Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume17 Chapter2
- 1 Chapter 2: A Steel Battlefield Floating above the Clouds. Sky_Bus_365.
Chapter 2: A Steel Battlefield Floating above the Clouds. Sky_Bus_365.
The Amakusa girl Itsuwa puffed out her cheeks with a look of displeasure in her eyes.
When she had heard that Kamijou Touma was flying in on an Academy City supersonic passenger plane, she had noisily rushed around getting ready and then headed to the London airport to be his guide because she knew Japanese, but, when the plane arrived, Kamijou Touma wasn’t there. There must have been some odd mix-up because she ended up with a cage containing a calico cat that was registered as a pet.
She had been thinking this was her chance and had even decided she would buy the Great Spirit Revealing Maid Set, so her disappointment at being sidestepped was quite something. She had returned to London’s Japantown along with the cat cage and now she (a minor) was at the tea table gulping down the contents of a bottle. She even had dried squid prepared on a small dish.
That boy was supposed to have come to London as Index Librorum Prohibitorum’s manager.
Some of Itsuwa’s colleagues such as the short Kouyagi and the female Tsushima looked at Itsuwa and paled. The short Ushibuka received the greatest shock because he had been the one that had secretly hidden the potato shochu in the storage space below the kitchen floor.
“U-um, Itsuwa-san…? I-it just seems there was a little bit of a mix-up, so you don’t need to get so down about it…” said the married Nomozaki with a wide forced smile on his face while he held Ushibuka’s arms behind his back.
Ushibuka was struggling and yelling, “She! She stole! She stole my Potato Baron!!”
In response, Itsuwa poured the liquid into a plain transparent cup and turned her gaze towards them with a blank look in her eyes and her head tilted to the side.
“Hic…I’m not…fheeling down… Dammit, thash’s right, thash’s right. Why am I…?”
She continued mumbling incoherently while barely moving her lips. She sounded like she was angry.
“…Really…what the hell ish a potato baron…? Thish alcohol has such annoying names… You can’t tell if it’sh a potato or a sweet potato or what…”
“Then don’t drink it! Don’t steal my enjoyment!!” yelled Ushibuka with tears in his eyes.
That was when the old Isahaya came into the room with an excited look on his face and gave an announcement.
“H-hey!! It seems that boy didn’t change his plans after all and is headed to London!!”
Itsuwa hurriedly stood up. When she did, the bottle was knocked over and the high class liquid spilled out onto the tea table.
“Hgyaaaaahhhh! My Potato Baron!!” shrieked Ushibuka and the female Tsushima chopped his neck with the side of her hand to quiet him, but Itsuwa wasn’t paying them any heed.
That boy was coming to London?
At the airport, she had been told he wasn’t on the plane, but had it really been a mix-up and had actually been onboard? If so…was it possible he would pay them a visit!?
A soft light started sparkling from all over Itsuwa’s body, but her joyous expression suddenly stiffened.
She had realized just what a terrible sight she was.
Was she going to be seen in such a disgraceful way? Would she be seen drunk on potato shochu, every breath filled with the stench of alcohol, and dried squid legs stuck in the edge of her mouth?
“I-it would all be over!! If that happened, it would all be over!!”
She decided to at least do something about how she looked, so she ate all of the squid legs, popped a breath mint in her mouth, washed her face, and stretched her back. But all those things were exactly the types of things a drunk did, so her red face made her look like an old man at the horse races.
(N-no, just because he’s coming to London doesn’t mean he’ll be coming directly to Japantown. Normally, he would stop by his hotel and then head to Buckingham Palace, so he won’t be coming here right away! I need to focus on getting myself looking decent…!!)
Just when Itsuwa started thinking more optimistically, the old Isahaya shook his head with a gentle look on his face.
“No, Itsuwa. That boy is already on his way here.”
Itsuwa’s shoulders gave a large jump.
She thought while she wobbled on her feet.
(But why!? I can’t imagine that he would come here by chance…!!)
But she did have an idea of why that boy would come by right away.
(Oh, that’s right. I took his kitty at the airport…crap!! It wouldn’t be surprising for him to stop by to pick up his pet cat!!)
Itsuwa was completely flustered and the sound of approaching footsteps reached her ears. Before she could do anything, she heard the sound of the door opening.
The sound of Isahaya yelling “He’s here!!” rang in Itsuwa’s ears.
The room was constructed as a Western-style room, but a Japanese sliding door was set up between the Western door and the rest of the room. A spiky haired silhouette could clearly be seen through the thin paper of the sliding door.
It seemed clear that he had come directly there.
(Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what-what-what do I do!?)
She was completely cornered.
Itsuwa’s face was completely pale as the door slid to the side in front of her eyes. Itsuwa was sure that she was so drunk that the stench of alcohol was coming from every breath she took and even from every single one of her pores. Even the cat started to run away from her as if it were saying, “Young lady, that smell is simply unacceptable.” Having reconfirmed what state she was in, Itsuwa’s head was assaulted by absolute chaos.
“Tah dah!! Spiky-haired Tatemiya Saiji is here-bghaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!?”
Immediately after her male colleague with black spiky hair revealed that he had been toying with her maiden heart, she didn’t just overturn the tea table; she grabbed the tea table with one hand and mercilessly knocked Tatemiya away with it. The large man’s body was knocked outside of the room and Isahaya, who had been Tatemiya’s accomplice for the prank, paled.
Sky Bus 365 was the spacious passenger plane Kamijou and Index had boarded after abandoning the cat. The passenger seats were divided into two floors and, while there were a large number of passengers, the space for each seat was rather large. Economy seats usually brought to mind something constrained like the seats in a movie theater, but that was not so for the Sky Bus 365. Even the cheapest seats had room enough to stretch out one’s legs and a massage function.
There only real problem was…
“…I really thought there would have been at least one flight to London we could use,” Kamijou muttered.
The flights to London had been fully booked. Kamijou and Index were still headed to the UK, but this first flight was headed for Edinburgh, Scotland and they would get on a domestic flight to London from there. That plan was all thanks to the advice of the young woman at the service counter.
Incidentally, Scotland was in the north of the UK while London was in the south.
Kamijou and Index had been looking for a plane with 2 cancellations and the ticket of course cost money. In his attempt to keep them from using a taxi to flee the airport, Tsuchimikado had taken the contents of Kamijou’s wallet, but, in a small bit of luck, he was able to pay for the tickets with his cell phone’s wallet function.
(…But this wallet function is basically the same thing as a credit card. I hope I don’t end up screaming when I see the bill…)
In contrast to Kamijou holding his head for a very working class reason, Index was extremely optimistic. She was engrossed in the irregular place known as an “airplane”. She was wearing a plain dress instead of her safety pin-covered nun’s habit because they wouldn’t have let her on the plane with those dangerous objects all over her.
“T-Touma. This chair has a game in it!!”
“It has buttons on it, but it isn’t a video game. In fact, even normal TVs have-…Wait! Get your hand away from there, Index! You’ve gotten into the pay-per-view channels!!”
“Beef or fish!! Beef or fish!!”
“Yes, I know you’re looking forward to the in-flight meal, so sto-…Waah!! The new release movie channel is super expensive!!”
“What’s this button? Wahyah!! A clear cup with a string on it came out!!”
“That’s the emergency oxygen mask!!”
Index’s actions must have sent out a very serious signal, because a blonde flight attendant with a nice body came running over. Index was still too focused on pushing all the buttons, so Kamijou was forced to bow in apology in her stead.
After having the basics of in-flight etiquette explained to her, Index looked over questioningly.
“So there are parts of the game that cost money and parts that don’t?”
“I already told you: there are no games you can play on that screen. Having all those different buttons is just a trap for the pay-per-view channels. Here, look how much fun the free channel i-..uuh!?”
“Touma. It just has a bunch of small numbers and is talking about something called stocks.”
“Dammit. They purposefully show something boring to get you to look towards the pay-per-view channels.”
Kamijou felt a bit dejected and he heard a middle-aged man on the TV talking about the world economy in a monotone voice. Apparently, the Eurotunnel bombing had thrown the market into chaos.
Index gently straightened up and spoke.
“By the way, Touma. When does the airplane food get here?”
“The in-flight meal? Hmm, well it’s past dinner time, so the next one will probably be after 9, I guess. It looks like the people around us have already eaten and we don’t get any late meals because of our cheap seats.”
“Nooo! I know this must be a shock for you, but don’t bite Kamijou-san’s head in response, Index!! That’s just how it works, so I can’t do anything about it!!”
However, Kamijou was hungry himself because they had been gassed and brought to the airport by Tsuchimikado before they could eat dinner. He looked around to see if there was a shop within the airplane and he saw a sign for a free drink corner at the very front of the seating area.
Kamijou Touma spoke quietly.
“Index. I’m about to head out on a journey.”
“T-to the Onigiri Kingdom!?”
“No, I’m not headed for such a wonderful land of grains, but I should be able to get us some coffee.”
Kamijou stood up from his seat and headed for the free drink corner. Sky Bus 365 was an extremely large passenger plane and the seats were lined up divided into three pairs of two by the aisles. The seating area could seat over 500 people and was divided by walls between economy, business, and first classes. The seating area was also split into a first floor and a second floor which essentially doubled its capacity.
From what he could see, there were a lot of foreigners onboard. A lot of people were sleeping under blankets made from a gleaming material that was 3 mm thick and made by NASA. Most of those people were probably businessmen returning home after going to Academy City for their jobs.
Kamijou was in the farthest back section, the economy seats. The free drink corner was on a portion of the wall dividing economy from business.
(…Is that part of the terrorism countermeasures?)
Present day airplanes didn’t let anyone bring plastic bottles or even toothpaste tubes on board to prevent people from bringing in liquid explosives. In exchange, the airline had set up a free drink corner to pacify the customers who felt their freedom had been taken away.
The drink corner had the kind of equipment that you would see at a family restaurant. It was the thing you put a paper cup under, pushed the button, and the drink came spraying out. But this one didn’t have many options. It only had coffee, black tea, orange juice, and 4 of the world’s most famous carbonated beverages. The coffee was just labeled as “coffee”. If you were particular about where your coffee was made, its bitterness, or its acidity, then you were simply out of luck. There wasn’t even an option for hot or iced.
(Well, anything’s better than nothing, but this is still pretty rough for having missed dinner…Oh?)
Kamijou’s eyes became fixed on one spot.
Right next to the paper cup tower was a bunch of what looked like square crackers. They were there so their slight saltiness could go with the tea, but one could fill his stomach if he ate a large number of them.
(Hehh…So airplanes these days even have these for free. Oh, they have butter, blueberries, and some other things to put on them. I had heard that business for overseas flights had been down due to the fuel expenses and so it had become a service war, but I never thought they’d even be going all out with things like this. I guess I’ll take some. I hadn’t really noticed how hungry I was before, but my stomach is at it its limits now that there’s food right in front of me!!)
Kamijou started to reach over towards the crackers, but then he froze.
There was a small box next to the plate of crackers.
And there was a sign on the plate. It had something cutely written on it that looked like it had been handwritten by a flight attendant.
It was a price.
Kamijou had decided not to go for the crackers, so he and Index rode the large Sky Bus 365 with empty stomachs until, 9 hours later, it landed at a French airport.
It seemed likely the plane was refueling because it wasn’t a non-stop flight, but there was a different reason.
After a light electronic tone, a female voice made an announcement. The same announcement was made in English, Chinese, and various other languages until Japanese words reached Kamijou’s ears.
