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Full Metal Panic! - Volume 1 - Chapter 3


Chapter 3: Bad Trip

"Good. We don't want the passengers to panic." 
Setting down the little microphone, the pilot stole a look at the smug bastard with the laser-sighted pistol standing behind him. The man's black hair fell over his forehead, nearly covering his large scar. 
"I can't believe you used an explosive on the plane! A~e you nuts?" "It was just a small one-barely big enough to get into the cockpit." 
"You're lucky you didn't blow us all to smithereens!" 
"Probably true," responded Gauron in a very chilling vOIce. "Hey, stick to the course!" 
White with fear, the pilot ran his eyes over the gauges. "The electrical system took a hit in that explosion. We're in danger if we don't make an emergency landing." 
"Is it broken?" The terrorist inquired, attempting to decode the complex instruments. 
"It is. We'll negotiate for your demands, but if we don't return to Haneda Airport, we'll probably crash." 
"I think I see what's broken," said Gauron. "It's this, right here." 
And he pointed the gun's laser sight at the pilot's head and pulled the trigger. The firing of the bullet made less noise than the sound of flesh and bone ripping apart. The pilot died instantly. 
"I see. It's beyond repair!" chuckled Gauron. 
"What've you done?" moaned the copilot, who now was wearing a considerable portion ofthe pilot's cerebral cortex. The little red laser dot flickered across the copilot's face. 
"You're not broken, too, are you?" 
"Don't shoot! No one else can fly the plane!" 
"I must admit, I've always wanted to get behind the wheel of one of these things," laughed Gauron, invading the copilot's personal space. "Tell me, is it as fun as it looks?" 
"Please, don't kill me." 
"I just asked if it was fun, stupid." 
Painfully slowly, Gauron's finger tightened around the trigger. Just he was about to squeeze it, another large man entered the cockpit. 
"Gauron!" barked the man, who was nearly six and a halffeet tall. He wore a suit and glasses but didn't really resemble a businessman. 
"Hello, Koh." 
"Why did you kill the pilot?" 
"He lied to me and tried to make me look foolish." 
Very nimble for his size, Koh grabbed Gauron's gun. "Who's going to fly the plane?" 
"I'll do it; I fly transport planes all the time." 
"They're not the same thing. Regardless, I thought you were supposed to bring only a knife." 
"A knife? How barbaric. Please." 
Koh grabbed the jeering man by the lapels. "Look, it's your business if you get off on murder. But don't forget, you're working for me and my country. If you jeopardize this ..." "Don't worry. I'm a perfect gentleman," protested Gauron, "as long as people listen to me. Right?" 
He clapped the terrified copilot's shoulder. "What's your name?" 
"M-Mouri." 
"Mister Mouri, as you may have heard, I'm not supposed to kill you. But, if you don't do as I say, I have no problems killing other people until you learn to listen. Got it?" 
"Please, don't kill anyone." 
"That all depends on you." 
Gravely, Mouri nodded, gulped, and focused on flying. 
"I didn't tell your dead amigo, but I have people all over this plane. And they're all armed. Just keep that in mind." 
"How did you ever get all those weapons on board?" 
"I'm organized. I had a little help from one of the maintenance workers." 
"You b-bribed them?" 
"More or less." Gauron cracked an evil-looking smile. 
In actuality, Gauron had kidnapped the man's family and coerced him into doing what he wanted. Then, for good measure, Gauron cleaned up the mess to prevent future trouble. 
"Now then." Gauron abruptly pulled out a map. "Take her right along this route."
The copilot paled. "North from MIMOD? We're going to Sunan? Isn't that North Korea?" 
"Very good, you get an A in geography." 
"They'll shoot us down." 
"I wouldn't worry about that. Just follow our directions to the and they'll even escort us in. They're not as precise as we are," griped Gauron, "but go ahead and use the ILS system, anyway. Once we pass this point, broadcast your identification." And Gauron continued to layout the details of the plan. 
It took a while for the authorities to realize the full gravity of the situation when the plane entered Naha FIR, changed course northward, and flew into South Korea's Daegu FIR. 
A debate arose among the Ministry ofTransport as to whether Flight 903 merely was experiencing mechanical problems or if it had been hijacked. 
During the most heated part ofthe argument, the South Korean Air Force phoned in the settlement-they just received word that the plane was, in fact, hijacked. 
However, the message had to pass through all kinds ofdifferent channels and translators, so it took the Ministry ofTransport almost twenty minutes to get it. 
Finally, the Security Council took over handling the situation. 
Meanwhile, Flight 903 carried on right into North Korea. 
The South Koreans called off their aerial pursuit and were more than a little surprised to see that no North Korean planes arrived to intercept the jet. 
The Metropolitan Police Department had an anti-terrorist force called SAT, but there wasn't much they could do now that the plane was all the way in North Korea. 
Out on the campaign trail, the Prime Minister learned of the incident during a press conference when an NHK reporter asked him about it. 
Shrugging, he commented that he didn't have any information and would talk about it as soon as he did. He then, perhaps foolishly, resumed talking about other topics, giving his critics much fuel. 
The strangest aspect of this hijacking was that no one claimed responsibility for it. 
The U.S. AWACS in South Korea issued an announcement that Flight 903 landed at Sunan's Air Base, about twelve miles north of Pyongyang. 
And the whole time, the hostages were ignorant of their predicament. 
 
