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This is the translation of the first Full Metal Panic novel, Fighting boy meets girl. This is a Spanish to English translation, the source novel being the one translated in Spanish by Menudo-Fansub. I would like to thank them for allowing me to take the novel and translate it, especially to Kapia (a wonderful girl, who also helps me translating the hard parts, and recently she accepted to be the second corrector) and Captain_spiff, the ones who translated and corrected the Spanish novel. My thanks also go to Hotaru, my corrector, for helping me with my English, pointing out the mistakes and offering alternatives, UltimateKane (who accepted this novel to appear on his blog). For those wondering, I don’t have a blog and I don’t intend to make one soon (or ever, for that matter), I’m not the type to start writing… things on the internet, that’s why I needed someone else’s blog to host these files. This being a third-language-translation, it might not be 100% accurate, but I tried to make it as good and accurate as I could. Also, please forgive the eventual errors, both me and Hotaru are quite busy and tired, so there might be some mishaps; we try our best however to avoid that, and hopefully we will improve in the future. dasvik
Menudo-Fansub: www.menudo-fansub.com Kapia: email@example.com UltimateKane’s blog: http://ultimatekane99.livejournal.com/ Hotaru: Sakuro1985@aol.com dasvik: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peeping Tom, stray child, or stalker? For beautiful Kaname and transfer student Sousuke, this is only the beginning.
A spiral of nonsensical letters appears. As Kaname stares, a hidden seal within her breaks.
Kaname makes him lower his weapon. She slowly approaches Sousuke and embraces him. "Sagara, let’s go home together"
FULL METAL PANIC Fighting boy meets girl
Table of contents
Prologue 1. School Assignment 2. Underwater Scene 3. Bad Trip 4. Field of Giants 5. Black Technology Epilogue Afterword
"Sousuke, pay attention!" In contrast to the after-school uproar, Kaname Chidori spoke really seriously. A willful girl, her long black hair came to her hips and was kept in place by a red ribbon. With her index finger raised, she gave instructions to the student who was in front of her. "We need two-thousand sheets of letter-size paper. They come in packages of five hundred leaves, so slip off and snatch four of those. Do you understand?" "Roger," he replied firmly. There was little in Sousuke that did not denote firmness: his words, the collar of his shirt and his movements were all rigid. His face was tense and was relentless. He threw a glance at the teachers’ office door. "You know where the role is, right?" "Yes. In the background, in the back, next to the copier." "Good. Let’s review the plan." "You will create a distraction by starting a conversation with Mr. Sayama. While you have his attention, I will steal the role and withdraw quickly." Satisfied, Kaname nodded. "Don't call it a 'theft' actually. After all, it is not our fault that there was a misunderstanding leading to poor printed flyers for the Drawing Club! We're not stealing, just recovering losses." Determined not to object to these justifications, Sousuke focused on another problem. "What if your distraction is not enough? The teacher might realize." "Your job is to devise a plan, to find a way of entering and leaving without being seen." "Very well, I will devise a plan." "Well, Sousuke, let’s go." Kaname was the one who guided. She went towards the rear of the office, greeting all the teachers she knew. At the end she came to the over-used photocopier in the back. Alongside the nearly obsolete machine, a professor of social studies of about forty years was sitting and qualifying exams. Kaname was between the man and the machine, hoping that was enough to prevent him from seeing Sousuke. "Hello, sir. Sayama!" The chair of Mr. Sayama squeaked while it rotated to greet her.
"Miss. Chidori. What brings you here today?" "Well, I have a question that I forgot to ask yesterday." "When we were talking about the ancient India?" "Yes. I must know this: in the ancient India, they all had rare names like Chandragupta II?" Mr. Sayama laughed loudly. "This really is a strange question! But the name has a meaning particular. You see, the Gupta Empire-" POP!!! Following the sound similar to a firecracker, a thick white smoke was spread through the air from behind Kaname. "What the ...?" By the time that Kaname turned around to see what was happening, she could not see more than 5 inches in front of her. "What is happening?" asked Sayama, coughing violently. The smoke began to spread through the teachers’ office. One of the other teachers from the office yelled, then another, too. Suddenly, everyone was in a complete state of panic. "What is happening?" Asphyxiating, Kaname leaned on a shelf nearby. Someone grabbed her firmly by the arm. "Sousuke?" "Mission complete. Quick, withdrawal." "Oh…" With packages of paper under one arm and Kaname’s waist under the other, Sousuke emerged from the smoke; then ran toward the exit. "Help! It's a fire!" cried a teacher. The ceiling sprinklers were activated, soaking the room. "Help! It’s a flood!" cried another teacher. Crossing the racket, Sousuke and Kaname ran from the teachers’ office and continued running until they were safe in a very distant corridor. Kaname regained her breath. "Here, we will be safe," Sousuke said. Both were soaking wet from head to feet because of the good intentions of the sprinklers. Looking somewhat less than happy, Kaname drained the water from her skirt. "What the hell was that?"
"A smoke-bomb," he answered emphatically. "What?" "You told me to devise a plan. The smoke bomb prevented any visibility in the office, so we could get the paper in a safe manner and without them being able to see our faces. It is a lot more effective than a simple distraction. To avoid any suspicion, later I will make some phone calls, passing as a member of the IRA or the JRA or any other terrorist organization, claiming responsibility. That way-" Wack! Kaname connected her right hook and sent Sousuke giving turns to the ground. He remained motionless for about three seconds. Then, he got up quickly. "That hurts." "Shut up! You... You madman obsessed with war! What story did that come from? Look, you've spoiled the role!" Kaname rubbed the soaked packages of paper in his face. "Maybe we could still use them after we dry them." "You're a big idiot! I do not care if you're some kind of undercover mercenary; you need to learn a little common sense!" Sousuke stayed silent and began to sweat. Looked like a cat that had been scolded for bringing home a slaughtered mouse as a gift: he had tried to help, his way. To Kaname, Sousuke's good intentions hampered the task to scold it. (Oh, good grief…) she thought, putting her hands on her head. After all, it was not Sousuke’s fault for having grown up in areas of international war and having no idea of how to live in peaceful Japan. Consequently, no matter how much he tried, all he did seemed to go out badly for him, creating problems where they did not exist before. Almost everyone in the school thought that he was an idiot at the highest level. (Damn! What have I done to deserve someone so helpless?) Kaname regretted internally. However, Kaname already knew the answer beforehand. If she did not know, she would have stopped being his friend long ago. Kaname had the obligation to get into Sousuke’s affairs, to lecture him and deal with the consequences of his disasters. There was a reason why she could not hate him. Suddenly she recalled the many complex reasons why Sousuke was the way he was. She knew that Sousuke had another identity, one kept secret from the other students, who thought he was nothing more than a useless guy obsessed with war.
Outside the school’s walls, Sousuke Sagara was also a first class soldier, part of a military organization of the first category. Kaname knew this from that certain incident. It was by that incident that Kaname and Sousuke met. Kaname recalled the circumstances of their meeting: there was a situation of great danger, feelings emerging and a great mystery... one that even today remains partially unresolved. The consequences of that event could still be felt in their daily lives. The way it is, it all began a month ago...
1: SCHOOL ASSIGNAMENT
April 15th, 2137 hours (Local Time) Eastern Soviet Union 80 kilometers southeast of Khabarovsk
(I will die soon.) Bouncing violently in the interior of the car, the girl continued making discouraging predictions of her situation. The wet road mud splashed the windshield, overshadowing the coniferous trees that were barely visible in the car’s lights limit. The girl glimpsed her reflection in the rearview mirror: a pale face, gnawing her thumb as if she was possessed. (It should be more tanned by the practice of tennis. Why am I so pale?) (How much time has passed since my last practice? A week? A month? A year?) (The time is not important. Anyway I can’t go home. It would be easier if I’d die now.) "We’re almost there," shouted the driver, a rough man wearing a military uniform. "In just a couple of miles, we will be in the mountainous area. From there, you will be able to return to Japan." (Liar. We can never escape in a vehicle like this.) (Those people will capture me, drug me, strip me and lock me again in that water tank; that tank of deep and dark water, a place where nothing exists, except endless and meaningless questions. No matter how much I beg, they won’t let me leave.) ('I will do whatever, just let me out!') (They won’t listen to me. Neither can I listen to myself.) (Gradually, I won’t be able to bear it anymore.) (The only thing that remains for me is to bite my nails. That's all I can do. It is my only happiness. The nails are fantastic. They hurt, they bleed. They are great. Blood pours, it dissolves. Nails…nails...naaaails.) "Stop!" The man took the hands out of the girl's mouth. For a moment, she noted it with an absent gaze. "Let me bite them, or else kill me. Let me b-bi-bite." The face of the man turned into pity while the girl’s speech was becoming a pathetic stuttering similar to that of a broken tape recorder. His sympathy turned into anger.
"Those bastards have done something bad to you, haven’t they?" A bright flash from behind the vehicle interrupted the man's sentimentality, inspiring him to accelerate to full speed. The light drew a line across the sky while flying over the fast jeep. (A missile!) The explosion caused flames and debris that were thrown on the jeep, which slipped sideways. The windshield was shattered and the jeep overturned and rolled going through the flames. The girl had not fastened her seatbelt, and because of that she was thrown far from the site of the accident through a window. If she had breathed then, or if she had opened her mouth to scream, the flames would have scorched her lungs. Sadly, she lacked the strength of will to even scream. Landing with her shoulder on the ground filled with mud and snow, she finally stopped. Lying on the floor like a doll, the girl did not have the slightest desire to move. But her cloudy awareness was clarified. When she slowly raised her head, she saw the almost completely destroyed jeep, divided in two as a branch, with its rear wheels spinning uselessly. The girl tried to get up, but she had no strength in her shoulder; it was broken or dislocated, but strangely, it didn’t hurt. She crawled to the place of the accident, where she saw the battered and bloodied driver trapped under the remains of the car. "Take this," he gasped, holding a box of CDs with his shaking hand. "Go… to the south..." His eyes were wet with tears. "Hurry. Run." Then all was finished for him. His eyes filled with tears were still half open, frozen forever in their anguish. The girl did not understand why the man cried. Pain? Fear of dying? Another thing? Suddenly, her survival instincts alerted her. She got up, took the CD and started to drop her dirty and bloody feet, one ahead of the other, in the mud. She had no idea of where the South was, but nevertheless she continued to walk in a straight line, biting her thumb nail. Some rotors caused a loud noise. A machine roared as it aspired for air and gas. It was a helicopter, and it was approaching fast! The forest was rocked under the artificial wind. The girl looked up only to find an attack helicopter, which was rough and gnarled as an old tree. (How ugly), she thought. "Stop!" warned the external speaker of the helicopter. "Or I will shoot you!" Obviously, she did not stop. She continued straining, walking in a straight line.