“Due to the effects of the accidental Eurotunnel explosion this flight will be aiding in the transport of goods from France to Britain. We are sorry for the delay, but please wait until the luggage has been loaded.”
After hearing the announcement, Kamijou operated the small TV built into the seat and spoke.
“Oh, that’s right. They were saying on the news that they’re taking everything by boat and plane because that huge tunnel can’t be used.”
“Touma, when will we leave?”
“In tough times, we have to help each other out.”
The view outside the window was filled with darkness. Kamijou’s internal clock was yelling, “I got on a plane just after sunset, and, 9 hours later, it’s just after sunset? It doesn’t add up!!” But that was the magic of jet-lag on a global scale.
He couldn’t see it from his window, but a portion of the passenger plane’s body must have been opened up as it had a number of forklifts load containers onboard.
“Touma. Is it time for the beef and the fish, yet?”
“You have to choose one or the other. When did you get the idea that you were going to eat both? Don’t tell me you’re planning on eating mine, too!”
“Nn!! That old man out there in work clothes is eating a sandwich!!”
“The airport workers must have it tough if they have to work while eating…Wait, Index! Why are you starting to act like a beast!? No matter how much you struggle, that sandwich isn’t going to warp in here! Ow!! …Hm?”
As Kamijou struggled, his elbow hit something.
He looked over and saw something that hadn’t been there before. A square portion of the inner wall by the window was cut as a separate piece and it was sitting open like a car’s dashboard. Inside were more than 20 dangerous looking types of cables.
(Uh, oh. Did I end up opening something I shouldn’t have?)
Kamijou thought for a second and then used his entire body to slam it shut.
The blonde flight attendant with a nice body must have heard their conversation, because she came walking down the aisle and spoke to them in polite Japanese.
“I am very sorry. We try our best to match the expectations of the passengers.”
“D-d-don’t worry. We’re not going to demand a refund or anything,” denied Kamijou waving his hands around frantically.
He changed the subject in an attempt to keep her from noticing.
“You know, is it really worth it to transport daily necessities by plane?”
“Well,” the flight attendant seemed as if she were having trouble saying something. “Of course, the items we are bringing in from other countries are mostly things that cannot be acquired within the UK. With the undersea railroad tunnel closed, the sea and air routes have to make up for it.”
“Things you can’t get in the UK, huh?”
“Even though Great Britain is an island country, most of its seafood is shipped in. And things like that go bad if they are slowly brought over on a ship, so a plane has to be used. Also, I believe the containers on this flight have…liquid foods like oatmeal in them.”
“Yes. I do not know the name of the disease, but there are people who cannot eat normal food, so they need highly regulated food. Apparently, this food is only made in a facility in France that belongs to a certain food company.”
“That sounds tough,” said Kamijou as he looked back out the window.
The containers being loaded on the plane were, of course, all necessary. The time spent loading them on would surely help some people in the UK.
“…Food…” whispered Index. “…Food…Airplane food…In-flight meal…Beef…Beef or fish!!”
“Gwoh!! Index, I’m well aware your hunger is at its max because you didn’t get any dinner, so please calm down!! It’ll be time for the meal before long!!”
“How much longer is ‘before long’!?”
“…About an hour?”
“Y-you idiot!! Kamijou-san’s head tastes of neither beef nor fish…Gah!!”
Index was taken over by her carnivore side and she attacked Kamijou. Kamijou felt sorry for the flight attendant when she ran off saying she would be right back.
He let out a scream as he was attacked.
“Hey, Index!! You’re bothering all the other people in here!! And what kind of person demands to have their in-flight meal before everyone else!?”
“But my empty stomach has already gone past the limit three times over!! You need to understand that I’m at the point where I can’t wait another second!!”
Before she had run off, the flight attendant had given Index a toy whistle (it was shaped like a ball and was probably a gift given for points gathered by buying tickets). Index distracted herself by squeezing it and making it whistle.
Kamijou and Index argued about various things, but, no matter how long they waited, the blonde-haired flight attendant with a nice body didn’t come back.
A quizzical look came to Kamijou’s face and he heard another announcement.
“…Sorry for the wait. The loading is complete. We are now preparing to take off. All passengers are to take their seats and fasten their seatbelts.”
“Hm? Oh, the plane tilts diagonally when it takes off, so it would be dangerous to stand in the aisle. I’m sure they fasten down the cart that carries the in-flight meals, so they can’t give us any food until we’re in the air.”
“Well, the plane will be stable in about 20 minutes, so just wait until then, okay? Wait, Index-san, why are you looking down?”
No response came.
He just heard a beast-like growl.
Kamijou felt incoming danger and thought with all his might.
(Please bring the in-flight meal as soon as possible!!)
But as a Level 0, he couldn’t use telepathy.
He heard Index’s teeth snapping together repeatedly.
Sky Bus 365 took off safely.
The airplane leveled off and the seatbelt light turned off.
The large passenger plane began its pleasant in-air services again.
There was a man who was watching Kamijou and Index from a slight distance.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say he was staring at them dumbfounded.
The man was standing in the aisle.
He was not an economy class passenger like Kamijou or Index. To keep any unnecessary suspicion off of him, he had bought a business class ticket. He had gone to the bathrooms in the “wall” area separating business class and economy class and then continued on to the economy class as if he were returning to a seat there.
(What’s going on?)
The man questioningly pulled out a notepad.
He had been told not to look at the notepad if he didn’t have to. He was only supposed to recheck the notepad for something very important. The man felt the situation qualified and he quickly flipped through the pages covered in scattered words and numbers.
A seat number was written on one of the pages.
He checked it and confirmed that he had been right.
The seat the spiky-haired Asian was sitting in was supposed to be empty.
The man’s comrade had bought the ticket for that seat with a false name.
The man pointed at the written seat number and could only come up with one answer.
(Shit. The seat was filled by someone waiting for a cancellation…!?)
Even if a seat was booked, it would be considered cancelled if the passenger didn’t arrive by the boarding deadline. At that point, another customer could purchase the ticket. That must have been how that spiky-haired Asian had arrived in the seat that was supposed to be empty.
The man understood the situation.
However, he couldn’t think of a way to fix it.
(What do I do…?)
He would look suspicious if he continued to stand in the middle of the aisle, so he slowly started to walk and headed for the stairway further along. Sky Bus 365 had two stories. If he used the stairs to the other floor and then doubled back on that floor’s aisle, there was less danger of someone getting suspicious because they kept seeing him go by.
He put the notepad back in his pocket, walked down the aisle, and walked past the spiky-haired Asian. As he did, his head rotated, keeping an eye on the Asian.
(What do I do? I can’t carry out the plan without using that seat.)
The in-flight meal didn’t seem to be coming.
Even when the passenger plane had left the runway, flown into the sky, and leveled off, the flight attendant did not come back.
(Actually, is it even possible to get your in-flight meal early? Her colleagues and superiors aren’t going to be mad at her for doing this for us, are they?)
“Nnn, I’m kind of worried. I think I’m going to go check on the flight attendant.”
“I’m worried about the beef or fish, too!!”
“Things would get too complicated if you came, so stay here.”
If the blonde flight attendant with a nice body was being scolded, he was planning on telling her not to worry about getting them the food early. If Index came in clearly starving and yelling her slogan of “Beef or fish!! Beef or fish!!”, it would just make the situation a whole lot worse.
Kamijou got up from the window seat, stepped over Index’s legs, and finally made his way out into the aisle. He was heading for the “wall” area dividing the economy class from the business class. The area had a number of facilities including the bathrooms, the free drink corner, the in-flight meal area, and a stairway to the other floor.
(Hmm. What am I going to do if she really is being scolded…?)
He nervously headed down the aisle and entered the “wall” area. As usual, the lighting was much dimmer than in the passenger area.
He looked around, but didn’t see the flight attendant anywhere.
(Huh? She isn’t here?)
He had predicted that she was preparing the in-flight meal, so he had been sure she would be there, but it seemed he had been wrong.
He spotted a door to a small room that seemed to be the area for preparing the meals, but he wasn’t sure if he should really be opening the door, so he stopped.
He put his ear to the door, but he didn’t hear any sounds of someone working within.
(I probably shouldn’t go around anymore searching for her… I don’t really have a problem, so I guess I shouldn’t be chasing after the flight attendant.)
Kamijou decided to return to Index and turned around.
He heard a high-pitched scream and felt something run into him. It seemed someone had been passing by next to him and he had knocked them to the ground.
Looking down, he saw the blonde flight attendant with a nice body.
She had been holding papers in both hands, but they had scattered everywhere when she had run into Kamijou. The A4 size papers had small lines of text on them that looked like they had been written in a word processor, but they were in a foreign language, so Kamijou didn’t have a clue what they said.
And it wasn’t really the time to be reading anyway.
“Wah! I’m sorry, are you oka-…”
Just before Kamijou could lower his head in apology, the flight attendant moved quickly. She gathered the scattered papers at tremendous speed while still collapsed on the ground.
She then spoke.
“D-did you see…?”
Kamijou Touma gave an honest response.
“No, I didn’t see up your skirt!!”
The woman with a nice body and a tight skirt stared at him blankly.
It seemed that wasn’t what she had been worried about.
(??? Then what did she think I saw…?)
Kamijou finally looked down at the papers she was holding.
But before he could look at the text, she hurriedly stood up.
“I-I’m very sorry. I will have the in-flight meal to you right away!!”
“Oh. Um…” Kamijou started to speak, but, before he could, the flight attendant apologized once more, bowed, and headed off somewhere.
(…What was that about…?)
Kamijou stared after her in puzzlement.
He didn’t have a perfect memory like Index, so he couldn’t recall the contents of papers he had merely glanced at.
The only bit of the lines of letters from the alphabet he could remember was…
(What were those? Were they flight numbers?)
Starting from the front, Sky Bus 365 was divided into first, business, and economy classes.
But there was, of course, another section farther forward than all of those.
That was the cockpit.
The front, the sides, and even the ceiling of the small area were covered with buttons and switches and there were 4 chairs on the floor. The front two were for those piloting the plane and the back two were for those on standby. At the time, the pilot and two copilots were in the cockpit leaving one chair open.
“The report from control has finished printing,” announced the blonde flight attendant.
She was speaking Japanese.
Normally, she was not someone who would enter the cockpit. It wasn’t just a moral issue; it was part of the airline’s regulations. The reason for the flight attendant being in the cockpit was simple.
They were in an emergency situation.
“So that’s the emailed threat the airline received,” said a large man wearing a mostly white military uniform.
He was the pilot of the passenger plane.
His black hair was cut short and he had swarthy skin.
As the language he was speaking suggested, he was Japanese.
He was not speaking to the flight attendant.
He was speaking into his headset to the control center at the Academy City international airport.
“It’s pretty bad, isn’t it?” said the airport security officer.
The pilot gave a slight groan in response.
“Yes, it is. No one would go along with that.”
“But that brings the danger that your plane will be attacked,” continued the security officer in a bitter voice.
“So the enemy is a French anti-England group…”
“Historically, France and England have been enemies at times and allies at times, but that group seems to be focusing only on the negative feelings.” It wasn’t clear how the Academy City airport security officer was getting his information, but he tended to be right. “It also seems they think the Eurotunnel bombing was purposefully done by England and that only France was damaged by it. As such, they want to do the same type of damage to England.”
“And so they’re going to completely take out England’s air routes, huh? What a ridiculous demand,” said the pilot in a low voice.
