Dark Sea Standard Time 09:55 – A call from IPD to Command: “Two objects detected starboard. Flight response 6, detection 5.”
I – Ascendance Assault – raised my barrel above the surface with a shout.
With a loud splash, I set my particle cannon over my shoulder. I had raised it half out of the water, holding the rest below the surface. This would have been impossible for a human, but for an Aquaroid like me, it was no problem.
The backpack on my waist sent yellow-green jolts of energy to the hydro-engine, making its crystalline surface glow. I prepared myself for battle. I felt like one with my weapon. It was a moment that would entrance any Aqua Force marine.
Even in the dark of the cloudy Dark Sea.
“Alert. Captain, warn the others!”
I brought my hand to my head in salute without turning back. I wasn’t worried. My superior officer (SO) behind me wasn’t the type to get offended. And even if they were to punish me, that’d just be one more scar to add to my collection.
[Sent. Stand by until we hear from the commander.]
The reply was transmitted directly into my head. This was how we always communicated.
At the same time, my SO sent messages to the unidentified craft in accordance with Planet Cray’s “Code for Unidentified Entities at Sea (CUES)”, using radio waves and any other means that any living being could understand as a warning (in other words, “Identify yourself, or brace for hell”). Truly someone you could set your clock to. You’d expect nothing less from Intlet the Gunbrig.
[You know I don’t like that name. I’m not some two-masted warship.]
[Captain, could you please refrain from reading my mind until the battle begins?]
I replied with a thought of my own, and the colonel responded with the wavelength of a wry smile.
Now we just had to wait for the unidentified craft to respond.
It was probably just a bunch of dragons that had strayed into our territory. All we’d need to do was get them to reverse course, no big deal.
We were six nautical miles ahead of our great Flagship Dragon, Flagburg Dragon. My superior officer and I were relaxed.
Just another patrol…
—Or so we thought.
Dark Sea Standard Time 09:56 – A call from IPD to Command: “Under attack by unidentified aircraft, requesting permission to engage.”
Even I could hear that from where I was. It was a woman’s voice, distant yet powerful as it carried across the expanse of the ocean.
A near-miss on the portside.
The resulting spray and waves washed over me, but I kept the particle cannon steady. After all, on my six in the water was Intlet the Gunbrig. I only needed to keep my eyes on the front.
“No warnings?! Any word from the flagship?”
“What about the ones firing at us?”
[They’re telling us to “stay out of their way.” They’re approaching in a single craft.]
Another shot. They were getting closer. This was bad.
“That has to be enough. Permission to fire back?!”
Dark Sea Standard Time 09:57 – A call from Command to IPD: “Permission to open fire. If enemy is not destroyed, do what you can to push them north.”
“What? So we’re not going to shoot them down, just make them change course?”
[Exactly. What’s wrong? You have permission to fire; you’re not going to do it?]
“You didn’t need to tell me…twice!”
Just at this moment, the sea fell silent amidst the raging waves.
I placed my finger on the trigger and put my eye on the scope… Was that a priestess? A maiden? It didn’t really matter. I fired a particle beam at the woman, who had a shield in one hand and a gun in the other.
I’ve pulled back plenty on the distance. Even adjusted the line of sight to compensate for the geomagnetic field. The beam seemed to shift upwards after I fired it.
The beam traced a gentle curve and locked onto the target. It was a textbook shot.
—Yet the woman evaded it. With a swift strike from the shield she brandished.
Where in the world did she come from to be able to block a particle beam with a shield?!
[Looks like it’s my turn.]
As I gaped at the unexpected deflect, a dragon broke through the water surface behind me and rose up. The seawater fell from its massive back like a waterfall.
Blue Artillery Dragon, Inlet Pulse Dragon.
AKA “Intlet the Gunbrig”. Even the most hardened of pirates roaming the eastern seas of Stoicheia would quake in their boots at the mere mention of its name. A legendary gunner… or rather, cannoneer.
Inlet Pulse Dragon turned and aimed its twin cannons forward.
“I’m sorry. For Captain to have to bring that out…”
I apologized to the dragon while holding my own cannon steady.
While it’s true that the Blue Artillery Dragon could annihilate an entire pirate fleet with a single shot, it was a bit excessive for a warning shot.
[Don’t worry about it. You’ve done plenty,] informed the captain of the Blue Artillery Dragon.
I hurriedly looked back down my scope.
Hovering in the air with her gun still in hand, the winged woman was gripping her shield arm. Did that last shot actually injure her?
[I advised her to change course and travel north.]
Just then, four dragons appeared and surrounded the maiden. With a parting glare, they picked up speed and disappeared towards the north.
Phew. I lowered my particle cannon and stood down.
“What the heck was that?”
[I don’t know. But maybe our next orders will give us a hint.]
Dark Sea Standard Time 10:01 – A call from Command to IPD: “Distress call from 132 nautical miles east-northeast. Escort the Blaze Maidens.”
“Jeez… After defending our waters, we have an escort mission?”
[Is there an issue?]
“No, no. ‘In the name of absolute justice,’ right?”
I repeated the mantra with little enthusiasm, but indicated that my grumbling wasn’t entirely serious. The Blue Artillery Dragon, Inlet Pulse Dragon could be strict when it came to this kind of idle chatter. Still…
[What is it?]
[Didn’t I ask you not to read my thoughts? Well…]
Still, trying to take on the entire Flagburg fleet alone is one heck of an underestimation.
[Hm. That I agree.]
With a laugh, the dragon and I disappeared into the towering waves of the dark ocean, making our way towards the maidens of the Dragon Empire who seemed to have found themselves stranded in the Dark Sea.
An abbreviation of the activities in military operations: “Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber-Defense and Combat Systems and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.” Unlike Brandt Gate’s C7ISR, the Aqua Force, whose remit covers the seas, does not include space combat in its code of conduct.
*Units of time, distance, etc., and military and naval terminology have been translated to those used on Earth*
<<Notes about Terminology>>
The Stoicheia Navy “Aqua Force”
The Aqua Force, a naval force that upholds absolute justice, was created in the Dyad Deity Era and roughly coincides with the founding of Magallanica.
Planet Cray was mired in an age of instability, with countless clans and nations fighting for supremacy, some of which survive to this day. The Mega Archipelago, the Dark Sea, and the Southern Seas were embroiled in what became known as the “Great Pirate Age”. Of course, the pirates in question were the crew of undead known as “Granblue”. The nation of Magallanica came about as an alliance of various small states – including island communities and coastal towns and villages – in order to counter the threats of the sea. Among them, the Aqua Force navy was specifically formed as a trump card against the pirates.
Since peacetimes, the Aqua Force was tasked with defending Stoicheia’s territorial waters and airspace. However, the oceans are deep and wide, and beyond pirate ships and the wandering undead in and above the waters, there were unknown lifeforms, uncharted reefs and currents, seafloor volcanoes and adverse weather conditions. Even with all their capabilities and prowess, Aquaroids and Tear Dragons faced great risks if any were to operate alone. As a result, the Aqua Force enforced a buddy policy where all personnel had to be with at least one other.
The Aqua Force has several bases and fleets based in various locations but can act independently as long as the fleet includes a flagship.
→For more information on the Aqua Force’s main forces (the Aquaroids and Tear Dragons), see Unit Story 25 “Flagship Dragon, Flagburg Dragon”.
→For more information on the history of the Aqua Force, see “World Column: A Commentary! On the History of Planet Cray”.
Supervising Editor: 中村聡