"Where do you think you're going?" The machine gun of the helicopter shot a few times next to her. Pieces of ground left flying, and the girl fell. "Bad girls should be punished." While attempting to stand up using her good arm, a handful of bullets hit the ground around her. The impact of the bullets on the ground near her made her impossible to get up. The sound of laughter went out of the helicopter’s speakers. Determined, the girl continued crawling. "Oh, poor little girl. Look how tired she is! And nevertheless, she continues-" The voice was cut, leaving only the sound of the spinning propellers. <Beware! It is an AS. Increase the alti-> The shrill sound of metal being torn interrupted the pilot. The helicopter was turned into a veritable factory of sparks. The girl looked up and saw something out of the front part of the machine. (A knife?) It was a huge knife, as big as a person. The red-hot blade clearly stuck through the nose of the helicopter. Fighting an already lost battle against gravity, the helicopter gunship was shaken into a large turn. Moving the rear part desperately, it rushed toward the girl. She had neither the time nor the desire to get out of its way. She was standing there, watching the mass of iron that would kill her. Then, with the corner of the eye, she saw an extremely large figure. The mysterious figure passed by her, opened his arms, reinforced its legs and remained staying upright in front of the helicopter that was approaching. CRASH! Pieces of metal were flying everywhere and small parts were falling from the sky. Gears squeaking and turbines turning caused an irritating sound; they mixed to duet the elegy of the aircraft. When the girl looked up, she saw that the great humanoid form had caught up the helicopter with the upper part of its body. It’s back bent vigorously and jet steams left the articulations of its arms, shoulders, hips and knees. It started walking, making heavy steps that were stomping pieces of land and snow. The machine charged the helicopter and got enough distance from the girl before launching it into the forest. The destroyed helicopter fell to the ground and exploded.
The machine, which was about 8 meters high, turned around. It was illuminated from behind by the helicopter in flames. Finally, the girl was able to observe well the mysterious giant, which reminded of an athletic person with long legs, narrow waist, big chest and muscled arms; only that it had an ironclad armor. The machine looked like a pilot: wore a helmet, and it had a gun and a backpack, just as a person. "It is a...Arm Slave, a guard of assault!" The AS, a mechanical giant, returned to her. "Are you hurt?" asked the humanoid-form machine with a calm voice of a male. "I had to use an anti-tank dagger because the helicopter was too close to you. My gun was too powerful." Still in shock, the girl said nothing. The AS put itself on its knees, steadied itself with one of its giant hands and lowered its head. It seemed a scene cut out from a fairytale; a gray giant kneeling before a princess with tattered clothes. Ssssssss. A hatch on the chest of the Arm Slave was opened and a soldier emerged from it before the head of the machine. He wore a black pilot suit and light helmet, causing him to vaguely look like a ninja when the light was marking his silhouette. With a first aid kit in his hand, the AS operator went down the machine’s arm. It was a young Asian, with messy black hair, alert eyes, thick eyebrows and thin lips. The soldier was still a boy, probably was not much older than the girl who had come to rescue. But there was nothing childish in his behavior; he did not have any of the innocence or irresponsibility characteristic to boys of his age. "Where are you hurt?" asked the pilot. He spoke in Japanese, which surprised the girl. When she did not respond, he asked her if she understood Japanese. She nodded in agreement, in an almost imperceptible way. "Are you with that man?" she asked, pointing to the place where the driver laid dead. "Yes. I am also a part of Mithril." "Mithril?" "A secret military organization with no national affiliation." Again, the girl did not know how to respond. While the soldier started to give her first aid, the girl suddenly became aware of her intense pain. Her breathing became irregular but she managed to talk through the wheezing. "He died."
"Yes, it seems that way." “He tried to free me". "That is the kind of man he was." "You’re not sad?" The young soldier stopped bandaging her shoulder momentarily to reflect about his emotional state. "I’m not sure," he finally said. After he finished bandaging the girl’s shoulder and arm, the young man began to poke and pressure the girl’s body without shyness. "What do you want to do to me?" "First, I will carry you in my AS to the transport helicopter’s LZ 1. Once in the helicopter we will return to the mother ship which is at sea. I do not know what will happen after that, that's where our mission ends." "Our mission?" As a response to the girl’s question, two others Arm Slaves appeared, clearing a path through the trees while carefully watching the surroundings. They were almost identical to that first appeared, and carried rifles and rocket launchers. "Don't worry, they came with me." The pain began to affect the girl, her field of vision was reduced and her thoughts clouded. She could not remember who he was. "What is your name?" she said almost screaming. "It’s better not to talk. You will waste your energy." "Please, let me know." Hesitant, the soldier reflected on whether or not to disclose his identity. "Sagara. Sousuke Sagara." Before he could finish what he was saying, the girl fainted.
April 15, 1611 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Sea of Japan; depth: 100 meters Amphibious assault submarine Tuatha de Danaan.
Armed with a clipboard and a fruit flavored CalorieMate, Sousuke entered into the extremely gigantic hangar of the giant submarine to work on the report his mission.
Most of the weaponry of the ship – Arm Slaves, helicopters transportation, VTOL fighters and other – was aligned there. Sousuke fixed his eyes on one that was being repaired. "Hey, Sousuke!" resounded a powerful voice. Sousuke turned and faced his colleague, Sgt. Kurz Weber. A blonde man with blue eyes, small chin and big eyes, Kurz was as handsome as a movie star. His perfectly arranged long hair added a touch of androgynous charm. When he smiled, the hearts of women beat faster. However, as soon as he opened his mouth... "Why the long face? Constipation? Hemorrhoids?" No dignity. No class. "I am in perfect health," Sousuke answered distracted while biting a mouthful of his CalorieMate. "You are too clumsy, you know?" Kurz looked at the AS that was being repaired. Its armor was entirely removed. "Wow, they opened it completely, huh?" "Apparently, they are conducting a detailed inspection of the structural system." "Well, you strained it to the maximum. That’s to say, you caught a helicopter! Weren’t you scared?" "No. It wasn’t a thing that exceeds the expectations of an M9." The AS models both Sousuke and Kurz used was named M9 Gernsback. It was of the latest generation, it wasn’t widely used in military circles military yet. Compared to the previous models of Arm Slaves, the M9 had an extraordinary power and agility. "I suppose so, but the M9 is the only machine that could remain unscathed from that feat." concluded Kurz, while taking a seat on an empty box of ammunition. He watched the line of M9s in the hangar. The Arm Slaves had been invented in the mid-80. At that time, the US President, Ronald Reagan, strongly supported the development of a robot that accompanied the proposed strategic defense project 'Star Wars'. 'The next great progress in resolving local disputes.' 'A great technical challenge!' 'A contribution that will save work from the forces of infantry!' Thanks to a suspicious rhetoric, the AS became a reality only a few years later. Weapons of humanoid form that were once thought as an impossible joke, now running at speeds of more than 97 kilometers per hour, employing numerous weapons and equal to a tank in terms of strength.
The specialists were amazed; still, the military men could hardly take a step or two with the biped robots before falling. What kind of genius had been the mastermind of this project? What group of experts would have it done? 'It’s the implemented technology of the visitors!' affirmed the fanatics of the UFO, which temporarily increased the sales of its magazines and books. But eventually, people looked at the AS in the same way they look at a cruise missile or invisible fighter planes: as a weapon of high technology. Ten years later, the AS technology continued to have an explosive progress. It got to the point where it was dangerous to approach them without caution, even in an attack helicopter. A thought came to Kurz while still watching. "Hey, Sousuke, that girl you brought..." "Is she alive?" "Yes, but she was drugged." "Narcotics?" "Cannabis-drugs or something like that, we still do not know exactly what, but we believe that its origin is the research center of the KGB. I do not know what kind of experiments are doing there, but they are quite cruel." "Will she recover?" "I don’t know. Although this is the case, probably take a long time." Sousuke did not know what to say. Although senior officers seemed to know what sort of guinea pig was the girl, they did not share that information with Sousuke and Kurz. It really was part of the protocol; front-line fighters were rarely given all the details. The man who died in the jeep was a spy from Mithril’s Intelligence Department. Saving the girl was not part of his original mission, which was to gather information about the research center of the KGB. However, he had remorse of conscience and put his life at risk to rescue the experimental subject. But despite the death of the spy, Mithril managed to get their hands on a CD with highly confidential information thanks to Sousuke and others. Breaking the silence, Sergeant Major Melissa Mao came quickly into the hangar. "There you are." Around twenty-five years old, Mao was an American woman of Chinese descent. Her short black hair framed her beautiful face without masking her true wild nature. Like Sousuke and Kurz, Mao was a skillful AS operator. The three of them were often grouped together as a team, and Mao was always the leader.
"You have done a good job with those extra hours," said Mao. Sousuke growled and nodded. "What is it, girl?" Kurz said. "Remove that smile off your face, mister. You always look like your joking around here." "Do you know who are you talking about? I am Kurz Weber, the extraordinary model. This beautiful face appeared in the pages of Esquire, you know?" "Ah, of course, I think I saw that. Was not it a farce like that movie of Charlie Sheen, 'Hot Shots!'?" "Shut up, bitch." Quickly, like a cat, Mao reached and caught Kurz by the cheek. Kurz left out a small shout. "What did you called me?" she demanded. "I said you are the smartest, prettiest, most dependable-" "That’s what I thought", she said, cutting him off and releasing his cheek. Calm and nibbling his food, Sousuke observed the whole scene. Mao noticed when he swallowed. "Are those things good?" He nodded, smiling. "They have the perfect sweetness." "Good. Sousuke, the Lieutenant Commander wants to see you." "Roger." "You too, Don Juan." "Argh! I thought we were free!" "Regard this as a revocation," said Mao, laughing. "I on the other hand, am free. If you need me, I will be in the bathroom." She laughed as she was leaving. "If that bitch knew what was good for her" commented Kurz, "she'd be clawing her name into my back." While Mao went, Kurz lifted his finger behind her back. "What kind of sign is that?" Sousuke questioned.
Knock, knock! Enter. Sousuke and Kurz entered into the small room full of documents, shelves and a tall man dressed in a green combat uniform, Lt. Commander Kalinin. Although Kalinin was wearing a long gray hair, his beard and mustache were well cut. "We are reporting as ordered, sir," Sousuke said, waving firmly.
"Yes, here we are," said Kurz making a greeting loose. Indifferent to the greeting Kurz, Lieutenant Commander Kalinin raised his look of the documents he was reading. "It is a mission," Lieutenant Commander talked straight. He launched one folder to Sousuke and Kurz. "Take a look." "Yes, sir," said Sousuke. "Good," said Kurz, joking. The documents in the folder appeared to be a personal story, including a black and white photo of a smiling Asian girl. She would be about twelve years old in that picture, a girl nestled with a woman, presumably their mother. It was a pretty girl, with beautiful skin and defined characteristics. Kurz whistled. "I bet that when she grows up, she will be a beauty." "In fact, the photo is of four years ago," said the Lieutenant-Commander. "Now she is 16." "And where is a current photo?" "We do not have one." Already accustomed to the way Kurz acted, Sousuke didn’t pay attention, focusing instead on reading the autobiographical information of the girl. According to the report, her name was Kaname Chidori and she lived in Tokyo, Japan. Kaname was a student in one of the abundant schools of Tokyo. Her father was a High Commissioner of the United Nations. She had a sister of eleven years, who lived with her father in New York City. Her mother had died three years ago. There was additional information: height, blood type, medical history and a lot more, the report did not spare in details. A sentence suddenly caught Sousuke’s attention: ’The probability of being a Whispered: 88% (according to the Statistical Law of Miller).’ Sousuke knew that the word that had been censored with black marker was the real reason why Kurz and he had been assigned to this mission. "And what has happened to her?" asked Kurz. "Nothing," responded Kalinin. "Yet." "Huh?" Kurz said confused. Slightly turning in his noisy chair, the Lieutenant Commander looked at a world map that was hanging on the wall. It was updated with the latest national borders: the completely divided Soviet block, the division of the southern and northern Chinese territories, and the scribble of lines that formed the Middle East.