The Eurotunnel was no more than “an important land route” to France, but it was “the sole land route to other countries” for the UK. The pilot saw no reason England would have bombed the tunnel.
“The person who sent the email threat has been taken in by French authorities, but it seems someone else is going to carry out the attack. And the guy is refusing to speak in the questioning room, so it looks as if it will be difficult to get information through normal means.”
“It could be a problem if that takes too long. It only takes between 40 minutes to an hour to get from Paris to Edinburgh,” the pilot spoke calmly as he gripped the yoke.
“If the terrorists are serious, it’s highly likely they will make their move in that time.”
“But will they really?” responded the pilot. “They’d be bringing down the plane one of their comrades is on.”
“Their primary goal is just as it was explained in the email. It’s best to assume their man onboard prepared to commit suicide if their demands aren’t met.”
“Whether their demands are met or Sky Bus 365 is brought down, the damage they’re after will be done. To them, either result is a success.”
“…This is horrible. I want to just turn around and head back to the Paris airport.”
“If you take a sharp turn like that, there is a risk the terrorist will notice and make his move. That said, you don’t have the spare fuel needed to take a turn gradual enough he wouldn’t notice. …It’s thanks to the extra cargo you took on and the high price of oil. But I’m sure you’re well aware of your situation.”
“So we have to find the terrorists ourselves before he makes his move. God damn it,” muttered the pilot.
Sky Bus 365’s passenger area was split into 2 floors. Very few passenger planes in the world were as big. It held more than 500 passengers. Checking each and every one would take longer than the hour they had. And detecting a criminal just from viewing people at a distance instead of questioning them was difficult even for police.
“…We’re all amateurs here.”
“You still have to do it. An Academy City teleportation-type esper may be able to, but no one from a police organization can enter that plane now.”
The way the man from Academy City had brought up a teleporter as a concrete and usable method, brought nothing but bitterness to the pilot.
“Also…Well, I’m sure you know, but do your best not to let the passengers find out about this problem. A plane with nowhere to escape to becomes a living hell when chaos breaks out.”
“I know that. I’m the one whose shoulders the lives of the passengers rest on. I’m not twisted enough to use the passengers as a shield.”
When the pilot said that, a different channel cut into his headset.
It was a channel from within the plane.
“Emergency! Someone, most likely the terrorist, has made their move!!”
The crewman’s words caused the pilot’s body to stiffen.
The report continued.
“One injured but conscious. The attack suddenly came from behind so the attacker wasn’t seen. What do we do, sir!?”
Index’s hunger was at its max.
“In-flight meeeal! Iiiin-fliiiight meeeeaaaallll! Beeeef oooorrrr fiiiiissshhhh…!”
“…I feel a great pressure coming from the side. It’s like there’s a lion properly sitting in the seat next to me. What is Kamijou-san supposed to do?”
“Not only is the beef or fish not coming, but the bourgeois person next to us is munching on the crackers they make you pay for. My stomach is boiling.”
“Yeah, but Tsuchimikado stole everything in my wallet, so I can’t really do anything about it. All I have are British poun-…”
Kamijou had been scratching his head as he spoke, but he suddenly froze.
Index stared at him questioningly.
“…Wait a second. This plane is going from Academy City to the UK, so you might be able to pay with British money.”
“No!! You’re right to be angry, Index-san, but if you crush my skull with your jaws, you’ll never get those crackers!!”
At the last second, Kamijou managed to control the beast’s maw spread wide before his eyes.
Having barely managed to keep his life, he got up from his seat and headed for the free drink corner.
(…I’ve been wandering back and forth quite a bit, haven’t I? I hope no one thinks I’m acting suspiciously.)
Kamijou was worrying needlessly because, as he walked down the aisle, he saw a lot of people walking down the aisle to stretch their legs after sitting for so long. The chairs had massage functionality, but this was economy class. The massage wouldn’t relax one’s entire body.
The free drink corner was located in the “wall” area dividing economy class and business class. Paper money from a number of countries had been put inside the transparent box next to the crackers. A small blackboard had the rates written for different currencies. It seemed British currency was acceptable.
(Let’s see…I can get ten crackers for 3 pounds. Wait, how many yen is 3 pounds?)
Kamijou couldn’t get a sense of the value of things based on foreign currency, so he just paid it without knowing if it was cheap or expensive.
After putting the money in the box, he grabbed a clear package of ten crackers.
He was about to turn and head back to Index when he suddenly stopped.
As well as the free drink corner, the “wall” area had bathrooms, a storage area for cleaning supplies, and a small room used to store and heat up the in-flight meals.
One of the doors was ajar.
It was the door to the food area that had been closed when Kamijou had been there before.
(…Is it really all right for an airplane door to be left open like that?)
The plane tilted greatly when taking off and landing and there was also occasional shaking from turbulence. If a door was left partially open, it could suddenly open or close which could smash someone’s fingers or break the hinges. Kamijou only knew this from a documentary he had seen.
“I guess I should close it…right?” he casually muttered as he approached the door.
He decided that no one would get mad at him for just closing a door, but his eyebrows moved slightly just before he grabbed the doorknob.
He had seen what was on the other side of the door.
The room itself was small. It was just a space to heat up the in-flight meals, so it had a number of microwave ovens bolted to metal shelves.
That part wasn’t the problem.
Something dark red was splattered on one of the microwave ovens fixed on the wall. The stain was about 15 cm across and 50 cm long. After thinking for a second, Kamijou decided that someone with dirty hands must have put their hand to the wall in order to stand up.
He wondered what the dark red substance was.
That area was for heating up the in-flight meals, so he thought it might have been some kind of sauce or stew.
“You saw it, didn’t you?” said a sudden voice from directly behind him.
It was a female voice.
Kamijou spun around and found the blonde flight attendant with a nice body standing there.
She continued speaking with an apologetic look on her face.
“You saw the blood, didn’t you?”
She had given him information he hadn’t previously heard.
“So that’s-,” he started to say, but he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth.
He heard a loud impact.
It took him over a second to realize that it was the sound of his arm being twisted and his body being thrown to the floor.
The flight attendant was more or less straddling his face-down body. She brought her face to his ear and apologized quietly so only he could hear.
“(…I’m sorry. All crewmembers are trained in hand-to-hand combat so we can deal with any trouble that breaks out onboard without weapons. Although, we really only practice what’s in the manual.)”
“Wh-what’s going on…?”
The flight attendant didn’t say any more to Kamijou and instead used the hand not holding his arm to hit a switch on what looked like a radio.
“Sir, we have a situation,” she said in Japanese.
She spoke in a completely cold-headed and businesslike way.
“Before I could wipe away the blood, one of the passengers spotted it. I have determined that he has learned of the incident occurring on the plane. What should I do with him?”
It seemed the blonde flight attendant with a nice body was waiting for someone while she held Kamijou down.
The blank time stretched on.
The flight attendant spoke.
“This is a terrorist attack…”
“You’re a terrorist!?”
“N-no!!” she hurriedly denied. “The airport control has passed on information that there is one onboard. If we don’t give in to their demand, the terrorist will use a structural defect in this Sky Bus 365 to cause its landing to fail…In other words, to make it crash.”
“The blood you saw belonged to another crew member. She was suddenly attacked from behind. Most likely by the terrorist.”
“You don’t think I’m the terrorist, do you?”
Kamijou had a very bad feeling about the situation, but it seemed the flight attendant shook her head. However, he couldn’t actually see her head because he was lying face down and she was straddling him.
“I hadn’t thought of that… But I can’t let this information get out to the other passengers. This may be a dangerous situation, but that information would cause a panic if it got out. People could get hurt and it could even provoke the terrorist into attacking.”
She seemed at a loss as to what to do.
Most likely, she had only told him all that because she felt she had owed him for what she had done to him.
She may have completely sealed his movements with her self-defense techniques, but she still felt inferior.
“What are you going to do?”
Before she could continue, help arrived.
Help for her, not for Kamijou.
A large man wearing what looked like a white military uniform arrived. He was most likely the pilot.
The man looked down to where Kamijou was lying and spoke in Japanese.
“…We have to keep him separated from the other passengers.”
“B-but can we really do that? It’s true that we have a duty to ensure the safety of the passengers, but we don’t have the right to confine them.”
The one who was actually holding Kamijou down was the one hesitating.
The pilot, on the other hand, did not waver.
Slight distress flashed on his face, but it didn’t look to be enough alter his opinion.
“Do you really think telling him not to say anything and then sending him back to his seat would be enough? He would surely panic and that would lead to a major panic amid the passengers. …I thought you understood this. You did follow your instructions to keep him restrained.”
“We have no choice but to keep him back here until the situation is resolved. As thanks for his cooperation, we will refund him the cost of the flight. If he still makes a fuss, we’ll just leave it to the airline’s legal department.”
“W-wait a second!!” Kamijou cut in. He was face down on the floor with one arm held behind his back, but he still spoke loudly. “I heard there might be a terrorist onboard. If that’s true, should you really be focusing on this!? Are you sure you can find the guy on your own? You need any extra bit of help you can get, right? So, let me-…!!”
Kamijou’s words were cut off by the pilot clicking his tongue.
He glanced up at the flight attendant and then back down to Kamijou’s face.
“…We’re keeping you confined here so you won’t do something like that.”
“Listen. There are over 500 passengers on this aircraft. The terrorist hiding among them has all of those lives in his grasp. In a situation like this, we can’t have an amateur like you going around as he please causing trouble.”
Kamijou got pissed at what he took as the pilot picking a fight with him, but the pilot continued with some cold words.
“Can you be entrusted with those 500 lives?”
“As the captain of this aircraft, that is my duty. As such, I will take the actions I determine will best protect the lives of everyone onboard even if it gets me fired in the end. Do not say you will help unless you are prepared to take on everything that entails. You cannot take on that responsibility, nor do you have to.”
The pilot gestured to the flight attendant telling her to get off of Kamijou.
He wasn’t having Kamijou released.
He was having him confined elsewhere.
“The in-flight meal heating area here is open, so throw him in there. If this becomes a major incident, all responsibility will lie with me.”
The door closed and Kamijou heard the sound of the lock clicking.
The room had nothing but the microwave ovens and the blood stain in it, so he sat down on one of the metal shelves.
When the pilot had left and the flight attendant was about to throw him into the small room, she had bowed slightly looking apologetic.
“I-I’m very sorry. We have to do this to prevent chaos from breaking out onboard.”
She must have felt that he deserved an explanation of the situation that had led to him being left there.
Kamijou thought back on what the flight attendant had told him.
Apparently, the information that a terrorist was onboard was fairly accurate. The emailed threat the airline had received was as follows:
There is a structural defect in the Sky Bus 365 model of passenger aircraft. We have carried out a few tests and proven it. If you do not destroy the master recorder for the four major British airlines, the defect in the Sky Bus 365 headed from Academy City to Edinburgh will be used to bring it down.
“The master recorder?”
“It’s a computer that provides centralized management for passengers’ flight tickets and luggage tags. Without it, the airlines would grind to a halt. It’s just too much information to deal with by hand.”
It seemed the method the terrorists wanted them to use to destroy the master recorders was to infect them with the computer virus attached to the email.
“Apparently, if a master recorder is infected while connected to the network, its data will be completely destroyed and a log file of the destruction will be posted as a comment on the airline’s blog. If the format of the log were analyzed, a dummy log could be made and the destruction of the master recorders could be faked. However, it seems the logs are encrypted, so the analysis would take a few days.”
