbling outwardly, but Yunlan’s eyes seemed to exude mirth. This might be a test for him, Kou thought.
Kou considered the problem for a short while and gave an answer to Yunlan.
「What happens here stays off the record, right?」
「Of course! We’re just exchanging secrets as fellow Development Engineers!」
「Would it be fine for me to imitate this design concept? I’ll send you the finished product along with the relevant technology once I’m done.」
「It looks like this properly served as an inspiration after all huh. Go right ahead. If my work can serve as a foundation for your own bricolage, then I’d be more than happy to oblige.」
Yunlan cheerfully agreed.
「You don’t have to reveal what idea you came up with to me right now. I’ll just look forward to seeing the finished product.」
「But maybe my idea can only serve as just another material for bricolage in the end.」
「That is fine in itself. This world really is wonderful, isn’t it?」
Yunlan laughed in satisfaction. He too succeeded in securing what he needed during this meeting with Kou.
「That wraps up our little tour. Now, I’ll have to properly entertain you as the host. Have you ever gotten the chance to eat authentic Cantonese food since coming to Asia? No? Then you’ll be in for a real treat later!」