"All you both need to know is that there are a number of enemy agencies, including the KGB, who would want to kidnap Kaname Chidori." "Why?" asked Kurz. "That," Kalinin said resolute, "is something that you gentlemen do not need to know." "Oh, I see." Everything seemed too vague to Kurz. This girl, Kaname Chidori, was only a potential target. "What exactly is our mission?" pressed Sousuke. "Protect the girl, of course. I assign you to this mission because both of you speak Japanese fluently." "I guess that makes sense." Kurz's father was a correspondent for a newspaper, and consequently, Kurz had lived in the district of Edogawa, Tokyo until he turned fourteen. Therefore, he spoke the language like a pro. "I have already informed Sergeant Major Mao. The three of you will be in charge of this matter." That seemed a lot of work to Kurz. "Just the three of us?" "There isn’t any more available personnel. It is already decided." "It will be difficult," said Kurz. "That’s why you’re here." Sousuke, Kurz and Mao were more than just AS pilots; they were highly trained soldiers capable of parachuting, reconnaissance, fighting and much more. They were members of a team chosen from many candidates. And for them, an AS was only one of the tools they could use. "After Mao's insistence, I have decided to give you Class B equipment." The two soldiers were amazed. "Are we taking an Arm Slave?" asked Sousuke. "Yes." "But that is at the heart of a great city!" Kurz protested. "That’s why you will only operate in ECS invisible mode," reasoned Kalinin. Although the technology was created for the Arm Slaves, many modern weapons used some form of ECS (Electromagnetic Camouflage System). Using hologram technology, the stealth-art equipment could hide very large objects from radar and infrared rays. Mithril’s ECS systems were so advanced that could override the waves of visible light.
In other words, it made things invisible. It required a lot of energy, so invisibility was not practical (or even possible) during combat, but it wasn’t any problem when the vehicle was standing still or hiding. "You will take an M9 with you. The armament will be minimal, so take two packages of external condensers." "Understood," Kurz said. "It is imperative that this mission be kept highly confidential." "Excuse me?" Kurz frowned. "If the Japanese government gets involved," Kalinin continued, "it will become a disaster. So we must protect Kaname without letting her or anyone else know. But even so you should be alert when the problems will appear." "That sounds very..." Kurz struggled to find the right words. "…difficult," Sousuke concluded. Protecting someone without their knowledge or permission was more than absurd. "Depending on how you operate, it should not be so difficult. This girl, Kaname Chidori, spends most of her time in a mixed public school. Our younger soldier has the same age as her and is also Japanese." "Ohoho!" Kurz’s face brightened and turned around to see Sousuke, who blinked several times upon being under scrutiny. "You’re not saying-" "We’re falsifying documents of the transferred student as we speak." And it was Kalinin who signed the recommendation.
April 16, 1150 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Off the coast of the Tsugaru Peninsula; depth: 100 meters Tuatha de Danaan, Meeting Room 1
"Say 'potato', Sousuke." Sousuke frowned both at the camera and to who was operating it, Kurz. "Come on, man, pressured Kurz. Don’t you want a decent picture for your student card?" Making use of muscles that he almost never used, Sousuke made an expression that seemed a facial neuralgia than a smile. "Good enough." Kurz took the photograph.
Like an elastic band that is released after being stretched, the face of Sousuke returned immediately to the serious expression that he was more comfortable with. Kurz sighed.
April 17, 2120 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Off the coast of the island Kinkazan; depth: 80 meters Tuatha de Danaan, Dining Room
"What is all this?" Sousuke asked, looking fixedly at the collection of objects scattered on the table. He took some of the objects and frowned: a toothbrush, hair gel, a CD player, several CDs of Hiroshi Itsuki and SMAP, several amulets of the temple of Narita-san, a Game Boy, a Mister Junko watch, cigarettes, energy drinks, fashion magazines and other miscellaneous objects of different nature. Melissa Mao smiled. “I took a tour of the ship and got all the things that a typical Japanese student might have.” “I see.” A little confused, Sousuke grabbed a small square of vinyl that contained a circle that appeared to be of rubber. "That is a condom," said Mao. "I know. But I do not understand why a student might need one." "Don't be silly, you rascal!" "In fact, I used it many times," said Sousuke. "It can store a whole liter of liquid." Melissa Mao was astonished. "Yes, if you have lost your water bottle in the jungle, these things can save your life," Sousuke honestly concluded. "Yes?" Sergeant Major Mao put on blank eyes.
April 18, 1006 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Off the coast of the Boso Peninsula; depth: 49 meters Tuatha de Danaan, Meeting Room 1
Pressing a remote control, Kurz passed in front of Sousuke, near a LCD screen. "Look at this. These are students of Japanese school, pay attention."
When Kurz pressed the play button, the image of a classroom of generic appearance filled the screen. It seemed that it was late, and there were only two students in the class. Despite having a lot of space to stay in, they were standing in the corner, very close together. "I always thought of you as my friend from childhood," the young man admitted, letting the words come out slowly, "until now. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize what I feel for you." "Oh, Tohru!" said the girl, hugging the boy. While the young man was approaching to kiss her, the door of the class was opened. Surprised, the couple in the corner saw another student standing at the door. "Naomi!" Tohru said. "How could you?" Naomi demanded, and she ran crying. The boy started to chase after her, but the girl in the corner pulled on his sleeve and told him to let her go. Kurz pressed the pause button. "Why was she running?" asked Sousuke. "Is the girl in the corner her enemy?" Kurz blinked surprised by Sousuke’s lack of social sense. "Unless...Naomi now knows a secret that could get her killed. She runs to survive. It's a ready girl!” "Something like that," said Kurz, putting on blank eyes.
April 19, 0330 hours (Japan Standard Time) Off the coast of the Miura Peninsula Tuatha de Danaan, Covered take-off deck
While the Tuatha de Danna rested half-submerged in the sea as a vigilant hippo, the hatch of the covered take-off deck opened with a noise, revealing the track on which Arm Slaves, helicopter gunships and VTOL aircrafts were launched. A transport helicopter with seven rotors rested in the covered take-off, waiting for permission to leave. The shipment was full of all kinds of equipment, including an M9 Arm Slave. After putting his small kit bag behind his seat, Sousuke tied the safety belt. He made one final review to make sure he had not forgotten anything of vital importance, such as the forged student card that he kept in his chest pocket. Mao, who sat beside him, looked at the card for identification.
"You put your real name there?" "Affirmative. I do not exist in Japanese archives, but if a problem occurs, I can always change the name." "Oh, well." "It’s not a problem. Now let's go." The helicopter began preparing for takeoff. "Are you nervous? After all, this is your first day of school," said Kurz from the back seat. "I will give my best," responded Sousuke. "Tessa seemed worried," Mao said, referring to the captain of submarine. "I am not surprised. It is an important mission," said Sousuke, causing a simultaneous sigh from Mao and Kurz. Before they could continue the conversation, the pilot of the helicopter
reported that it was time to leave.
April 20, 0820 hours (Japan Standard Time) Suburbs of Tokyo, Japan 107 meters north of the Jindai High school
"It was horrible," said a disgusted Kaname Chidori. Her dark brown eyes turned for a moment, watching the group of students who was walking beside her. While Kaname walked, the black hair that hung on her hips moved from one side to another in a slow rhythm that contrasted the speed with which she walked. "It was totally and completely awful," she concluded after thinking for a moment. Kyouko Tokiwa, a classmate, said: "Please, Kana, you haven’t said anything else since this morning. Was it really so terrible?" "It was more than terrible!" Kaname insisted. "He never stopped talking and I never said anything. I made him a deal and went out with him, don’t you think that at least he could have found something interesting to talk about?" (The same as you?) thought Kyouko. (His father is a designer and he has a friend in the J-league, I find it interesting.) But to avoid problems, she only replied: "Aha." "You know, there are things like the life of the Zhuge Liang pollution in the Pacific, religious disputes in the Midwest."
"Aha." "Are you listening to me, Kyouko? Or are you just say 'Aha'?" "Aha." "Hey, Kyouko! The least you can do is to listen to my story. After all, it was you who introduced him to me." "He asked me to." "If someone told you to sell me in Macao, would you do it?" "Aha!" "Haha! How spoiled," Kaname said cheerfully. When the school became visible, a line of students who stretched from the front door could bee seen. "No way, a security log," complained Kaname, a victim of several random searches of bags and pockets. "Yes, it’s definitely is a registration. You’re not carrying anything illegal, are you, Kana?" "No, unless the books have become illegal over the weekend." Kana had several books she had borrowed from some friends: 'Living like the Zhuge Liang!'; 'Warning of the dolphins: Goodbye and thanks for all the fish'; 'Wonders of Archeology: Were the Mayans the authors of the manuscripts of the Dead Sea?' "While you're not smuggling weapons or bombs-" said Kyouko kidding. "You offend me. What kind of idiot would bring weapons to school?" There was a big commotion at the front of the line of students, where the teacher, Miss Eri Kagurazaka, mercilessly interrogated one of the students. "You think you can come with something like this on your first day here?" "No ma'am. It is not my intention to cause problems." "Until you show me the contents of your suit case, you won’t enter the building." "But ..." Although the boy was calm in an unnatural way, he also emitted an air of immense confusion and a desire of not being the center of attention. "Who is that? I haven’t seen him around here before." Although he used the same uniform as all the others, he had an air of mystery that distinguished him. It was possible to say that he was handsome, but the serious expression on his mouth and his eyes in alert indicated an extreme severity, which was slightly affected upon contrasting with his messy black hair. Although he was thin, he looked quite athletic, as if he did some active sport such as judo.
"Just open the bag!" Strongly, Miss. Kagurazaka snatched the suit case with a coup. "Wait ..." "What do you got here? I bet that will be cigarettes!" She opened the suit case quickly, setting apart notebooks, textbooks and a lot of writing utensils; she discovered an automatic revolver made in Austria and three cartridges. There were also explosives, several detonators, some paralytic grenades, a small camera and a long piano string. "Boy!" "Yes ma'am." "I do not know what kind of school you are coming from, but around here, we confiscate toys like these." "Excuse me?" "Please wait in the teachers’ office. It is almost time to start the classes!" All the spectators laughed and continued their journey. (What a horror: he is obsessed with war themes) thought Kaname. (He gives me the creeps.) "He seems interesting," declared Kyouko brilliantly. Poor Sousuke Sagara. Although he felt at home in any field of battle and was raised in international conflicts areas, in a school, he was nothing more than a confused fool.