She kept saying things like “apparently” and “it seems”, so Kamijou guessed that the flight attendant was inexperienced with that field.
“…What is this structural defect?”
“We don’t know. But the flights mentioned in the email were investigated. They were all Sky Bus 365 models like this one. There was Flight 5991 from Paris to Moscow, Flight 4135 from Neath to New York, and Flight 7558 from Marseille to Beijing. All of them had a 15 second interval where the engines cut out midflight. The parts involved were all disassembled and examined, but no cause was found, so they are still used today.”
Those three flights had been practice runs for the terrorists.
And this was the real deal.
Or at least, that was what the investigators had concluded.
“Then what about that blood? You said another crew member was attacked, right?”
“We don’t know exactly why the terrorist did that. In fact, it isn’t clear what the terrorist has to do to take advantage of this defect. But the attack may have been a necessary part of his plan.”
Kamijou had interpreted the look on her face right before she closed the door as one of weariness.
“…So the terrorists are trying to completely close off the air routes to the UK,” muttered Kamijou while alone in the small room.
The airlines could go along with the demand and destroy the master recorders or they could refuse and have the Sky Bus 365 crash. Either outcome would be a major blow to the British airline industry.
And this was all on top of the sole land route, the Eurotunnel, being destroyed.
(So were the terrorists also involved with that…?)
Kamijou thought for a bit and finally shook his head.
With so little information, an amateur like him wasn’t going to come up with the truth.
He turned his thoughts to having been thrown in the small room.
(That really isn’t how you should treat a customer. That said, taking on responsibility for 500 lives really is a bit much…)
Kamijou’s shoulders relaxed.
He turned his thoughts in a positive direction.
(I hope the next time that door opens it’s good news.)
Starting from the front of the plane, the Sky Bus 365 was divided into first, business, and economy classes. It was further divided into 2 floors effectively creating 6 sections.
The stairs used to go between the first and second floors were located in the “wall” areas dividing the different classes. The “wall” areas were actually over 7 meters thick and had bathrooms, a free drink corner, and other small facilities located in them.
There was a certain hatch located in one of those “wall” areas.
It was a fire door connecting to the cargo hold.
The Sky Bus 365’s cargo hold was a large area a floor below the passenger seating. There was no real need to connect the passenger area and the cargo hold, but having a passage allowed the crew to put out a fire if one were to break out in the cargo hold. That was the purpose behind the emergency hatch.
A man was standing in front of the hatch.
A small electronic tone rejected the man’s action.
He had a card key in his hand.
He had gone out of his way to attack a flight attendant from behind in order to obtain that card key.
The man swiped the card key down through the card reader once more.
But, as he expected, he only got the same rejecting tone as before in response.
(Dammit. I can’t do anything if I can’t get this open…)
Something like a moan leaked from the man’s throat.
He held a black cell phone in his hand. He had the necessary program on it. He just had to attach a cable to the connector on the bottom of the phone and load the necessary program to the Sky Bus 365 in order to complete the preparations to take advantage of the structural defect.
The place he was originally supposed to do that from was an economy class seat. His comrade had reserved the seat under a false name, but a spiky-haired Asian had taken the seat after his comrade’s reservation had been cancelled.
He could always use his physical strength to dislodge the boy, but acting violently could make an enemy of around 100 passengers.
This was his only way now.
In order to carry out a backup plan he had in case things weren’t going according to the main plan, he had to get that hatch open.
(Fuck, fuck, fuck!! I guess a flight attendant just doesn’t have the authority to open the hatch. But everyone of pilot class who have higher authority levels are in the cockpit. If I was just going to charge in there, there was no need for all this roundabout shit with the structural defect.)
Not giving up, the man looked toward the exit from the “wall” area that led to the economy class aisle. If only that spiky-haired Asian hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have had to go through any conspicuous actions like attacking a flight attendant.
(Dammit. This has gotten really bad if it’s come to using what’s in the cargo hold! If only that seat had been empty, this could have gone so well…!!)
He wasn’t there.
Maybe he was using the bathroom, because the spiky-haired boy who had been sitting in that seat was gone. Also, the silver-haired green-eyed girl who seemed to have been with the boy was out of her seat and wandering down the aisle.
(This is my chance.)
This was his last chance to take out the Sky Bus 365 without using what was in the cargo hold.
The man took gloves out of his pocket. If he were to head straight down the aisle, he would run into the silver-haired girl, so he decided it would be best to use the stairs, go down the aisle on the other floor, and approach the seat from behind the girl.
Kamijou Touma wasn’t coming back.
Index had been waiting for the boy to return with the crackers, but she had finally been unable to withstand the hunger and stood up from her seat to go find him.
(Touma might be hogging all the delicious things to himself.)
However, Index’s search had come to an end quickly. She had thought Kamijou had gone straight down the aisle and into the “wall” area. That wasn’t very far away, but she couldn’t find him.
Index looked quizzical and turned back the way she had come.
She then noticed something that made her pause.
Someone else was sitting in Kamijou Touma’s seat.
It was a white man wearing a plain, colored suit. He looked to be in his early twenties and was reasonably tall. He had a newspaper covered in French text spread out in front of him, so Index couldn’t see the lower half of his face making it difficult to get a grasp of what he looked like.
(Maybe he sat in the wrong seat.)
She had a perfect memory, so she knew she wasn’t the one that was mistaken.
As such, she didn’t hesitate to sit in her own seat and speak to the man next to her.
“That’s Touma’s seat.”
The man with the newspaper’s shoulders twitched at hearing her voice.
Looking closer, he was only holding the newspaper with one hand. When she looked at what his other hand was doing, she saw he was holding some kind of black cell phone. The newspaper also obstructed the view of his lap which had what Index thought might be parts of his phone. There was some kind of thin cable and something that looked like nail clippers.
“…Dammit. I can’t even get 120 seconds?” he muttered in French.
Index stared at him in puzzlement and the man took action before she could say anything.
He placed the open newspaper on his legs and casually held his hand out towards her.
He was holding something in that hand.
It was pointed and sharp and he pressed it against Index’s side making sure the other passengers couldn’t see.
“Airport security mainly gets by with metal detectors,” the man said in French. “So it’s surprisingly easy to get something like a knife made of whittled animal bone past them. And it’s enough to pierce an organ or cut an artery.”
The man was making his move in order to keep the witness from moving.
(…This is really bad. The very first step didn’t go right and nothing’s gone as planned since!!)
The man was a step away from being checkmated.
If the girl next to him let out a scream, it was all over. He could kill the girl, but that could just make enemies of all 100 passengers in that economy class section. He was more afraid of getting wrapped in the panic that would cause than of someone attacking him out of a sense of justice. It wasn’t something he could deal with using only a tiny knife.
“…What are you doing?” asked the girl.
The man had no real reason to answer her, but he did so anyway. He was speaking more to himself than to her.
“Loading a program. It’s a program that lets me interfere with the emergency landing stabilizer using the data transmission of this cell phone.”
The man ignored the frowning girl and reached over to the area of the wall just below the window next to his seat. He stretched out a round wire, slid it into a gap in the wall, and then moved it sideways. A straight line appeared on the wall almost as if he had cut it with a knife.
The man stuck his fingernail into that thin line and pulled it towards him. It opened up much like the top of a car’s dashboard. More than 20 cables were inside.
“If they go along with our demand, I won’t have to use this. In fact, I don’t really want to have to…”
His voice trailed off.
The cable extending from the connector on the bottom of his phone was supposed to attach to the maintenance cable inside the wall, but it wasn’t working. There were small cracks running through the connecter the two cables were supposed to use.
The sound of the two pieces of plastic scraping across each other was about to drive him crazy. He wrinkled his brow and occasionally clicked his tongue, but he met the same result no matter how many times he tried.
The cables wouldn’t connect. He couldn’t load the program.
“Oh, that’s the thing Touma had open,” said the girl next to him, but the man wasn’t listening.
“Shit!!” he yelled in French and the nearby passengers glanced in his direction.
He slammed the cover to the open area on the wall closed and quietly stared at the ceiling while still holding the bone knife against the girl.
(What do I do?)
He couldn’t load the program from the economy class seat. He could no longer “negotiate” using the structural defect.
He truly couldn’t use that method.
(…This is the worst case scenario. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that almost half the purpose behind this plan is gone. The only way left is to rely on that…but I don’t want to use it!!)
The man got his feelings under control
He could no longer use the economy class seat, so he had to find a way to open the hatch to the cargo hold. He had to think of a way to get a card key of someone at a higher level than a flight attendant in the remaining time.
And he still had another problem.
There was the girl sitting stiffly next to him.
If he let her go now, she would let those around know about the terrorist attack. He had to silence her somehow.
He had no choice in the matter.
He gulped loudly, put the tools and the phone that were on his lap in his pocket, and instructed the girl while hiding the knife behind the French newspaper.
“Stand up. If you resist at all, I’ll stab you.”
The plan was falling apart.
Not even the man currently in charge of it was able to control the situation anymore.
Kamijou’s head suddenly shot up while he was sitting in the in-flight meal heating space that had numerous microwave ovens lining the walls.
He had suddenly heard what sounded like them from the other side of the door.
And it wasn’t just one set of footsteps.
It was at least two.
Kamijou wondered who they were and then a further noise reached his ears.
It sounded like a whistle.
(…Is that Index’s?)
The blonde flight attendant with a nice body had given her a cheap ball-like toy because she was getting mad about the in-flight meal not arriving. It was probably a type of gift and it made a whistling sound when squeezed.
It didn’t sound like it was being voluntarily squeezed. The sound came at defined intervals as if it were in someone’s pocket and rubbing up against their body as they walked.
If the toy really was a prize given for collecting a certain number of airline points, Index wouldn’t necessarily be the only person with one, but Kamijou still thought of the girl wearing the plain dress.
If it really was Index, who was with her? It was possible she had been captured by the blonde flight attendant with a nice body.
But then another idea suddenly floated to the top of Kamijou’s mind.
The thought was like a splash of cold water to his optimistic view.
(Wait. Would the world really be that kind to us? This could be dangerous.)
He thought back to why he had been thrown into that room in the first place.
(No, that couldn’t be…)
Kamijou rejected the idea, but then the two sets of footsteps stopped.
The whistling noise stopped as well.
He could hear the sound of a door opening.
They were in the “wall” area. No other passengers would be around.
“Get in if you don’t want me to stab you.”
The voice was speaking French, so Kamijou couldn’t understand it.
But the rough male voice clearly wasn’t the voice of crewmember from the service industry.
Kamijou was about to run towards the door yelling, but he would only provoke the criminal and probably wouldn’t break down the door.
The door wasn’t metal, but it didn’t look like a simple tackle would break it. The lock was electronic, so using something like a wire wouldn’t be any help either.
While he thought about all that, a movement was made on the other side of the door.
It seemed the man making the threat and the person he was threatening had entered a different nearby small room.
Kamijou looked around the area and spotted an aluminum cart for the in-flight meals. It was something like a square baby carriage.
He roughly grabbed the cart’s handle and turned it towards the door.
He didn’t even have time to think about how much it would cost to pay for the repairs.
“Ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!” he yelled as he ran forward.
The cart struck the door.
With a loud crash, the front of the aluminum cart was smashed in. However, the door did not escape unscathed. The lock popped off and the door opened as if it had been kicked open. Losing to the momentum, Kamijou and the broken cart continued out into the passageway.
He let go of the cart and looked around.
The “wall” area had a number of small rooms in it, but only one had its door closed.
He grabbed the doorknob and flung the door open.
It was a storage closet for cleaning supplies. A number of mops and a plastic bucket were contained in the small space.
Someone with a familiar face was inside.
It was Index.
She was collapsed face up on the ground and a man Kamijou had never seen before was straddling her. The man had a rubber hose that must have been in the storage closet in his hands and had it wrapped around Index’s thin neck.
(What is he doing?)
Faster than he could think, Kamijou’s hands moved.
The man strangling Index must have been engrossed in his task because he didn’t notice the danger until Kamijou had grabbed the back of his collar.
Kamijou grabbed the man’s suit and forcefully spun his own body around.
The centrifugal force threw the man out of the storage closet. With a crash, he struck the wall without even hitting the ground first.
The oxygen was forced from the man’s lungs and he slid to the ground.
Kamijou ignored that.
Odd shouts that not even he understood were pouring from his throat as he raised a leg and thrust it towards the man’s ribs.
This time, the man managed to avoid the blow.
He rolled to the side.
Possibly as a measure to lighten the plane’s weight due to the high cost of fuel, the inner walls were thin. The bottom of Kamijou’s foot sunk into the wall.
That was when the man swung his arm.
Kamijou felt a hot sensation on the back of his calf.
When he looked down, he saw knife made of animal bone.
Kamijou did not clench his fists.
Instead he grabbed the aluminum bar that had been used as a handle on the broken in-flight meal cart that was sitting at an angle in the passageway.
Kamijou did not hesitate.
The man shrunk back from the obvious blunt weapon Kamijou held.
That was when footsteps reached Kamijou’s ears
The flight attendants must have heard Kamijou breaking down the door.
At that point, it seemed the man decided what he had to do.
He put the blade into his pocket and used the nearby staircase to escape to the other floor. Kamijou wasn’t sure if he should chase after the man, but he decided on heading towards Index who was lying limp in the storage closet.
“Index!!” he yelled into her ear and she moved slightly. There was a dark bruise around her neck, but she didn’t seem to be in any real danger anymore.
Her small mouth moved slightly.
“What? Emergency landing…stabilizer…?”
She spoke words that Kamijou wasn’t used to hearing.
And they were words he would never have expected to hear from someone as bad with machines as Index.
That was when help finally came.
A flight attendant and a large man, the captain of the plane, appeared. Apparently, the terrorist took precedence over all else and he had left the piloting to the copilots.
They looked displeased when they saw the destroyed door to the in-flight meal heating room, but, when they saw Index collapsed on the ground and the cut on Kamijou’s calf, they picked up on the fact that something bad had happened.
Kamijou explained what had happened and then asked them a question.
“What is the emergency landing stabilizer? It’s possible Index heard the terrorist talking about it.”
“…Do you know what a belly landing is?” responded the pilot slowly. “You’ve probably heard it mentioned on the news at times. That’s when a plane lands without deploying its wheels so that it slides along the runway creating showers of sparks. Do you know how dangerous that is?”
“Well…I guess with all those sparks, the fuel tanks could ignite.”
“A passenger plane’s fuel tanks are inside the main wings. They won’t normally ignite from the belly of the plane scraping along the runway.”
“It has to do with the engines. They hang down below the main wings. The Sky Bus 365 model is designed so the engines won’t contact the ground during a belly landing, but the intense vibrations will still be transferred to within the engines. Inside the rotating engine, the already highly flammable jet fuel reacts with the air making something like a bomb. If unstable vibrations reach that area, there is a danger of it all detonating. The fire in the engine can travel down the fuel pipes and reach the tanks on the main wings causing it all to blow up.” The pilot continued to explain the situation to Kamijou. “That is why there is an emergency landing stabilizer in the Sky Bus 365. It automatically detects the shock of a belly landing using sensors and completely shuts down the engines. It also seals off the fuel pipes so a fire in the engines cannot reach the fuel tanks. The plane then heads down the runway purely on inertia and decelerates.”
“It completely shuts down the engines…?” Kamijou had a bad feeling deep in his chest and he expressed it in words. “So if that device were to malfunction now…”
All of them fell silent.
The pilot gave a groan and spoke.
“…I more or less understand the situation now. And that includes that your friend there was injured. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t any help…”
“(Like hell you understand.)” Kamijou muttered under his breath.
The pilot didn’t hear him and continued speaking.
“What’s most important is that you weren’t hurt any worse than you were. But now that passengers have been injured and not just a crewmember, we truly can’t let anyone know about this. If they found out, the other 500 passengers would wish for safety and a panic would break out.”
His calm manner of speaking further pissed Kamijou off.
Even if this wasn’t his problem, Kamijou just couldn’t stand having these things decided for him.
“It isn’t fair to you two, but we’ll have to continue to keep you confined elsewhere. I have a duty to protect the lives of the passengers and, if it’s necessary, I will even-…”
The next thing Kamijou knew, his right hand was moving.
As his fist swung upwards he remembered that he still had the aluminum bar in his hand.
However, he was unable to stop his hand.
With a loud impact, the pilot’s body was knocked backwards.
“…Fuck that,” Kamijou said in a low voice. “What do you mean you’re going to protect the lives of the passengers? It’s because I went along with what you said that it ended up like this! Do you understand what happened!? How the hell can you act so self-important and then not show any regret when you fail!?”
The pilot started to say something while holding his nose, but Kamijou attacked with his blunt weapon again.
“My friend was attacked!! You say you’ll protect the 500 passengers, but you already let one slip through your fingers!! Do you only see people as names on pieces of paperwork! This isn’t the same as protecting complete strangers as a part of your job! I have a right to kick that bastard’s ass. You can do whatever the hell you want, but I’m gonna do this my way!!”
Kamijou looked over at Index who was being held by the blonde flight attendant with a nice body and tossed the bar to the side.
(…Dammit. If I had been a little more on my toes.)
He then headed off into the staircase the man wearing a suit had disappeared into.
“…You piece of shit. I’m going to keep beating you until you pass out.”
Kamijou’s violent words were not like his usual self.
Kamijou was not the only one who wasn’t himself.
“…Ow,” muttered the pilot who had suddenly been hit by the blunt weapon.
He caressed his nose with his fingers and stared off in the direction Kamijou had left in. He slowly moved a hand to the wall where a microphone was. The flight attendants used it to inform the passengers when to put on their seatbelts, but it could also be used to give orders only to the cockpit.
The pilot set it to the channel that only went to the cockpit and spoke in a low voice.
That was the name of one of the 2 copilots.
“Leave the piloting to Richmond. Yes, that’s right. It’s an emergency. You unlock the box and bring Archery here.”
The blonde flight attendant with a nice body looked at the pilot in shock after hearing that.
Archery was the sole weapon on the Sky Bus 365 that was prepared in the cockpit to prevent control of the yoke from being taken. Because of Japan’s Swords and Firearms Control Law, it was a type of bowgun, but it was not constructed much like a bow and arrow nor did it function much like one. When the trigger was pulled, nitrogen gas propelled a metal arrow larger than 40 cm in length at high speed. It was on the level of a hunting rifle.
The pilot gave a snort of contempt at the flight attendant’s dumbfounded gaze.
“…That boy won’t listen to anyone’s orders and he even laid a hand on the captain of this aircraft. He needs to be treated as a dangerous individual. Essentially, we have one more terrorist onboard. I have no intention of letting a kid who has no clue what he is doing run around on this ship.”
The flight attendant shivered at his words.
Archery would be there soon.
Kamijou arrived at the other floor via the stairs and looked around. As it was after sunset, the passenger areas were lit with soft lighting, but the “wall” area he was in was fairly dim.
The man in the suit was nowhere to be seen.
The business class seats were to the front and the economy class seats were to the back.
In both directions, passengers had newspapers spread out, headphones in their ears, were operating the small monitors, or were passing the time some other way.
(…Which way? Which way did he go?)
Kamijou decided to go back to the economy class seats. He knew what the man looked like, but he got the feeling that every one of the people sitting in the seats was camouflaged in some way.
Kamijou did not have a perfect memory like Index.
He felt like the image of the man’s face was about to slip away despite having just seen him.
(If only I could find a way to unsettle him, he’d be easy to find…)
Kamijou clicked his tongue and then froze.
The terrorist wanted to negotiate with the British airlines regarding the destruction of the master recorders. That meant any major event would be a problem for him until the result of the negotiations was clear.
One such major event would be if the plane was about to crash.
Kamijou nodded and headed back to the “wall” area.
(I’ve found a way to unsettle him.)
A high-pitched buzzer reached the man’s ears.
He had gone in the opposite direction than Kamijou and was sitting naturally in his own business class seat. There was nowhere to run in a passenger plane. The best way to escape a pursuer was to mix in with the other passengers.
Sitting there, the electronic tone sounded like it was piercing his chest.
It must have been an emergency alarm because the clear oxygen masks all came down automatically in front of each seat. At first, the passengers stared at them dumbfounded, but then a commotion spread as quickly as fire spreading across hair.
(What? What the hell is going on!?)
The man looked around while gripping his armrests.
(If the oxygen masks are coming out, it means the plane is in trouble… But I haven’t loaded the necessary program yet. I haven’t taken control of the Sky Bus 365’s emergency landing stabilizer yet!!)
The high-pitched buzzer continued.
It may have been because of the passengers panicking around him, but he felt like the plane was shaking oddly.
What if some irregularity had occurred and the plane really was malfunctioning?
(This is bad.)
The man’s…no, his group’s objective was the destruction of the master recorders of the 4 major airlines in the UK. The airlines still hadn’t responded. Even if his group didn’t want it, if the Sky Bus 365 were to crash on its own…
The master recorders wouldn’t be destroyed.
And not just that. The crash would be treated as a mere accident erasing the existence of the terrorist attack altogether.
(Shit, shit, shit! I have to do something!!)
The man stood up from his seat.
He had to do something about the situation, but he had no real way of doing so.
Meanwhile, the pilot was pissed.
He now had the Sky Bus 365’s sole projectile weapon, Archery, and he grabbed the microphone on the wall while frowning in response to the high-pitched buzzer.
The line was connected only to the cockpit.
“What the hell is going on!? You didn’t suddenly lower our altitude did you!?”
“N-no. The aircraft is balanced. This isn’t an automatic alarm from one of the instruments. It’s an alarm from one of the switches.”
“Those damn terrorists!!” he yelled while holding Archery.
It seemed he had lost all sense that Kamijou Touma was a passenger and was thinking of him solely as a terrorist.
“If they’re going to just do whatever they want with my aircraft, then I have an idea… Hey, Richmond!! Cut off that alarm! If we know it isn’t a problem with the instruments, then hurry up and run the automatic announcement! The one that says it was a false alarm and there’s nothing to worry about!!”
After yelling into it, the pilot threw the microphone to the floor and lifted up Archery. That Asian had taken the stairs to the other floor. Even thought it was large, the Sky Bus 365 was still a passenger plane, so he would be able to find the boy soon enough if he searched carefully.
“Dammit. I’ll stop those fools even if I have to shoot their arms and legs to do it,” he spat out and headed for the staircase.
The voice of the copilot came from the tiny speaker on the microphone he had thrown to the floor.
The microphone was supposed to be held up near one’s face, so the fact that the pilot could hear the copilot from the floor showed how loudly he was yelling.
“What? Did they do something else!?”