(Perhaps the security is better than I imagined) thought Sousuke, while he and Miss. Kagurazaka walked through an empty corridor. At first, when asked to register his suit-case, Sousuke thought that his mission had already failed. Once his guns were confiscated, he resigned into following the teacher to the basement, where he assumed they will interrogate and beat him. But then, when all students were registered, he realized that it was a routine. (Wait a minute, does that mean that many students bring small weapons and explosives to class?) Sousuke looked around, but saw nothing to affirm or refute the idea. If all students were armed, that would make his work as bodyguard even more complicated. That meant it was possible that anyone, even the volleyball team that came walking down the hallway, could be carrying machine guns.
Sousuke didn’t worry too much, because Kurz Weber was in a M9 Gernsback, camouflaged in a grove behind the school. If Sousuke called him with his miniature radio on his watch, the M9 would be there in about ten seconds. "Urzu-6, what is your status?" Sousuke whispered in his watch. "Tired and hungry," said Kurz on Sousuke’s hidden radio. "I need a beer." Miss. Kagurazaka continued to guide Sousuke down the corridor. She was an educated woman around twenty-five years old. She had short hair and wore a gray suit with a skirt set. "Ma’am," said Sousuke, "about the weapons..." "We will return them to you at the end of the classes," she interrupted him. "That is not a problem. The problem is that it is loaded. It is extremely dangerous, so please do not touch the trigger under any circumstances." "Huh? Oh, okay." "It's loaded with splat-type bullets that have a high probability of killing. So even if it accidentally shoots, there will be many deaths. Handle it carefully, please." "I understand. Do not worry." It was obvious that she didn’t understand. Disobeying his instructions, Sousuke worried.
From their desks inside the noisy class, Kaname and Kyouko watched how Miss Kagurazaka guided Sousuke Sagara to the classroom. Kaname and Kyouko had a little conversation without words, through facial expressions and gestures. (Look, there he is!) (The guy obsessed with weapons!) "Shut up!" shouted the teacher, hitting the board with the book of assistances. "Take your seats and keep quiet. It's time to get to know your new classmate." Obediently, most students calmed down. "Good. Mr. Sagara, please introduce yourself." "Yes ma'am!" Sousuke took a step forward. "I'm Sergeant Sousuke Sagara," he shouted. Almost immediately, he paled realising his own stupidity. "Surgeon So Gay Soggy Log" called one of the jokers from the back of the room. "Sir John Soaks a Saw Lulag?" "Sergeant? Like an army sergeant?" "Silence! Leave him the opportunity to speak," harshly-ordered the teacher, hitting the board again with the book. "And you, Mr. Sagara, it's not the time for jokes." "Sorry."
Before this, Sousuke had not been so nervous on a mission. The pressure was intense. Letting out that word could have caused the mission to fail. Sweating heavily, he started again. "I am Sousuke Sagara. Ignore the 'Sergeant' part. That's all." "That's all?" "Yes ma'am. That's all." Miss Kagurazaka turned towards the class. "Do you have any questions?" "Where are you from, Sagara?" "I have lived in many parts; Afghanistan, Lebanon, Cambodia and Iraq, but I haven’t stayed in one place for a long time." The class was silent. "Wow. It seems that Mr. Sagara has traveled quite a lot," concluded Miss Kagurazaka. "If I am not mistaken, you were transferred from the United States, right?" "So it is," Sousuke said, asserting what his false transfer papers said, which showed a previous address in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although Sousuke never had been there, he knew people who were. One of the students raised his hand, but did not wait until the teacher gave him the word. "Do you have a hobby?" "All-scale weapons!" someone said from the bottom of the class, and the whole class broke into laughing. "I like fishing and reading," Sousuke said honestly. When Sousuke had free time at Mithril’s Pacific West base, he threw the fishing line in the water and read some good weapons manuals. Even when it rained, he sat out with an umbrella, immersed in his small world. "What do you read?" inquired one of the students. Sousuke's eyes shone brightly. Mainly, technical articles and magazines such as Jane’s Battleships, Soldier of Fortune and Monthly Arm Slave. Also, I read the Japanese AS Fan magazine, which contains a surprisingly high level of information. At last, I have been captivated by a series of the Naval Institute Editorials… Sousuke realized he had already lost one hundred per cent of his audience. He dropped his head. "It doesn’t matter. Please forget it."
There was no need to ask: no one remembered because no one was listening. One of the girls in the front raised her hand. "Um, which are your favorite singers?" That was hard, Sousuke rarely listened to music. He growled while trying to recall the CDs that Sergeant Major Mao had given him before the start of the mission. "Ah, yes. Hiroshi Itsuki and SMAP."
April 20, 1508 hours (Japan Standard Time) Jindai High school, Tokyo, Japan Athletic Club's wing, 2nd Floor
"What a strange type," exclaimed Kaname while untying the tie of her uniform. "That’s to say, nothing of what he says makes sense. Nor do I think that he is trying to be funny, I think that indeed something is wrong in his head, is a freak." While Kaname removed her blouse to place it on the hanger, she dropped the baseball cap which had been supported against her locker. "Shit! Did you see him in the class? He hasn’t stopped looking in all directions. And among classes, he walked slowly by the corridor. How strange." "Really?" asked Kyouko, who was in the process of removing her skirt. "I didn't notice." "How strange. Seriously, just seeing him puts me in a bad mood." "So don’t look at him." "I-I’m n-not doing that" Kaname protested while she adjusted her bra. "Why would I look at such a freak? But this is the worst thing, the worst! I caught him looking at me a couple of times. He acted as if it was an accident and looked elsewhere, but it was horrifying. Horrifying!" "Many guys look at you, Kana. You are very pretty, you know." commented Kyouko with a little envy. She pulled up her socks and reached for her orange softball pants. "Thank you, but it was not anything like that. It seemed as if he was up to something." "You know, Kana, you have been talking about Sagara the whole time." "Really?"
Walking in strides, Sousuke crossed the school, stopping in front of the Athletics Club's wing. Examining the building, he saw that there were six windows in a row at the second floor. He found the stairs. He went up.
"Absolutely!" Kyouko knew Kaname very well, she knew that Kana was quite popular in spite of having a dangerous tongue and being too sincere. Generally she was very friendly, so much that she was practically forced to be the student council vice president. For Kaname to criticize someone who didn't know, and to do it behind the back of that person, well, this is very suspecious. "For someone who does not interest you, you do speak a lot of Sagara." "Do not be ridiculous! That’s not it. Haha. Hahaha!" As her lifetime friend, Kyouko understood Kaname laughter would be translated as: 'I don't know if he interests me, but I do not want to talk about it.' "Come on, we're going." When they finished changing their uniforms, Kaname and Kyouko were ready to leave the changing room, where there were still several girls at different levels of nudity, but as they were about to arrive at the door, it violently opened. The eighteen girls who were changing turned their eyes to the student in the door: Sousuke. There were eighteen simultaneous screams. "Eeeeeeek!" The shouts resounded in the windows. Sousuke was standing there, foolishly, looking very surprised. Wasting a golden opportunity, he barely looked at the girls in their underwear inside. He knew that women in few clothes were merely a distraction in his mission. Walking forward, he grabbed Kaname and threw her to the ground. Somehow, by the time they reached the ground, he pulled out a pistol from the base of his ankle. "All of you, to the ground. Get down!" he cried while turning as fast as lightning toward the open door. He waited with the gun pointing toward the door. While, of course, nothing happened. Keeping Kaname to the ground, he continued aiming the gun. He looked around the room and didn't see anyone that looked dangerous. In fact, after watching again, there were eighteen girls gathered around him with murderous eyes. Ten minutes later, the chaos was over. "I never suspected that you would do something like this," said Miss. Kagurazaka, inspecting the .38 caliber gun.
"I apologize for the incident," Sousuke replied obediently. He was beaten-up; his uniform was ripped, his face scratched, and his wrists were handcuffed to the back of the chair in which he was seated. (With his own handcuffs, found by the girls on his belt). He never liked interrogations. "I will confiscate this." "Please-" "Sorry, I will make no exceptions!" "Please empty the weapon. They are hollow point bullets, very dangerous." "Oh, for the love of..." the voice of Miss. Kagurazaka was slowly extinguished. Then she raised it. "Miss. Chidori, I leave him in your custody." "What?" "I have a meeting of teachers. We are planning the school trip. Without doubt, he is the one responsible for all this disaster, so I will discuss with the other girls and decide how to deal with it, ok?" It was unclear whether the teacher trusted Kaname or she was simply an irresponsible person. In any case, she was gone. Sousuke, who saw Miss. Kagurazaka as Cambodians saw the Peacekeeping Forces of the UN, was discouraged seeing that she left. Under the intense looks of so many angry youths, Sousuke had a good idea of what was waiting for him. "The Treaty of Geneva agreed that-" "The what?" "Forget it." Kaname had no reason to know about those things, she probably thought that Geneva was the capital of Brazil. "So, Sagara, what were you thinking? Being a pervert is one thing, but you would have be a mentally retarded person to enter the room like a military commando! Are you missing a screw?" "'Screw? You mean I'm smart?" (How can I be retarded and intelligent at the same time? What does this contradiction mean?) Sousuke realized that it did not matter. Every second seemed like an eternity. "Look at this, freak!" Kaname rolled-up her sleeves. "See? Look what happened to my elbows because of you. How will you solve it?" Sousuke pondered the damage. The skin was not torn but it was a little red. The wounds Sousuke suffered during the commotion were much worse, but nobody seemed to care. Finally he spoke:
"It should heal quickly." "How cruel!" "Freak!" "The injuries of a young girl last a lifetime!" "How do you justify what you did?" "Apologize to Kana." Sousuke felt like a tank caught in crossfire. So far it seemed they weren't appreciating his actions. "Sorry for treating you violently," said Sousuke. "But please understand it was not my intention to cause harm to you or your friends." "So, what was your intention?" "I am sorry to tell you but that information is classified." "What do you mean by 'classified'? Tell me!" "No, I'm sorry..." Brushing her hair off her face, Kaname said: "Tell us why you came here." Thinking fast, Sousuke replied: "I wanted to join the club." None of the girls knew how to respond to that. "I was a member of a club like this in my previous school. I was very proud of my participation and that's why I had hoped to join. I trust my physical strength and I think you’ll only benefit if you accept me. So what do you say?" Internally, Sousuke praised himself for having been able to express his request. "Look Sagara," started an angry Kaname, "this is, well, it's the Girl’s Softball Club." Sousuke processed the information. "So... boys can't join?" "Absolutely not!" "I think the circumstances prevent an exception from being made, don't you think?" At once, the girls picked up Sousuke, and launched him down the stairs, along with the chair.