“I don’t know!” yelled the copilot in response. “J-just come back to the cockpit, please! I can’t deal with this alone…Dammit. What’s going on? What the hell is going on? Th-the fuel meter!! It’s going down oddly! I think there might be a hole in the tank!!”
The pilot felt a cold tension wrap around his gut.
That wasn’t something one could do just by hitting an alarm on the wall. Could it have something to do with the emergency landing stabilizer?
(…What the hell is going on?)
He was holding Archery in his hands and he could most likely kill an unarmed opponent with it. He was conflicted about whether he should go after the terrorists or return to the cockpit.
“Captain, what do I do!? We aren’t going to make it to the airport at this rate! We may even need to prepare for an emergency landing on a highway!!”
With that last report from the copilot, the pilot had made up his mind.
Instead of heading for the staircase, he headed full speed for the cockpit along with the copilot who had brought him Archery.
There was a church known as St. George’s Cathedral in the London Borough of Lambeth.
St. George was a well-known name, so a lot of schools, hospitals, parks, churches, and other facilities used it. There were numerous churches named St. George’s Cathedral in London. This was just one of those.
A church at nighttime usually had a cold and solemn atmosphere created by the flickering light of candles and the moonlight tinted through the stained glass, but that was not so here. There were a number of monitors set up on the pulpit and the pews and square box-shaped pieces of communication equipment with cables spreading out from them were lying on the floor. All this equipment had been provided for them by the headquarters of the science side, Academy City, due to their cooperation. The light of LCD monitors and LEDs disturbed the soft darkness of the church.
A large number of nuns were attempting to operate those unfamiliar machines and running about in confusion while two figures sat calmly in a seat.
One of them was the head of the Anglican Church faction, Archbishop Laura Stewart.
The other was the head of the Knight faction, Knight Leader.
In contrast to Laura’s soft expression, Knight Leader’s was stern.
“In the end, the head of the Royal Family didn’t show up. And I feel not having the three factions gather to have a discussion is setting a bad example.”
“…Her Majesty the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family control the police, parliament, and a number of other related agencies and they are taking the needed effort to keep them running. She simply does not have time to come to a place like this.”
Laura sighed in response to those words.
There was a clear relationship of power in the three factions of the United Kingdom.
The Royal Family faction had power over the Knight faction.
The Knight faction had power over the Anglican Church faction.
The Anglican Church faction had power over the Royal Family faction.
That was why each of them sent representatives to parliament in order to be able to declare their equivalence. If the Royal Family weakened, various things would get more difficult for Laura and the Church. She cursed the Queen internally wondering if she had purposefully run off.
Knight Leader did not realize Laura’s concern and continued speaking.
“…What’s important now is that the illusion you cast seems to have begun to take effect.”
“Heh hehhn. It’s true that completely taking remote control of a huge collection of science like a passenger plane is difficult, but using an illusion to show one false readout is simple.”
“So you messed with the cockpit’s fuel gauge,” Knight Leader said as he glanced over at a computer set up in the cathedral.
A number of LCD monitors and meters were surrounding their two chairs. It was a training simulator identical to the cockpit of the Sky Bus 365. Apparently, it was being used to “aim” the illusion.
“They must be panicking on board right now. The gauge is going down so fast they must think there’s a hole in the fuel tank. They will think there is no way they can make it to the airport.”
“I see. So they will make an emergency landing on a country highway without many buildings around instead of at the airport.” Knight Leaders’ eyebrows twitched slightly out of displeasure. “It’s true that the report said the terrorists themselves were not planning on bringing the plane down immediately, but we still don’t know what the defect in the passenger plane they spoke of is. An emergency landing will be quite difficult. If something goes wrong, this could be very bad.”
“Oh? Would you prefer to let it explode in a large city, in a residential area, on the runway of the international airport, or next to the control building for the airport? In the worst case, the number of victims could be many times the number of passengers.”
Knight Leader remained silent for a brief period.
Laura grabbed a nun walking nearby with a report and asked her a question.
“What roads might they perform their emergency landing on?”
“They will most likely land in the area between Kendal and Carlisle on the highway leading to Scotland.”
Laura snapped her fingers.
Knight Leader scowled.
“…What was that a signal for?”
“Blockading that area of the highway and all roads leading into it. We also need some equipment to help deal with the terrorist. I was thinking the Knights’ Robin Hood would work well.”
“So a schemer who deceives people with the church is trying to order around the Knights, the defenders of this country.”
“I’d prefer it if you would accept the job when I’m willing to give you credit for it. According to the report, the terrorist isn’t a magician and he doesn’t seem to be carrying a gun or a bomb. If the plane manages to land safely, I doubt you'd even be able to control the over 500 people onboard. I’m handing you a nice easy job to help you get more experience.”
“Ridiculous,” spat out Knight Leader. “You can rush this if you want, but what are you going to do if the plane comes apart in midair?”
“In that case, we will recover Index Librorum Prohibitorum from onboard. There’s always the spell used when we captured Lidvia Lorenzetti as she was trying to escape on the charter plane. Even if the plane explodes in midair, we can catch someone from the ground as long as its only one person.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I believe that you should have an early death.”
The man felt the plane suddenly tilt.
The nose of the plane was tilted down which meant it was quickly lowering its altitude.
(An emergency landing? Not good!!)
The man was after the destruction of the master recorders. If the plane performed an emergency landing before the UK had decided whether to go along with their demands or not, the “negotiations” could not continue.
And traditionally a passenger plane that performed an emergency landing ended up being surrounded by the police. The man had heard rumors that the thin walls and windows used in planes weren’t just a method of lowering the weight to use less fuel; they were also so that a large rifle could successfully fire through them and into the plane.
A British airport or highway was enemy territory.
If the plane landed at that point, it would ruin everything.
The man ran forward through the business class area. He thought of heading straight through first class and attacking the cockpit, but he stopped partway there. The cockpit door would be built the toughest to prevent terrorist attacks. It wasn’t something he could break through without a plan.
As he did all this, the plane continued to lower its altitude.
The man felt the same odd floating sensation one felt when riding an elevator.
“I have to…I have to do something…” he mumbled to himself and entered the “wall” area between business class and first class. Just like the other “wall” area, there was a microphone on the wall for the flight attendants.
He grabbed it.
With his trembling hands, he switched it to the channel that contacted the cockpit directly and started yelling into it in French.
“Stop the emergency landing!! I’m going to bring this plane down right now!!”
He heard someone’s breath catch on the other side of the connection.
The person must not have known how to react to the sudden threat.
The man continued yelling.
“I have control of the Sky Bus 365’s structural defect. I can bring it down at any time! If you don’t want all 500 people onboard to die, then take us back up to the proper altitude!!”
That was a complete bluff. The economy class seat was unusable and he had to get the hatch to the cargo hold open in order to go with the backup plan. However, he did not hesitate to lie.
“I can’t do that.”
The man had not expected that response.
The strained voice on the other end of the line was responding clearly.
“For some reason, the fuel gauge is dropping rapidly. We’re most likely leaking fuel. At this rate, we won’t make it to the Edinburgh airport. We can’t turn back for London either! Not to mention that the entire engine could explode if the fuel catches fire!!”
All of that didn’t matter.
The man didn’t care if the plane blew up.
To him, it only mattered that it ended as a terrorist attack.
“Dammit, I’ll fucking kill all of you! Okay, you have 3 minutes. If you don’t take us back to the proper altitude in 3 minutes, I’ll start killing the passengers one by one!!”
“Do you understand the situation here!?”
The last response was almost a shriek and the man drowned it out with his own confused voice.
“You’re the one that doesn’t understand! I have the passenger’s lives in my hands!! I have over 500 hostages. Even if I kill half of them, I’ll still have plenty left!! Don’t forget that!”
Having said what he had to say, the man put the microphone back on the wall as if he were striking the wall with it. He then sank down and sat on the floor.
He reached for the bone knife in his pocket.
Would they go back up or continue going down?
His teeth chattered as he put all his focus on the angle of the plane.
Archbishop Laura Stewart frowned within St. George’s Cathedral.
“…How very odd.”
“What?” responded Knight Leader.
Laura wasn’t looking at a monitor; she was looking at a whiteboard to the side. A map of the UK was stuck to it with a few round magnets, but a lone magnet was moving across the map.
“The passenger plane is raising its altitude. It looks as if they have cancelled the emergency landing.”
“Did you order for the illusion to be removed?”
Laura started muttering as if to herself.
“I wouldn’t remove the illusion until they had landed on the highway. And yet the long distance illusion lost its effect. This is…”
“Archbishop! Emergency!!” said a young Anglican nun who was running over. “We have discovered large scale interference coming from the direction of Scotland. Our illusion was sealed by a third party!! The fuel gauge has gone back to normal!!”
Laura’s eyebrows twisted in displeasure for the first time that night.
(Who? And for what purpose…?)
Obviously, this was magical interference. However, the terrorists were confirmed to be mere criminals with no connection to magic. It seemed unlikely that there would be any magicians helping them.
“From Scotland… The interference is coming from within the UK.”
Knight Leader’s expression turned to one much more easily understood than Laura’s.
It was an expression of anger.
“When did French magicians get into the country? Or has a British magic cabal betrayed us? Either way, this is your mistake, Archbishop. I thought you were using the full power of the Anglican Church in order to avoid this kind of trouble before it happened.”
“…I know that.”
There was definitely a violent fury within Laura Stewart that was not shown in her expression. She spoke to express her emotion.
“There’s something more to this than some delinquents who like flashy things.”
Laura snapped her fingers.
Immediately thereafter, an orange point of light appeared behind her. It was the lit tip of a cigarette. Laura spoke to the magician who was holding the cigarette in his mouth.
“Just in case, I’d like for you to make preparations regarding the Sky Bus 365. What do you need?”
“Let’s see,” said the red-haired priest quietly as he exhaled smoke. “I’ll need a means of transport. The Knights control the military forces, so could you have them contact the Air Force?”
The man raised his head.
The plane’s angle had changed. In the reverse of before, the nose was now angled up.
They were going back up to a higher altitude.
(I stopped…the emergency landing?)
The man looked around while breathing erratically.
They must have done something in the cockpit, because the high-pitched buzzer had stopped. Automatic announcements in different languages were informing the passengers that it had been a false alarm and not to worry.
(Did it all…work out?)
In the “wall” area between business class and first class, the man finally relaxed. The plan for the terrorist attack was still stalled, but he hadn’t completely failed. If he could figure out a way to get the hatch to the cargo hold open, he could turn things around.
That was when…
“So there you are.”
The man turned in shock towards the sudden voice.
The spiky-haired Asian was standing in the entrance to the business class area.
Kamijou Touma didn’t completely understand the situation.
He had hit the emergency alarm, but he hadn’t done anything to cause the plane’s rapid descent. He assumed the pilots must have done something.
After causing enough chaos to unsettle the terrorist, Kamijou had looked around for someone taking any irregular actions.
And he had found him.
He was in the “wall” area between business class and first class.
The man had been holding a microphone and yelling towards the cockpit.
The man stared blankly at Kamijou’s face for a few seconds.
He then reached for his pocket.
His bone knife was most likely there.
The carefully carved knife was sharp enough to sever an artery or pierce an organ and a metal detector wouldn’t pick it up.
That was why Kamijou made his move before the man could get his hand out from his pocket.
He quickly moved in close to the man and used his palm to forcefully press against the man’s elbow that was bent in order to retrieve the knife.