April 20, 1845 hours (Japan Standard Time) Chofu, Tokyo, Japan Tigers Apartments #505
On a screen, a girl with black hair was seen opening the door of her apartment and entering. After closing the door, she listened to the gratifying sound of the door lock making a click. "1845 hours. The Angel is safe at home. There is no one following her." reported Melissa Mao on a device which looked like a walkie-talkie. She switched the camera, so she can see what Kurz did with the AS. Of course, she could not see Kurz, because of the ECS, but knew that he would be going around and probably return in a couple of minutes. Mithril’s Intelligence Department prepared a base for this mission, a safe-house or something like that. It was right in front of the train line, and also had a good view of Miss. Chidori’s apartment. Their apartment had no furniture really, just a cheap table and some folding chairs. Still, the place was filled to the neck with small weapons and surveillance equipment. "I still haven't got used to how expensive everything is here, in Tokyo," grumbled Mao to nobody particular. She ate a hamburger and then took out one of her menthol cigarettes, and lit it. Soon, Sousuke entered. Mao released a burst of laughter when she saw him. His hands were shackled to an odd chair that he had been dragging behind him, all the way. "Oh, Sousuke, you've made a friend!" "It's a chair." "I have already noticed. Why are you dragging this in here?" "Because I can't remove the handcuffs. They are a model with hinges, and the lock is in the direction of my elbows." "Oh, please..." laughed Mao while taking the master key and removing the handcuffs. "Thank you," said Sousuke. Then, he told her the details of his day. "...and that's what happened. Buying the ticket at the Sengawa station was the hardest part. What happened, Mao?" Touching the tip of her nose with two fingers, she said: "It's nothing, just a small headache." "Oh, maybe you should relax a little." Interrupting his thought, a small electronic buzz indicated a transmission from Kurz. "Urzu-6 here, I'm done for today. Do any of you want to change with me?" he begged.
The M9 was safe in a makeshift hangar: a trailer bigger than normal, in a car parking lot nearby. "Are you sure that nobody saw you, Kurz?" "I nearly crushed a man, each dog on a 3 kilometers radius was barking, I was about to crush a pachinko hall, and I stopped to rest, supporting myself against a primary school and blew the windows. You should have seen the children going crazy." In any case, nobody saw the M9. With a less capable pilot, these small accidents could have ended up in a big disaster. "Perhaps this is not the best way to handle this after all." suggested Mao. "If we stick to the plan... then, yes, it may be impossible," nodded Sousuke. "I think it would be better if starting tomorrow the AS remains on stand-by." "But it seems a huge waste of our capabilities and sensors," reasoned Mao. Because the M9 was the latest thing of AS technology, it was fully equipped with electronic equipment costing millions of dollars. Its acoustic detection system operated as an 'intelligent filter' that alerted the pilot of potentially dangerous sentences, such as 'take hostages' or 'discharge of weapons allowed.' In addition, the M9 had two machine guns that could easily handle twenty or thirty unarmed vehicles. In short, the M9 may have been too extravagant for the current mission. However, Mao came from the world's most extravagant army: The armed forces of the United States. "I want the M9 to be as close to Kaname as possible. As long as we avoid the rush hour and move close to the river, I think we will be okay." "I trust your judgment," said Sousuke. "Somebody please change with me! I'm beat!" lamented Kurz. "Wait a minute. Miss. Chidori is receiving a phone call!" Mao set apart some lumps in her luggage and offered an extra pair of earphones to Sousuke. "Want to hear?" "I suppose so." The caller was Kaname's younger sister, who lived on the eastern coast of the United States. They had an animated conversation, touching on many issues, including the 'crazy transferred student', which she described as 'at least, quite entertaining.' When the time came to hang up, Kaname seemed reluctant to finish. "Poor girl, living alone," said Mao, with pity. "I suppose it is only a dose of family per day, through a long distance call."
"I don't think I fully understand," said Sousuke, "but a planned communication is a good idea." He thought about it a second. "But it's weird: in the time I was with Miss. Chidori, she seemed to be more sparkling, more aggressive." "Clearly, this is different, she was talking to her sister." "Is that typical?" "Yes." "Roger. I am also surprised that she did not hate me completely." "You look very excited, Sousuke." "Huh?" Sousuke looked toward the window and examined his reflection in search of any trace of euphoria.
April 20, 1130 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Pacific Ocean, depth: 50 meters Amphibious assault submarine Tuatha de Danaan
"Certainly, it appears that Sergeant Sagara has complicated this mission" said the girl in the captain's seat, who according to her appearance, would be around fifteen years. The girl had large gray eyes and her braided ashen blond hair was hanging on her left shoulder. She wore informal clothes: an elegant brown suit that was two or three sizes bigger than her. Despite this, a captain's badge shone on her neck, and although awards and decorations that are common for most captains weren't there, the girl, Teletha Testarossa (aka Tessa) was the captain of the Tuatha de Danaan. Only a handful of people knew the reasons. One of them, Lieutenant Commander Kalinin, remained standing at her side in the submarine's command center, which was almost the size of a small theater. It was the Tuatha de Danaan's brain, it unified the ship with its combat equipment. "This might be an important learning experience for him." said Kalinin. The young captain was still looking at Melissa Mao's most recent report, detailing Sousuke's adventures in a technical language. "Firearms confiscated. Assaulted by a group of civilians, including the target. Returned to the safe-house in a considerable state of handicap; handcuffed to a chair." "Nothing that he can't handle, Captain."
"It is true, Mr. Sagara is a sergeant of the highest level. Even so, I am glad for having Miss. Mao and Mr. Weber-" Tessa made a break to watch the clocks; one for GMT (Greenwich Medium Time) and one for JST (Japan Standard Time) on the screen. "Lieutenant Commander? How long do you believe the three will be in Tokyo?" "They may be for several weeks, until we locate and suppress the threat source, Captain." Despite his age, Kalinin replied with an immense respect. "So, everything depends on the progress of our mission," concluded Tessa, while studying the map on the screen. "If all goes according to plan, won't need to protect Kaname Chidori." "Just like the rest of the Whispered candidates." "At least for now." "Yes, unfortunately." Kalinin excused himself, then waved and left.
At the same time Soviet Union On the outskirts of Khabarovsk
Two cars stopped on a lonely bridge crossing a frozen river. Apparently, the noise in the surrounding area had also been frozen, because there was a sepulchral silence. Three men were standing in the middle of the bridge; an Asian man in an elegant Italian suit and two Russians, both in KGB uniforms. "Too quiet," the Asian grumbled, getting his hair slicked-back. He had a big scar on his forehead: an incredibly straight line, similar to a cut or to the entrance of a bullet. It was as if he had a third eye. "Stop whining, you were the one who chose this place as the meeting point," said the more burly of the two men of the KGB, a colonel, according to the decorations on his shoulder. "I was referring to the activity between your ears. I can hear the moths flap!" The colossal captain who was at the side of the colonel took a step forward. "What did you say?" The colonel contained him. The Asian laughed. "At least the colonel acts as a decent person."
"It's not our fault," protested the angry colonel. "The Whispered test subject was stolen, and there is a high possibility that they also have the list of candidates. Without a test subject, we can't carry out our investigation. It's as simple as that." The colonel sounded irritated, and rightly so. The investigation they were talking about was being carried out without the consent of the central committee of the party. If they detected that their unauthorized activities were a failure, he would most certain be sent to a labor camp. "So, Gauron, have you finished investigating the objective of the enemies?" "More or less. Take a look," said the man with the scar, passing a photograph to the colonel. "I have improved the image quality of that photo you gave me." In the photo, the profile of an AS could be vaguely seen. "It's using ECS, that is why the contour looks blurry as if it merged itself with the surroundings. It seems to be carrying a backpack, perhaps leading very important people to the top of the mountain." The AS was very skillfully made, very similar to a human. Impressed, the colonel raised an eyebrow. "What is that? I'm not familiar with this model." "It's an AS belonging to Mithril," Gauron replied cheerfully, "it’s too advanced to worry about." "Mithril?" "It is a secret mercenary organization. They are about ten years ahead the rest of the world; elite soldiers, the best of the best. You’ve never heard of them?" Mithril was an enigmatic force, perpetually present in the shadows of international conflicts. They attacked bases of insurgent groups and destroyed drugs-manufacturing factories. Allegedly they had destroyed training camps and have prevented terrorists from smuggling nuclear weapons. Mithril's mission was to extinguish the flames of regional conflicts. Consequently, they had no affiliation. "Why would they interfere with my project?," asked the colonel. "Probably because it's dangerous. If it were successful, it would incline the balance of power in the world." "So I suspect that we will not be able to capture another Whispered candidate so easily." Having a whispered girl in custody was absolutely essential for the success of the project. Now that they had lost her, they would have to find another. "I may kidnap one, but it will take time, is more problematic than killing it," said Gauron. "Does this mean an increase of your fees?" growled the colonel.
Smiling, Gauron said: "I am a businessman, not a communist." "Very funny, you yellow monkey!" shouted the captain. "You are not indispensable! Don't you think it would be better to thank the colonel because he continued to hire you?" "I appreciate your patronage," said Gauron. "The Chinese do not fulfill what they promise!" growled the captain. "What a brilliant comment, but I am not Chinese." corrected Gauron. "It's no difference, you are all the same! Wait until we send you to the coal mines in the Urals and then your yellow smiling face will be all black! Filthy pig!" "You, sir, are too annoying." With the skill and speed of a dealer, Gauron pulled out a pistol from his coat. It was a move so smooth and simple that it seemed as if he had drawn his mobile phone. The red point of the peephole laser shown on the captain's forehead. One shot shattered the silence of the night. Blood, skull fragments and bits of brain dirtied the snow. The captain's body, with only half of his head, fell to the ground with a soft thud. "Where were we? Oh, yes! Discussing the terms of the abduction." Gauron kept his gun raised with indifference. He looked at the documents the colonel had given him before. "Ah, well. This is it," Gauron said. "Is there something wrong, Colonel?" "That was one of my men..." "The truth is that you only brought him to intimidate me, right?" Gauron said cruelly. "At least you will not have to make baby-sitting anymore. Now, let's talk business." Without being able to say a word, the colonel left the madman to take control of the conversation. Looking at the documents, Gauron counted fifteen separate folders with personal information of the fifteen Whispered candidates. Judging only by the photos, the boys and girls were of different nationalities and races, but all were about the same age; between 15 and 19 years old. "Now, which one do you want to get? I know, it’s already decided, you want-" Gauron quickly pulled out a photo, "this here! Hey, she is a beauty!" Gauron showed the colonel the picture of Kaname Chidori. Eating french fries from the fast food restaurant that was under the Departmental Store, Kaname and her friends were talking cheerfully.
Menudo-Fansub: www.menudo-fansub.com Kapia: email@example.com UltimateKane’s blog: http://ultimatekane99.livejournal.com/ Hotaru: Sakuro1985@aol.com dasvik: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello everyone! This is the second chapter of FMP Fighting boy meets girl. I had hoped to release it much sooner, but in the end I wasn’t able to. I have found a new corrector – besides Hotaru – David, who also works on the… style-part of the text, so I hope the translations are more accurate and closer to the original from now on. Well, I think that’s about it, just wanted to introduce him. Enjoy the second-chapter action with Sousuke and Chidori.
2: UNDERWATER SCENE
April 23, 1732 hours (Japan Standard Time) Chofu, a Tokyo suburb, Japan Keio Line, Chofu station, south entrance
As everyone would expect from him, Sousuke continued to monitor the situation from the opposite corner of the restaurant. He nervously scouted all parties while pretending to read a copy of three days ago of Tokyo Sports. Sousuke didn't like how the man sitting across the table, behind Kaname, looked. He was about twenty-five years old, was of medium constitution and had his eyes hidden under a gray beret. The man had a black briefcase at his feet and he was continuously looking at his watch. (What could it be in the briefcase?) Sousuke wondered. He recalled that he had seen one in an anti-terrorist team catalog. If he was right, this particular model had a pistol or a machine gun included, that could be fired at the touch of a switch. After finishing his burger, the man stood up with the tray in his hands. (Here we go...), Sousuke thought, as he prepared for action. But the man simply deposited the hamburger wrapping in the trash, put the tray on top of the garbage can, and left. (So I was wrong. Unless...) Sousuke saw the man's briefcase on the floor, just where he had left it. (What if...? Damn!) It was not unusual for some terrorists to make a massacre only to eliminate a specific target. But wasn’t Kaname supposed to be hijacked? Maybe the situation had changed. In any case, Sousuke did not have time to think about that. He ran through the narrow restaurant, lifting tables and throwing food on the floor. He grabbed the briefcase, which certainly was heavy enough to contain a bomb. However, this did not go unnoticed. "Sagara?" Kaname said distrustfully. "Get down!" he yelled, pushing some customers as he ran out of the fast-food restaurant with the mysterious briefcase.
(And now, where can I get rid of this?) Sousuke had inspected the surrounding area, during the night; the commercial district was crowded. He saw a parking lot across the street, maybe there won’t be anybody there. "Move aside!" shouted Sousuke running down the street, while angry drivers horned from both sides. Sousuke turned just in time to see a truck slamming on its brakes. It couldn’t stop in time and sent Sousuke flying. He fell on some bikes stored at the side of the road. (Failure… is not an option...) Rising as fast as his dizzy head allowed him to, Sousuke was in the process of remembering how to walk when the suspicious man from the fast-food restaurant approached him. "Hey, are you okay?" asked the man, taking the case from Sousuke. He opened it. "Oh, thanks! I do not know what I would have done if I would have lost my manuscript!" The man gave Sousuke a pat on the back and then left. The small group of people, including the truck driver, Kaname, her friends and some other pedestrians, were standing staring at Sousuke. Some were worried, others confused or surprised, but they all seemed to be expecting some sort of explanation. "What the hell are you doing, Sagara?" asked Kyouko. "I thought it was a bomb," obediently answered Sousuke before collapsing on the street.
April 23, 1920 hours (Japan Standard Time) Chofu, Tokyo, Japan Tigers Apartments # 505
"At this rate, you'll be dead before the end of the week!" Kurz laughed while he bandaged Sousuke’s head. "You are probably more dangerous than any terrorist! Try to relax a little." "I’m trying to," said Sousuke. The fiasco at the restaurant that afternoon was the best example in four days of his failed efforts as well as the catastrophic and harmful results that ensued. No matter how much he tried, Sousuke couldn’t stop overreacting – acting violently, crashing everything, destroying public property, disrupting classes – and Eri Kagurazaka and Kaname were never allowed to forget these things. He was never without energy or without new bruises.
Even in the most difficult battle conditions, Sousuke never had received so much damage in so little time. He fell down the stairs, through windows, he got hit by some books that fell in the library and injured his chest while dodging a gypsum statue in art class, among other things. (This is not going well), he thought, unsure of how to resolve the problem. How ironic, he was able to survive so many years in intense battles only to be beaten at school! "You can’t continue at this rate," decided Kurz. "Tomorrow we change positions. Mao and I will watch the school." "And what if the enemy enters the school?" "I doubt that will happen. I even wonder if Kaname is really the target." "Thinking that way is dangerous," Sousuke could not avoid frowning at Kurz’s unworried attitude. "You should always take into account all the possibilities-" "Only if you want to be hit by a truck," interrupted Kurz. "Have you ever heard the saying: 'to fight against windmills'?" Sousuke’s expression indicated that he had never heard about that. "Mm. It is as if a sumo wrestler fights against his own loincloth." "Loincloth?" "You do not know that expression? Are you really Japanese?" Kurz finished placing the bandages and returned to the window. "There is something I do not understand." "About loincloth?" Kurz remained speechless. "About Kaname. She looks so... normal. I mean, she's pretty, but she's no model. And her personal story is very common, at least compared with ours." "You may be right." If Sousuke learned something from this mission, that would be the disturbing difference between others of his age and him. "Then why is the KGB after her? It's like the girl we saved last week. She was just a normal schoolgirl before they kidnapped her. What could those devils gain by kidnapping and drugging these girls?" "I have the same information as you," Sousuke said. "Yea, there must be more than the Lieutenant Commander says."
April 23, 2121 hours (Western Pacific Standard Time) Khabarovsk, Soviet Union KGB Building
"When will you begin?" asked the KGB colonel. It had been three days since his reunion with Gauron. "Soon, very soon," replied Gauron from the other end of the phone. The colonel listened to background noise. Gauron – a terrorist of unknown origins – called him from the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo. According to the official reports of the Embassy, Gauron rarely left the building and hardly talked to other people. "I am making arrangements at this time. We must ensure everything is in place before approaching the target." "Arrangements? What kind of arrangements need to be done?" "Don't be so impatient." "What?" "There is no way Mithril will allow us to simply enter her house and take her away with us." "You mean that they are protecting Kanumu?" The colonel fought to say the name correctly. Laughing, Gauron said: "So it seems. If I’m not careful, they will discover my presence." "I don’t care!" cried the colonel. "If necessary, kill anyone who stands in your way!" "I am sorry to say that that is impossible." "Why?" "They have an AS on ECS invisible mode that watches her apartment at all times." "And nobody has noticed? That's impossible. Such equipme-" "I told you," Gauron interrupted antagonistically, "their equipment is about ten years ahead of the rest of the world. Also, they probably have some of their best soldiers on this mission. If we act like a bunch of rookies, we will be the laughingstock." The colonel stammered. "Don’t worry, I have a plan," Gauron said and hung up. "You just worry about staying away from the gulag1."
Russian forced labor camps
April 24, 1438 hours (Japan Standard Time) Jindai School, Tokyo, Japan Second Year, Classroom Four
"Done!" Kaname finished writing a list of jobs on the blackboard. When she turned around, she saw a class full of disinterested students, who were sleeping, playing and reading manga. "Listen! Pay attention!" "We are listening," they all said automatically. "We only have five days before the trip and we need to decide what work each of you will do if we want this to go well." "Okay, okay. Let's decide and go home already." Kaname sighed. "Remind me why I have accepted to be the class representative," she groaned. “Good, I imagined it would be like this, so I have already distributed the work. All you have to do is to tell me whether you agree or not." A standing ovation came from the group of students. "We didn’t expect any less, Chidori!" "No problem," she said, making the victory sign with her hands. "Well, Onda and Sanematsu: you are in charge of the food. Omura and Aryiama: the luggage. Onodera and Suzuki: planning activities." She wrote the names next to the jobs that were already written on the blackboard. Suddenly, a mischievous smile crossed her face. "And in charge of the garbage... this is a job for Sagara." Upon mentioning his name, Sousuke left his world of concern and snarled. "Is something wrong, Sagara?" "I do not recall having agreed to this work." "Sorry, it's a school rule: the transferred student is always in charge of the garbage. The rules are the rules." Everyone laughed, but Sousuke did not understand the joke. "I did not know that. Okay, I accept." "Excellent. I'll give you the details later. Well, is everyone pleased? And, as simple as that, Mithril's best mercenary was unanimously elected to collect garbage.
April 24, 1113 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Sea of Japan, depth: 50 meters Tuatha De Danaan's command center
"A school trip?" Captain Testarossa asked. "Yes," Kalinin replied, passing some documents and a pen. "The trip begins next week. I propose that we open a new circuit for confidential communications during the trip. Also, please sign this permission." She nodded and signed the document. "It's rare for a school to take a trip at this time of year. Where are they going?" "Okinawa." "Oh-" Tessa quickly turned around, looking at the map on the screen in front of her. "Do you know who lived there before?" "No, Captain." "My father wanted me to attend a Japanese elementary school," she said melancholically, "but I never made any friends and they had to re-transfer me to a school in the base." Commander Mardukas, the Second Commander of the submarine, cleared his throat, and Tessa was brought back to earth. "I suppose that this is neither the time nor the place for memories," the Captain apologized. "Probably not, ma'am" said Mardukas before returning to work. Kalinin was still reading the report as if nothing had happened. "We have new information." "About the Whispered?" "Yes, Captain. Apparently, the installation in Khabarovsk continues to research. Look at this." Kalinin gave the mountain of documents to Tessa. It seemed an endless list of chemical substances, marked here and there with red circles. "Highlighted substances are rarely found in the USSR," explained Kalinin. "According to our intelligence-" "Is Khabaravosk the only research center?" asked Tessa, interrupting Kalinin. "It is the only division that our intelligence specifies." "So it’s not certain. Please ask them to continue the investigations." "Yes, Captain," said Kalinin.
"Is there any way to disable the Khabarovsk facility remotely? Maybe by using the computers?" proposed Tessa. It was a good idea, the data processing system of the De Danaan was a lot better than any other ship's control system. Disabling Soviet computers would not be problem for this super machine. "Unfortunately, the computers in the research center can only be shut down from the inside," said Kalinin, effectively removing the illusion. "We would require physically access to the laboratory." "Oh. How about a cruise missile?" "Yes, Captain," Kalinin nodded. "A G-type Tomahawk should be enough. It would have to be a direct hit with a nuclear warhead-type fuel-air explosive." Captain Testarossa considered it for a moment, then looked at the map. The scientists lived less than 2 kilometers from the laboratory. "Good, but minimize the casualties. Do it at night, when the workers are not there. For now, gather the last photos of Sting and obtain as much detail as possible. Who, what, where and how." "Roger. Now, about the Arbalest..." Kalinin left another pile of paperwork to complete the sentence for him. As he passed them to Tessa, she dropped the mountain of documents she already had. "How careless of me. I am so very sorry," she said, while the Kalinin and Mardukas helped her to gather the loose sheets of paper. "Thank you, Mr. Mardukas." said Kalinin. "No problem," replied Mardukas, suggesting a moderate annoyance. "Although seriously, Lieutenant Commander, you should use electronic documents like everyone else." "I will, some day," said a visibly startled Kalinin while he gave the documents to Tessa. "'The Seven Oaths of the trash-master'?" read Tessa. Embarrassed, the Lieutenant Commander quickly took Sousuke's report and gave the captain the correct documents.
April 25, 1635 hours (Japan Standard Time) Tokyo suburbs, Japan Keio Line, Express Train Hashimoto
"This is the last straw!" Kaname announced angrily.