Seeing the movement of his own arm from the push, the man’s body stiffened.
Kamijou spoke to the man not particularly caring whether he knew Japanese or not.
“Do you really want to be stabbed by your own blade?”
A cold sweat came over the man and he spun his body in order to shake off Kamijou’s arm. But before he could, Kamijou swung his own head back and then forcefully struck the man’s forehead with it.
After a loud impact, the man staggered back.
Kamijou kneed the man in the gut to close the gap that had opened between them.
The man’s body hovered in the air for a second before collapsing to the ground. Kamijou started in for another attack, but…
The man reached into his suit pocket and gave a slight smile.
“No complaints, right?”
Kamijou did not understand French, but he got from the tone that they were words of triumph.
Before Kamijou could move, the man pulled the knife from his pocket.
No matter how one thought about it, someone with a knife had an advantage over someone who was unarmed. Even if they struck each other at the same time, the man would only get punched while Kamijou would get stabbed in the gut and die.
…Or so it should have been.
The bone knife had broken in two at the base when Kamijou had kneed the man.
The man stared at the base of the knife he was holding until he suddenly realized something and looked up.
He did so just in time to see Kamijou Touma slowly approaching with his fist clenched as hard as stone.
Kamijou spoke in Japanese knowing that the man probably couldn’t understand him.
“No complaints, right?”
The sound of repeated blows could be heard.
On this occasion, Kamijou Touma did not feel that one punch was enough.
The terrorist lay on the ground in a small room in the “wall” area between business class and first class having been tied up by Kamijou.
The rapid lowering of the fuel gauge seemed to have been a misreading by the pilots, so it didn’t seem to be a problem. (The captain appeared to be in a bad mood and unwilling to speak to Kamijou, so the blonde flight attendant with a nice body had relayed that information to him.) They had stopped the emergency landing, raised their altitude, and were headed to the Edinburgh airport as originally planned.
Kamijou was worried about Index because the man had strangled her, but she had a different outlook.
“Beef or fish! Beef or fish! If the problem is solved, then all that’s left is to eat the airplane food!!”
“…Index-san. That’s a rather peaceful comment for someone who was threatened with a knife and then strangled to the point of leaving a dark bruise.”
Everything should have been going fine by that point.
“What is it, Touma?”
Something didn’t fit. He had this odd feeling like having lost a piece of a jigsaw puzzle before he could complete the picture.
“Why did that guy choose this time for his terrorist attack?”
“Well, it seems he was from an anti-England group, so didn’t he just want to cause a problem in British airspace?”
The flight attendant had a suspicious look on her face. It may have been because she didn’t want Kamijou moving around anymore. But Kamijou spoke as he thought.
“But it seemed he was afraid of the plane performing an emergency landing within the UK and bringing the negotiations to an end. …If he had hurried up and made his move, there would have been much more time for the negotiations. Then they could have done all sorts of things to disturb the UK into giving in.”
“Either way, he’s been captured. You don’t have to worry about it.”
During all this, the flight attendant was also trying to pacify Index who was still yelling “Beef or fish!!”
(Am I over thinking this? If he had hijacked the plane early on, the pilot could have landed the plane at an airport in whatever country they were above at the time. But…)
Kamijou slowly paced around as he thought.
(Hypothetically, if there were a reason he had to wait and act when he did, what could that reason be? If the plan was just to send the emailed threat to the British airlines and have them destroy the master recorders as instructed, there would be no reason it had to be done over British airspace. Wherever the plane crashed, it wouldn’t have changed that a flight headed for the UK had been attacked.)
And it was clear this wasn’t something the terrorists was making up on the fly. They had made sure to test their control of the emergency landing stabilizer by stopping the engines of other flights for 15 seconds.
If they had simulated their plan again and again, surely they would have come up with ways to deal with every situation they could think of. Would their plan really end because the man onboard couldn’t use the emergency landing stabilizer?
There had to be something.
Was there some kind of secondary plan that acted as insurance?
(…There had to be a reason why he waited until the last hour of a 10 hour flight to make his move.)
The only special thing that had happened in that time was…
(Oh, I see. We stopped at the Paris airport and loaded on extra cargo!!)
Kamijou finally stopped pacing.
He spoke to Index and the flight attendant who both had puzzled looks on their faces.
“…There’s another one.”
“The cargo hold!! He waited until we had taken on the cargo at the Paris airport to make his move. Now why would he do that? It has to be because he was waiting for a partner to enter the Sky Bus 365 hidden in the cargo!!”
Index and the flight attendant looked startled at Kamijou’s words.
“Someone who enters the plane as a normal passenger can’t bring weapons aboard, but his partner got onboard with the containers. If a problem occurred and their first plan couldn’t be carried out, he could just open the hatch that can only be opened from this side and move to the second plan.”
“So the reason he didn’t attack for the first 9 hours of the flight was that he was waiting to meet up with his partner in France? That’s why he waited until the containers had been loaded before making his move?”
“If so, things could get bad if we don’t do anything,” Kamijou said as he tapped the floor with the soles of his shoes. “This person got into the cargo hold without going through a normal checkpoint. The guy in the cargo hold is most likely armed with guns or a bomb. Once he figures out their plan failed, he may use that firepower to take everyone down with them.”
The passenger plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters, so the air was quite thin. It would be difficult for a human to breathe. Because of that, passenger planes artificially regulated the air pressure to make it more comfortable for humans. It was much like putting air in a balloon.
A bullet could easily open a hole in the body of the balloon-like plane. Once that happened, it was all over. The air would all move to escape the plane at once, so a small hole could still cause quite a bit of damage.
“…Is that the only entrance to the cargo hold?”
“Y-yes. A copilot-level or higher card key is needed to unlock it.”
The flight attendant must not have known much about the cargo hold because her expression looked doubtful as she responded.
“A card key, huh? …It’ll probably be difficult to get that pilot to help.”
The pilot did have Archery, but Kamijou doubted he would lend him that projectile weapon. Kamijou had managed to restore his honor by defeating the terrorist, but he doubted the pilot had gotten over his personal feelings towards Kamijou.
The flight attendant then spoke.
“…The captain may not help, but I may be able to get a card key from one of the copilots.”
“Of course, there’s no way I would be able to get Archery.”
The flight attendant sounded apologetic about that, but Kamijou was just glad that he could get the hatch to the cargo hold open.
“Also, the cargo hold is divided into 3 blocks. The cargo taken on in France is all in the center block.”
The odds were good the that terrorist would be there.
But there was only one entrance.
“…Immediately after the door is opened will be the most dangerous point.”
“But there’s no other way in,” the flight attendant said hesitantly.
“Wait. Could I use the ventilation ducts?”
“That won’t work like it does in the movies. The ducts in the Sky Bus 365 are only 30 cm wide. There’s simply no way a human could fit in there.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“What do you mean, Touma?”
Kamijou responded to the flight attendant and Index who were staring at him blankly.
“There were bottles of coffee and tea at the free drink corner, right? Get me those. If they’re cold, reheat them in the microwave. I just need them to be really, really hot.”
A number of square containers were lined up in the cargo hold.
These containers were not the long ones that were loaded on tankers in harbors. They were dice-like cubes with 2 meter edges. Also, they were made of light aluminum instead of iron. The airline’s logo was displayed on their silver surfaces.
One of those containers was sitting open and a man was leaning up against its side.
His name was Eiker Lugoni.
He was wearing the work uniform of Paris’s international airport and had a new handgun in his hand. The bag at this feet contained grenades, plastic explosives, and other explosives. However, those explosives were only for the worst case scenario.
If possible, he didn’t want to use any conventional weapons.
For this plan, Eiker and the others had received information and shelter from a number of other organizations that had been willing to cooperate. The deal had been to teach the organizations what they knew in exchange for help hijacking a plane without using any real weapons.
If they failed to use the emergency landing stabilizer for their new type of terrorism, they would end up being treated as a joke.
Yet there seemed to be no signs of the primary plan having succeeded.
Most likely, the “negotiations” using the Sky Bus 365 had failed. The UK wasn’t going to go along with their demands now because they couldn’t damage them anymore.
The time for the 2nd plan – the worst case scenario – was approaching.
(…I suppose it’s about time.)
In the dim cargo hold, Eiker looked down at the watch on his thick wrist. The plane would be arriving in Edinburgh soon and there was still no sign of Musset, his partner who was supposed to be in the passenger area, having made his move. Whether he had lost his nerve or screwed it up somehow, it didn’t feel like the plan was going well.
At the very least, Eiker wanted to take down that plane.
Using the explosives he had, he might be able to destroy the hatch, but he wasn’t going to do anything so indirect.
Eiker decided to wait 5 more minutes, and, if nothing had happened, he would attack the cargo bay door. If a hole was opened in that outer wall, the power of the air rushing out would destroy the Sky Bus 365. Eiker and Musset would be treated as jokes for not getting the proper results, but it was better than not getting any results at all.
That was when he heard what sounded like a metal sheet being dented. And he didn’t hear it just once. He heard it multiple times.
He looked around to find the source of the noise and finally looked up.
The noise was coming from there. There was a duct stretching across the ceiling. One of the metal sheets making up the duct was bent in multiple places as if something were moving down it bit by bit.
(…You’ve gotta be kidding me… Is this an attempt at a surprise attack?)
It was a common scene in movies, but the ducts in the Sky Bus 365 were simply too small and thin for a human to pass through. It was true that coming in through the sole entrance would be suicide, but getting trapped and unable to move in the narrow duct would be just as stupid.
Eiker pointed his handgun above his head.
He heard the denting noise once more.
He carefully aimed and fired repeatedly into the bent spot.
Perhaps to help with the high cost of fuel, the walls of the duct were extremely thin. The bullets easily opened finger-tip sized holes in the duct and a hot liquid spilled out.
That’s right: A hot liquid.
But it was too hot to be human blood.
The stabbing pain felt as strong as if he had touched sulfuric acid. He could tell what the light red liquid was from the smell. It was tea. He was covered in the boiling liquid that was even then giving off steam.
Because of this, Eiker did not notice that Kamijou had entered the cargo hold matching the opening and closing of the hatch with the gunshots so as to hide the noise.
“Hey, terrorist. Do you know about thermal expansion?”
When objects were heated, their volume changed. An easy-to-understand example was the denting noise made when boiling water was poured into a stainless steel sink. Kamijou had poured the tea down the duct to distract Eiker.
Eiker unhesitatingly turned his gun towards the voice that had spoken to him.
But before he could, Kamijou threw the contents of the bucket he was holding in both hands at Eiker as if he were putting out a fire in the kitchen.
The contents had been boiling coffee.
What happens to someone who has that poured over them needs no explanation.
Eiker screamed and writhed around and Kamijou smiled as he threw the empty bucket aside. He lightly kicked the handgun Eiker had dropped and it sank into the puddle of boiling coffee.
But Eiker did not stop there.
While still screaming, he grabbed Kamijou’s collar with both hands and lifted him up. Kamijou had just enough time to shudder at the feeling of his feet floating in the air when Eiker slammed him to the floor. With a loud impact, a shock ran up Kamijou’s back and the breath was knocked from his lungs.
Kamijou couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t have time to even have a proper coughing fit.
Eiker brought his hand to the back of his hip and pulled out a large knife.
Eiker swung the knife down directly for Kamijou’s face and Kamijou swung just his head forcefully to the side. A high-pitched noise resounded from just next to his ear. It seemed about half the knife had broken off when it struck the floor, but Eiker brought it down for a second strike regardless.