After carefully placing a bookmark in her old book, the young girl stood up and moved aggressively towards the other side of the train, where Sousuke was sitting, pretending to read a sports newspaper. "Hey," Kaname asked, "what is your problem?" "Oh, Chidori. What a coincidence." "Yes, of course," she said before taking the newspaper from his hands and getting a glance at the headlines. "And what is this? You're reading old news!" "I have the right to do it." "Why are you following me?" "I do not know what you mean. You must be paranoid," said Sousuke without showing any emotions. "I am not paranoid. You're harassing me, all day, every day! If you want something, say so and stop acting like a freak!" "As I said, it’s pure coincidence." Kaname took a moment to process that claim. The driver of the train made an announcement on the loudspeaker, doing his best performance as he advertised. "Ladies and gentlemen! The next stop is Kokuryouuuuuu!" Kaname threw Sousuke’s newspaper to the ground, scaring an old woman who was nearby. The train staggered upon being stopped and the doors made a noise when they opened, indicating the arrival at the Kokuryou Station. "So everything is just a coincidence?" asked Chidori. "Yes." "If you say so." Just as the door began to close, Kaname went running towards the platform of the station. Kaname stuck her tongue out at Sousuke, who was in a state of panic. "See you, freak!" The train began to move. While Kaname walked towards one of the benches, Sousuke suddenly jumped out of the train through a window and landed on the platform. He bounced a couple of times and rolled before crashing against the steel railing on the edge of the platform. "Is he serious?" Sousuke was lying there, not moving. Kaname ran to him, knelt and touched him gently on the shoulder.
"Hey, you okay?" she asked. After a moment, Sousuke started acting as if nothing had happened. "There is no problem. I have only dirtied myself a little." He shook the dust from his pants. "Are you crazy? What were you thinking?" "I just remembered that... I wanted to get off at this station. It has nothing to do with you." "After this sample of insanity, you still insist-" "It's just a coincidence." Sighing, Kaname collapsed on a bench nearby. Sousuke sat down at her side and took out his sports newspaper, which he had recovered a second before leaving the moving train. "And is it just a coincidence that you start reading the newspaper here?" "Right." "Incredible." Kaname put her elbow on her knee and her head on her hand, staring at Sousuke all the time. Strangely, his behavior did not seem particularly unpleasant. It is true, since he had been transferred he had been watching her, had entered the locker room and had followed her everywhere, everyday. Even so, she did not really see him as a harasser. There was something different about him. Sousuke seemed to have no indecent feelings, nor impure motivation that made him follow her everywhere. He was too dignified to be a pervert. Like an athlete before a competition, he radiated determination and purpose. He seemed calm, but incredibly focused and deeply concentrated. Then, why was he following her? "Hey, Sagara." "Yes?" "If I promise not to get angry, will you at least tell me what's going on?" "No, nothing is happening, apart from a series of coincidences," he answered in a typical and serious way. "Okay, okay," she said. "Well, since you are here by chance, can I ask you something?" "Yes." "You have lived for a long time outside of the country, right? Were you also this weird in your other schools? Sousuke considered the question for a moment.
"Yes, I guess so. Those days were calm and eventless." "Are you sad to have left your friends?" "No. I still keep in touch with them via phone and written correspondence. So it is inaccurate to say that I have left them." Kaname was speechless. "It is not difficult." "Do you have a girl?" "I know many girls" – Sousuke did not understand the meaning of these questions. "No, a girlfriend," pressed Kaname. "You know, a lover." "I don’t have any friends of that type. One of my colleagues, call him 'friend' if you want, always says, 'There is not even a yak in Tibet who would want to be your girlfriend.'" Kaname laughed. "Your friend is funny." "I don't know what he means by that." "Let's just say that you are very weird, Sagara." "Weird?" "Extremely weird," she said, laughing quietly. "But that is not necessarily bad. You just need to find a nice girl that understands you." "I will remember that. You know? You seem to be a nice girl," he said. "Hey. Don't take it like that. I am not talking about me," she protested. "Fine. Then I will forget it." "You really are weird," joked Kaname. For a moment during their conversation, Kaname had a weak sensation of warmth, similar to that of finding a stray dog, whose only desire was to follow her wherever she was. Temporarily, her loneliness was buried by the warmth of the situation. (I guess this feels good... for now), she thought. A train arrived at the station and interrupted Kaname's thoughts.
April 25, 1905 hours (Greenwich Medium Time) Sea of Japan, periscope height Tuatha De Danaan
Just the right amount of moonlight passed through the water's surface to keep the submarine covered in shadows. From an external perspective, the Tuatha De Danaan looked like a shark, except that it was hundreds of times larger. In fact, the assault submarine was as big as a skyscraper placed horizontally. The giant submarine was moving quietly through the water, slowly. Near the rear of the submarine, a hatch was opened and a missile emerged. Leaving a sparkling trail behind it, the Tomahawk missile fired into the air went out and deployed its wings. A moment later, it reached a stable height and it promoted in direction of the northern horizon. "Launch sequence complete. Closing the VMLS hatch," announced the officer in charge of the Vertical Missile Launching System. "Excellent," said Tessa, looking at security indicators on her command screen. "Now, dive to 90 meters and set course south." "Aie aie, Captain," said Commander Mardukas, a tall and thin man, whose black frame glasses and pale and bony features made him look more like a scientist than a soldier. "Let's go, then," Tessa urged them. "Flood the main ballast tank and set the immersion angle to ten degrees. Increase the speed to ten knots." Tessa, a diver with more than ten years experience, gave orders without shyness, although she was a novice regarding the Tuatha De Danaan, which was without question the most high-tech submarine in the world. Tessa knew that launching a cruise missile could attract a lot of attention, so it was better to evacuate the area as quickly as possible. Later, they could use Mithril's spy satellite, Sting, to make sure they have hit the target. "Yes, Captain," said the Navigation Officer, who repeated the same orders while carrying out the tasks. "Will it really take three hours to know the result?" "Yes, ma'am. Perhaps you should go rest," recommended Mardukas. Tessa shrugged. "That would be nice, but I would probably have nightmares." Either way, the missile was already on its way. If the attack was successful, the enemy would probably need about five years to recover. A laborious reconnaissance report from the Intelligence Department indicated that Khabarovsk was the only Whispered research center in the country.
"Lieutenant-Commander, if we can destroy the lab, will we call back those who are on the protection mission?" asked Tessa, sitting in her chair. "Yes, Captain. But..." "Yes? What?" "Nothing. I'm probably just paranoid," said Kalinin with an expression of concern.
April 26, 1038 hours (Pacific Standard Time West) Khabarovsk, Soviet Union KGB Building
"The laboratory is in ruins!" shouted the colonel on the phone. "Who would have imagined a missile attack? All the data is gone. We have lost all information on the Whispered." Gauron's voice was indifferent: "Sorry to hear that." "Resuming our research is impossible, so we no longer need the girl." "Oh, I see. What a pity." "Yes, you must cancel her abduction, there is no way we can afford to pay you under these circumstances." The image of Gauron killing a man in cold blood passed through the colonel's mind. "I understand," said Gauron calmly, perhaps too calmly. "Are you serious?" asked the colonel. "Of course." "You seem very calm, considering that your source of income is gone." "I have many jobs," Gauron replied. "I will turn to someone else who is also interested, perhaps I will give him a souvenir." "A souvenir?" Something produced a metallic sound upon colliding against the phone. "You know what this is, Colonel? It is a DVD that I found. Sounds good, eh? It has all kind of fascinating figures on it." "The research data? How-" "Professional secret, colleague. Be sure to write to me from the gulag the KGB send you to. Until then, Colonel."
Click. Knock! Knock! Knock! The colonel looked towards the door. Before he could say anything, armed soldiers entered the room. "Colonel Smirnoff?" asked a young lieutenant. His unofficial job has attracted the attention of party leaders. He was accused of exploiting national resources for personal affairs, resulting in a substantial loss for the nation. "Wait, that's not-" "Save the explanations for the road to Lubyanka. This way, please." Lubyanka. The Russians knew the true meaning of this word and feared it greatly. Lubyanka meant intense interrogation and a life in the forced labor camps. Plain and simple, the fate of Colonel Smirnoff was sealed: a world composed solely of agony awaited him. The colonel bent his head over while the soldiers escorted him out.
April 26, 2001 hours (Japan Standard Time) Chofu, Tokyo, Japan Tigers Apartments # 505
Deservedly, Sousuke took the day off, spending the rest of it in the apartment. That Sunday, when Kaname left her house at noon, Kurz followed her in the AS, and Sousuke monitored her apartment. Throughout the day not a single suspicious person appeared. At one time, a middle-aged woman with a child rang the bell of Kaname's apartment, but they proved to be harmless. After 8 p.m., Kaname returned home safe. "20.06, The Angel is home. Nothing unusual," Sousuke said into the microphone. A second later, Kurz entered through the door of the apartment full of energy. "Heeeere is Kurzie! Haha. What's up, Sergeant Grumpy?" When Kurz talked, Sousuke could feel the smell of beer in his breath. Without taking his eyes off the surveillance screen, Sousuke asked him: "Kurz, are you drinking during a mission?" Kurz shyly laughed. "What could I do? I only wanted to take one, but Kyouko continued insisting." "Kyouko, Kaname's friend?"
"Yes. When I saw Kaname, Kyouko, Yuka and Shiori, I told them I was lost. 'Thank you! You saved me! The Japanese girls are so nice!' And pretty too, haha!" What Kurz lacked in subtlety, he made it up for with his confidence. God, please let them pound some sense into him! Groaned Mao through her intercom. She had returned the AS to its trailer. "It's not my fault they are so lovely!" protested Kurz. "Besides, I was happy to see some other girls besides a bitch whose name I won't mention." "Kurz, this work is classified. You wouldn't want to get too much involved," Sousuke reminded him. "Are you stupid? Closing in makes it easier to observe. It's obvious." "If you get involved, your emotions could cloud your judgment. To stay rational and objective-" "Yes, in theory!" interrupted Kurz. "In times of danger, you have to use your head though, relax a little." "But..." "Am I wrong?" Sousuke looked fixedly at Kurz, incapable of saying 'Yes' or 'No'. He wasn't even sure what argument he was trying to refute. "Aah, those girls talked a lot while eating," began Kurz. "'There is a new transfer student in the class, he is very strange, is he not, Kana?' 'A strange one, Kana' 'Tell us about the new student, Kana'. I cannot believe they didn't want to talk about more important things... like me. Suddenly, Sousuke's look changed. "What did they say about me?" "Oh, I see. You want to know?" Kurz gloated. "No, not really. But it is part of the mission, so you should tell me." "I don't think so. First, say: 'Please sir, tell me more.'" To Sousuke it didn't seem funny. "Okay, okay. You don't have to be so childish..." Seeing something suspicious, Kurz quickly became sober. He approached the surveillance screen. "21:21: Suspicious individual on the side of the balcony. Beginning investigation," Sousuke reported.
The screen showed the balcony of Kaname's apartment, thanks to a camera hidden on the roof of the adjacent building. In the left part of the image, a masked man dressed in black climbed the drainpipe of the building. "Is he so stupid as to go up there alone?" Sousuke commented while attaching a silencer onto a 9mm. "I don't know. There might be others around. I will check the cars in the surrounding area," said Kurz, taking a sniper rifle with a night vision scope. "Here is Urzu 2" Mao said through the wireless. "Subdue the criminal. Urzu 6, go with the rifle on the roof of the building where the camera is situated." "Urzu 6, understood." "Urzu 7, act directly. I will be in the parking lot, monitoring." "Roger. Give me two minutes." Carrying the abseiling equipment on his shoulder, Sousuke went out the door at full speed. One hundred and twenty seconds later, he was on the roof of the building where Kaname Chidori's apartment was. He secured the rope to the grill and tied it to his waist. Kurz's voice echoed over the headphone. "Here is Urzu 6. I am in position, next to the camera. No sign of accomplices. He is working alone." "Don't let your guard down, especially your six." "Who do you think you're talking to, idiot?" Mao stopped the discussion. "Perfect synchronization, Urzu 7: Kaname is in the shower. Try to take care of this before she comes out." "Urzu 7, understood." "Don't kill him." "I know." And so, Sousuke climbed down from the roof. Apart from the soft sound of the rope slipping between his hands, everything was done in silence. After bouncing a couple of times against the wall, he stood just above the stalker. The intruder was so focused climbing the balcony's railing, that he didn't notice Sousuke. Jumping once more against the wall, Sousuke turned around cleverly in the air and fell on the man's back in the balcony.
"Don't move," Sousuke pressed his gun against the head of the intruder. "You've lost. Do not make any sound." Shaking violently, the man nodded. "Good, you value your life." Keeping the man to the ground, Sousuke searched him for weapons. He found none, only a wallet. Sousuke opened it. Inside, there was a student card. Jindai School, Year 2, Class 4, # 10. Shinji Kazama. This kid was in Sousuke's class. "Urzu 6 to Urzu 7." "What is it?" "Sousuke, look at what he's holding." Sousuke saw what appeared to be several small pieces of cloth. "Panties," smiled Kurz. "White as snow. End of transmission." Sousuke looked up and saw Kurz laughing and picking up his equipment. "God," muttered Mao while withdrawing with the camouflaged M9. "What were you doing?" asked a confused Sousuke. He removed the intruder's mask. The boy behind the mask – thin, pale, with a childish appearance – was shaking with fear. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I won't do it again!" "Sssh!" Sousuke told him to shut up, pressing the gun against the boy. Calmer, the boy said: "Sorry. Please do not arrest me." "I'm not a policeman," clarified Sousuke, "but I want an explanation." "Are you not going to arrest me?" "Relax." Sousuke helped the kid to get up. "Thanks. Hey, you're in my class. Sagara, right?" "You must be mistaken." "I can't be! You-" Sousuke armed the gun. "I said 'You must be mistaken.'" Nodding desperately, the boy apologized. "Now, Kazama, right? What are you doing here?" Holding the underwear, Shinji Kazama said:
"As you can see, I'm stealing underwear, it seems we had the same idea." "No, I just passed through here," Sousuke lied. "Oh. Good." Although he was confused, Shinji didn't insist. "Why would you want to steal the underwear of Miss Chidori?" "They are not for me," whispered Shinji. "Murano and the others-" "Murano?" asked Sousuke. Shinji Kazama explained the situation. Each school has its delinquents, and Murano was the leader of those from Jindai High. He and his henchmen knew Shinji was in the Photography Club so they broke in and stole some negatives. They were to be returned in exchange for Kaname's underwear. "So are you being blackmailed?" asked Sousuke. "More or less," Kazama sighed." But these guys are not really that pervert. They just wanted to see if I had the guts to steal the underwear of the school's most popular girl." Those guys' complicated plans never stopped looking immensely ridiculous in Sousuke's eyes. "I see. Didn't you think this could anger Miss Chidori?" "Well, yes," Kazama admitted guilty. "But I want to get those negatives back." "What's on them?" "Arm-Slaves. Of all kinds, but mostly from the United States, Japan and self-defense models." "Really?" Suddenly, Sousuke felt interested. "Yes, I traveled through all the Japan's bases to take those photos. It was a lot of work. AS technology is one of your hobbies, is it not, Sagara?" "I wouldn't call it exactly a hobby..." "I even took a picture of a Navy M6 in Okinawa." The M6 fought for the first time in the early 90's, prominently in the Gulf War. Once the people saw it on the news, it became quite popular equipment. "Was it the A2 series?" "Yes. It had a shield with reactive armor and all the extras." "Really? How did it move?" "The operators at the base said the balance was not the best" answered Shinji. "That makes sense, because its control system is the Rockwell MSO-II, right? The feedback
architecture has a lot of issues, so when the bilateral angle exceeds 3.5 degrees it becomes vulnerable to attack even by hand guns." Sousuke nodded, recognizing all the terms. "Basically, it is best suited either for a well planned ambush or a suicide mission. I read somewhere that the newest model, the M9, still can't be used everywhere." While Shinji didn't stop talking gibberish about techniques, the two young men were sitting in the balcony with their legs crossed. The dialogue between the two military fanboys quickly buried any memory of the failed underwear robbery. "Your knowledge is impressive. You do not sound like a civilian," Sousuke praised him. "I still have a lot to learn," Shinji said modestly. "You also know quite a lot, Sagara." "Thanks, but-" With a woosh, the balcony curtain opened, interrupting Sousuke's answer. Sousuke's and Shinji's eyes opened wide in surprise. Kaname was in front of them, stunned, full of fear and anger, or a combination of both. Her towel barely concealed her well-proportioned chest and covered even less of her legs. Holding the towel strongly, Kaname demanded to know what was happening. While Sousuke and Shinji struggled to explain, Sousuke realized he had been playing with her underwear without realizing it. His eyes traveled from the cotton cloth to Kaname and back. "Chidori!" he said. "What a coincidence!" Without saying anything, Kaname went back into her apartment. Shinji and Sousuke breathed a sigh of relief. And then she returned... with a metal softball bat in her hand.
"What a bruise!" Kurz wrapped an ice bag around Sousuke's arm. "I think she intended to kill us. Kazama was lucky, I distracted her long enough for him to have time to escape into the bushes." "From the fourth floor?" "Yes. He clung to the cherry tree and then dropped from there." "And she tried to kill you?" "I was lucky to escape. Imagine the Lieutenant Commander's disappointment if the girl that we were supposed to protect ended up killing me." Kurz laughed. "In fact, I can imagine his face."
Knowing the Lieutenant Commander's stoic disposition, he would probably sigh once, fill some forms related to the distribution of the deceased's possessions and then focus on the next mission. Lieutenant Commander Andrei Kalinin never seemed particularly surprised by anyone's death. "Now, she'll surely hate me," complained Sousuke. "Don't blame yourself, pervert," joked Kurz. A moment later, Mao contacted them from the M9. "Guys, I just talked to the De Danaan." "New orders?" "Yes. The mission is over, the enemy has no reason to kidnap Kaname." "What do you mean?" "They destroyed the base where she was needed. They destroyed everything, including research data. That means we can relax for a while." "Hey, so do we return to the ship or what?" Kurz asked. "That is the best part. We have a week off!" "I can't believe it! Yes!" Kurz cried with joy, raising his hand to shake Sousuke's. Sousuke just sat there, upset. "We were supposed to go on a school trip the day after tomorrow, 5 days and 4 nights." "He said you should go." Mao cleared her throat to do her best Kalinin imitation. "Go and have fun." "The Lieutenant Commander said that?" "Yes. We already paid the trip. We have to stick to the budget. It seems an order." "But -" "Just go, Sousuke," said Kurz, who had abandoned all hope of him hitting the five. "Relax. Kaname is safe, so take that weight off your shoulders and try to act like a normal kid for a change." After thinking a moment, Sousuke replied: "Well, I'll go then. It will be an important learning experience."
April 28, 0915 hours (Japan Standard Time) Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan Passenger room
Although he was under strict orders to have fun, Sousuke was not feeling too cheerful. Free from the obligations of his mission, he was more confused than ever about what to do. Besides, Kaname really seemed to hate him this time. When their eyes met by chance, Kaname turned right around and walked in the opposite direction with Kyouko and the other girls. "Well, you can not blame her" lamented Shinji Kazama, sitting on one of the banks at the airport. "That's to say, she found you in her balcony, talking, with her underwear in your hands." Since the incident, Shinji and Sousuke had become partners in disgrace, accomplices in shame. "Hey, cheer up, Sagara." "Yes…" Sagara eagerly anticipated the return to the Tuatha de Danaan to receive another mission. Why had he had to accept to go on this trip? "Attention, Class Four!" Miss Kagurazaka announced. "Student cards and tickets in hand!" Irritated, Sousuke and Shinji got on the end of the line heading towards the plane.
Once they had seated all the noisy students, the stewardess sighed with relief. In fact, there were only about eight passengers who were not part of the school trip. And once those passengers boarded the plane, they were surprised by the students' energy. Visions of future headaches passed through the stewardess' mind. She grimaced. "Hello?" said a passenger while entering. "Can you show me where my seat is?" He showed her his ticket. "Of course, please follow me," she said, forcing a smile. "I can't say I envy you, you have to babysit all these students." "It is not so bad," she said. "Just make sure they don't make me crazy, I would probably throw them through the window at 8000 meters." A little confused, she mumbled. "If we kill them all, we would have a quiet trip, right?" "Sir, this is not-" "I'm just kidding," he explained seriously. "Ah, there it is." The man smiled as he slipped into his seat, but it was not a pleasant smile.
April 28, 0958 hours (Japan Standard Time) Flying over Tokyo, Japan JAL flight 903
The jumbo jet reached cruising altitude. Kyouko had never been on an airplane, so she clung to the window and pressed her face against the glass. It was a bright and clear day and she could see all of Tokyo. "Wow, look! The Rainbow Bridge! Incredible!" "Yes," said Kaname, bored. "Are you at least listening to me, Kana?" "Yes, clearly." "Look, the Statue of Liberty!" "Yes." "The Eiffel Tower!" "Wonderful," said Kaname. Kyouko gave her a nudge. "What's the matter? You've been weird all day. Did something happen to you?" "Not really, no." Kaname did not feel in the mood to explain that she was angry with herself. She thought she could understand a little about Sagara, like when he jumped off the train through the window, but all she found was that he was an obsessed harasser, perverted and grumpy. (It was stupid of me to trust him), she thought discouraged. "Is it Sagara?" guessed Kyouko. "What? Of course not. Never. Haha. Hahaha!" Despite the obvious use of Kaname's nervous laughter to say 'talk about something else', Kyouko had no intention of changing the subject. "Has he done something to you?" "No, not at all." "I knew it. Last Sunday you said that maybe he was a nice guy, but the next day you completely ignored him. What did he do?" "Nothing." "Come on, Kana. Although you might be afraid to tell someone else, you can tell me." Kyouko took Kaname's hand. "If you need to go to the hospital, I will go with you." "Hopefu-"
"Don't worry, we'll make Sagara pay for this! I know this lawyer who deals with cases like this all the time. He's a good person." "What nonsense are you saying?" Before Kyouko could respond, the plane shook from left to right. She let out a small shout. "It's not a problem, you do not have to worry" Kaname said quietly, although the turbulence had not completely passed. "It's strange, I have never been in a turbulent zone in such good weather." Students, gossipers and conspiracy theorists by nature, were talking about the turbulence. Kaname touched a student sitting in front of her. "Hey, what's going on?" "I do not know. But I swear I heard a noise like an explosion just before the shaking." "Explosion?" Ding! "Attention, passengers. Do not be alarmed. We are crossing a low pressure zone. We have adjusted the course. We might have some more turbulence, but I assure you it's nothing to worry about." Ding! "How strange," Kaname said. Confused, Kyouko asked why. "Usually they don't say, 'Do not be alarmed.' What they say is 'Please fasten your seat belts or something.'" And nobody knew how right she was.
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