Kamijou reached his hand toward the ground.
He grabbed the broken portion of the blade with his fingers and stabbed into Eiker’s thigh as he knelt over him.
Eiker let out another scream.
Eiker staggered to the side and Kamijou rolled in the opposite direction in an attempt to get some distance between them.
But he soon realized that had been a mistake.
Eiker was now kneeling on one knee next to the puddle of coffee. And sunk in the center of the puddle that was still giving off steam was the handgun Kamijou had kicked over there.
Eiker did not hesitate to grab it.
Handguns were made of many different substances, but the one Eiker had was made of stainless steel. This meant it was a good conductor of heat. As the gun was immersed in the boiling liquid, it would be extremely hot, but Eiker still grabbed it. His expression was one of rage.
“…I will bring down this plane.” Eiker was covered in burns and he spoke to Kamijou in Japanese probably to match the language Kamijou had spoken to him in. “The Eurotunnel explosion damaged France greatly. That’s why we have to cause the same amount of damage to them. They took out the land route, so we’ll take out the air route!!”
“There’s no proof England did that.”
There were a number of containers in the area. There might have been something Kamijou could use as a weapon in one of them, but Eiker wouldn’t give him a chance to open them up and check.
“An island country like England had no reason to destroy their sole land route!! If they did that, they would only be damaging themselves. In fact, they're suffering because of it now!!”
“That isn’t necessarily true,” said Eiker while the scorching handgun was more or less fusing his palm. “At one point in the past, construction of the Eurotunnel was stopped due to military and political problems. That tunnel is an important land route between France and England, but there are still people who refuse to accept it and would sever the connection.”
“As a sign of our friendship with England, we allowed joint management of the Eurotunnel. And yet they cut off that connection from their own side!!”
“…Do you have any proof of that?” asked Kamijou cautiously. “Is either side really at fault here? Is there really any reason to fight over this!? A flight attendant told me what is in these containers. It’s liquid foods for people who can’t eat normal food. A French food company makes it and its being brought over to save people in England!! Isn’t that the real connection between England and France? Most people in the world aren’t part of crazy conspiracies like you are!!”
“It’s true that not everyone in England is at fault, but there are idiots everywhere. I’m not going to let those idiots get away just because they hide among the innocent people.”
As Eiker spoke, he gathered strength in the finger holding the handgun’s trigger.
His senses must have numbed, because he was smiling.
“Whatever happens, you will die here, so it isn’t a problem you need to worry about.”
“…You’re going to shoot that gun that was submerged in coffee?”
“Guns these days can still fire after being sunk in mud for half an hour. I highly doubt getting it a little wet is going to stop the bullet from firing. But I suppose a Japanese boy can’t be blamed for not knowing anything about guns.”
After speaking, Eiker immediately pulled the trigger.
Kamijou instinctually started to shut his eyes, but he just barely managed to keep them open.
The gun made a clicking noise, but that was it. No bullet came shooting from the barrel.
This was not due to the safety being on nor was it due to being out of ammo.
Eiker stood dumbfounded pulled the trigger a second and third time while Kamijou clenched his right fist.
“Do you know about thermal expansion?”
Instead of waiting for a response, Kamijou let his fist fly. A dull sensation spread from Eiker’s face to the rest of his body. But he still did not collapse. Kamijou then clenched his left fist.
“It was just like with the duct before. When objects are heated, their volume changes!”
His left fist flew.
Eiker’s head swung back from the impact.
“It’s the same with the gun parts! One or two small parts warped while the gun was submerged in the boiling liquid!!”
Kamijou struck with his right fist again and this time Eiker was taken down.
Kamijou exhaled deeply.
Guns worked by detonating gunpowder which created a small blast that propelled the bullet. Guns would heat up if 100 or 200 shots were fired in a row, so they were made to withstand heat fairly well. But that could then become a weakness in places where the gun wouldn’t heat up while being fired normally.
(…Really it was a bit of a gamble whether the gun would actually fail or not. You could almost say I was fortunate…No, I was well within the misfortune category by running into the terrorists in the first place.)
In any case, he concluded that, unless a third terrorist appeared out of nowhere, the Sky Bus 365 was safe.
Kamijou finally relaxed.
But then he heard a noise.
He looked over and saw Eiker quietly standing back up. At his feet was a bag. He was pulling a grenade from the bag.
Kamijou hurriedly moved to grab Eiker’s arms, but Eiker was faster. With a huge smile on his face, he held the grenade in one hand and reached for the pin with the other.
At that rate, it was going to detonate.
Kamijou had nowhere to run in the confined space. It was most likely an anti-personnel grenade, but it would still damage the outer wall of the Sky Bus 365. If that happened, it was all over. The passenger plane would go down.
That was when Kamijou heard a sudden voice.
“I see you’re as much of an amateur as ever. Your hesitation to kill puts those around you at risk.”
Kamijou recognized the male voice.
Eiker frowned at the odd turn of events, but nothing was stopping him from pulling the pin.
The pilot noticed a slight noise while he was in the cockpit gripping the yoke. He looked over at the radar and saw an odd dot. He then moved his gaze out the window and his shoulders jumped in surprise.
A large pitch black transport plane that must have had stealth functionality was flying very close nearby.
It was only about 10 meters away. It was much like an aerial refueling, but that was something that only worked with small fighter jets. With two large aircrafts each 80 meters long, it went beyond the realm of acrobatics and into the realm of suicide.
The blonde flight attendant with a nice body was shocked when she looked out the window while walking down a business class aisle. The back of a transport plane was opening and something was scattering out from it. She didn’t know what the confetti-like objects being scattered at high altitude were, but she innocently thought it was a beautiful sight.
Index was in front of the hatch connecting to the cargo hold waiting for Kamijou to return. The commotion people were causing drew her eyes to a window and what she saw there astonished her. The knowledge she had from 103,000 grimoires told her that the confetti-like objects were rune cards.
And then something unusual happened at the cargo hold wall near Eiker.
Something orange erupted from the wall. It was a sword. The sword made of flames pierced the outer wall of the passenger plane and arrived inside.
The flame sword singed Eiker’s clothes, but it did not damage his flesh.
Then the controller of the sword drew it back regardless of whether the result would be good or bad.
Immediately afterwards, a large wind started blowing.
All the air in the cargo hold started moving towards the hole near Eiker.
Of course, the first one affected was Eiker.
Eiker’s body was thrown against the wall almost like a violently slammed door. His abdomen was sucked into the hole. The Sky Bus 365 avoided being torn to pieces by the plug known as Eiker.
“Gggggaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!?” Eiker screamed as his flesh continued to be sucked into the hole.
His flesh was almost literally being torn away.
Seeing this ridiculous scene, Kamijou heard only the flame magician’s voice.
“The plane will be landing in Edinburgh in 10 minutes. Let’s see if he can survive that long. Whether I like it or not, you bear the title of that girl’s manager, so I’d like for you to show me your resolve.”
Having said what he had to say, the transmitted voice suddenly cut off.
Kamijou stared blankly for a bit, but then he realized Eiker still had the grenade in his hand as he screamed. He was attempting to pull the pin while he was almost foaming at the mouth.
Kamijou knocked the grenade away with a hand and it rolled a good distance away amusingly easily.
Eiker had now lost his last piece of resistance and Kamijou spoke to him with a smile.
“Hang in there.”
The person behind it all saw the news on TV.
The Sky Bus 365 had landed in the Edinburgh airport in Scotland. According to the news, the plane had been in trouble at one point, but the passengers and crew worked together to resolve the problem. While watching that cheerful news, the person behind it all looked over various documents.
The piece of information this person was bothered by was the transport plane.
A single Royal Air Force transport plane had been borrowed to resolve the problem.
It had been a stealth transport plane that used technology borrowed from Academy City. It had an extremely small radar cross-section.
The person sighed.
(The country of England is at its limit.)
The person was discouraged by the fact that Academy City technology had been necessary to solve such a small problem. Could it really be turned into a strong country in that state? A war between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church was just an empty dream. …At the very least, people who had to borrow the power of others to fight couldn’t be the leaders.
The person behind it all turned off the TV, gathered up the documents, and put them in order while quietly thinking.
(It looks like we really do have to make our move.)
Between the lines 2
This makes the second time you’ve saved me, doesn’t it?
That’s right. I thought I had safely escaped the land under control of the Russian Orthodox Church, but then they joined forces with the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks to that, the Russians managed to extend their reach to the Roman Catholic land of France. I was in quite a pinch. This kind of chase scene is tough for this old man’s body to bear.
We had finally managed to reorganize the organization and change its name, but thanks to you the Astrological Surgery Brigade is quite popular.
Anyway, I’m going to at least thank you this time. Last time…well, we were a bit desperate just looking after ourselves and then you disappeared without a word. I regret not thanking you.
Yes, yes. As long as you rely on us, that’s enough.
I suppose what you need is…a weapon.
But what kind of situation lead to you losing your weapon? …I probably shouldn’t ask. Hey, don’t glare at me like that. I just imagine it was something pretty bad.
Anyway, I’ve got a pretty nice collection of weapons. Now that we’re free of the shackles of Russia, I’ve been going all over the world. I’ve been finding, gathering, and making a business out of weapons new and old from all over the world. I even have some of those monstrously sized ones you like so much, but they’re pretty rare.
I can bring some out so you can test them out.
You say you’ll end up destroying the weapon? Y’know, I’m not going to bring out some piece of crap when I’m trying to repay a debt. I’m going to show you my best, not something cheap. I’ll show you some true swords. They go beyond having left their mark on history; they can still very well make new marks on history.
…Wait, don’t go yet. Since my terrible introduction was so easily destroyed, I suppose this isn’t my place. Just come here. I’ll lead you to my number one weapon that I was reluctant to bring out until now.
Ahn? I’m not putting on airs of importance. This just isn’t something I can bring out on my own. I could move it using heavy machinery, but it would just be faster for you to do it.
This way. This way.
Yes, yes. On the back there. Remove the ropes and the cloth.
I may be biased, but isn’t it amazing?
It’s the Holy Sword Ascalon.
Ha ha. Don’t look so puzzled. I know, I know. In the real legend, there’s no sword with that name. This is a spiritual item created by an artist at the end of the 16th century based on the legend of the holy sword. It was created on the idea of calculating out what precisely would be needed to slay the 50 foot long dragon from the legend if it had actually existed. This is a true monster-slaying weapon.
It’s a mass of steel that weighs 200 kilograms and is 3.5 meters long.
A certain author wrote that it was a one-handed falchion, but when a holy sword that could actually slay a dragon was created, it ended up being so ridiculously huge.
Take it. There’s no one it suits better than you.
You must have it tough, too.
When you saved the “former” Astrological Surgery Brigade, it was supposed to have been nothing more than an irregular happening. You were never supposed to come into contact with us in the first place, and now you’re asking us to supply you with a weapon. It looks to me like you’re rushing to prepare for battle.
Well, I’m sure you’ll go off to fight no matter what I say. And I won’t try to stop you. But there’s one thing I’d like to give you before you go. It’s something I was given by a certain artisan who lives in England. Just like me, he seems to be someone who couldn’t easily forget you after you suddenly disappeared. It seems you said to dispose of the plans, but that old man finished it in secret.
Ha ha. You don’t have to scowl that much at the sight of it.
Even if there were various circumstances surrounding it, you were the one that hired him to make it, right?
It’s your heraldry, after all.