April 28, 11:55 (Japan Standard Time) 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
Sunan Air Base 
Something was amiss. 
The passengers did not understand why they had been flying over mountain ranges for so long, nor why they weren't already to their island destination. 
The stewardess was just as in the dark as everybody else. "No need to worry," she assured them, smiling, ''I'm sure we'll be landing soon-probably has to do with the weather." 
Eventually, the plane did prepare to land. Passengers on the port side of the craft could see a town near the runway, but it looked quiet and rundown, lined by old-fashioned factories belching puffs of nasty black smoke. Looking out the window was like looking into a picture ofJapan's past. 
"I knew something was wrong," asserted Shinji Kazama. "This isn't Okinawa. It doesn't even look like Japan." 
"It would seem that way," replied Sousuke. 
During the flight, Sousuke and Shinji easily identified the South Korean Air Force F-I6. They knew there was no way that plane would be flying over the Pacific Ocean en route to Okinawa. 
Before long, the plane landed. Several hundred feet from the runway, there was a large hangar in which many outdated warplanes sat, waiting for action. The aircraft looked like carps with wings glued on. 
"Sagara, those are MiG-lIs. I mean, J7s." 
From their vantage point in the plane, they also could see a pair of antediluvian tanks. 
"Whoa! Look at those! T-34s!" Shinji nearly crapped his pants. 
"Those junk heaps are at least fifty years old!" 
There were, in addition to the outdated technology, at least a few Arm Slaves. Sousuke and Shinji could make out three. 
"Whoa! A new Rk-92! Did they skip everything in between?" 
The Rk-92 was a long-armed, Soviet-made AS with khakicolored armor and weapons, the most popular camouflage in the East. 
Most Western militaries referred to the Rk-92s as "Savages." Sousuke knew that AS well, for he had piloted one-even fought in it. 
Based on the number and type ofweapons, Sousuke knew it had to be, without a doubt, a North Korean base. 
What is going on here, anyway? 
According to Mao's latest report, Kaname was no longer in danger. However, the latest hijacking suggested otherwise. 
This could not be a coincidence. Whoever was responsible chose the most reliable form of abduction-with several hundred hostages, not even Mithril would leap to the rescue carelessly. 
To make matters worse, they were definitely in North Korea, a country whose relations with Japan were, to put. it mildly, strained. A rescue operation in a semi-hostile area would be much more dangerous. It was a new twist to an old-school hijacking. 
"Nicely done," assessed Sousuke. 
"Huh?" grunted Shinji inquisitively. 
"Nothing." 
There was almost nothing Sousuke could do. In accordance with school policy and airline regulations, he didn't even have a gun with him. Even if he did, it wouldn't have done him much good. 
Other, slightly denser passengers started to connect the dots and began to clamor. 
Ding! 
"Attention, passengers. Thank you for flying with us today," said a male voice. "As you might have guessed, this is not Naha airport. Due to unavoidable circumstances, we have been forced to land at the Sunan airport in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." 
"What? Are you kidding?" shouted Miss Kagurazaka, the rarely fazed homeroom teacher. 
"Just listen, ma'am," instructed Shinji. 
"Next week, the imperialist American military and their South Korean puppets are holding joint maneuvers to intimidate the heroic People's Army. My brethren in the People's Army must quash U.S. imperialism, even if that means taking all you nice people hostage. Please, take a look out the windows." 
Several hundred people pressed their faces against the Plexiglas to see armored vehicles, Arm Slaves, and uniformed soldiers surrounding the plane. 
"They are here to welcome you. But if you do not follow our directions, or if you foolishly try to escape, they will shoot you on sight." 
Passengers gasped. 
"Therefore, please remain where you are until the time of your release comes. The plane is equipped to accommodate you until your release. Thank you for your cooperation." 
 
April 28, 04:05 (Greenwich Mean Time) 
Korea Strait, Periscope Depth 
Tuatha de Danaan Command Center 
 
"We've been had," said Teletha Testarossa. "They've tricked our intelligence." 
The command center's forward screen looked like a swirly finger-painting of information. Red, green, and yellow characters danced, complicated figures overlapped. Several different countries were mobilizing military units, and intercepted communications flew in from every angle. 
"We're always a step behind," she lamented. "It's pathetic." 
Reassuringly, Kalinin said, "Think of it as playing Wh!lc-a¬Mole. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do but wait until one shows its ugly head." 
Tessa knew that Kalinin must have been at least a little suspicious, seeing as it was his idea for Sousuke to go on the trip. But even he seemed surprised by such a brazen and audacious move. 
"Whoever is behind this, it sure doesn't seem like the KGB," determined Kalinin. "Yes, and despite their location, I don't think North Korea's behind it, either," said Tessa. 
"Right, ma'am. They're both just along for the ride with whoever masterminded this whole escapade." 
Although they thought the research data was obliterated completely, someone must have salvaged it somehow. And whoever made offwith the data had to have some kind ofties to North Korean military circles, as well as a research facility to exploit Kaname. 
"Any guesses who Mister X and friends might be?" 
"No idea at this stage." 
"The North Korean government issued a statement that it is not responsible for this hijacking, as if it just fell into their laps. 
However, they seem pleased to have some leverage to stop the U.S. South Korea joint maneuvers," reported Tessa as she finished reading the latest transmission from Sweden. She was quite adept at reading incredibly fast while talking about something entirely unrelated-a feat impossible for an average brain. 
"So, Lieutenant Commander," she began, "what do you think are the chances the hostages will be released peacefully?" 
"Excepting Chidori, you mean?" 
Tessa nodded. "Right. If we don't make any bad moves, we might be able to negotiate the return of the other four hundred people on board.
"Yes. I suppose the North Korean government certainly doesn't want to add to the tension here. I mean, they had an abundant harvest last year, just started working on a palladium reactor, and have started to dig their economy out of the basement. They really don't have anything to gain by letting several hundred Japanese students die." 
"Right. We should let their leaders deal with returning the hostages. Then, we can find and rescue Chidori." 
Even if, for argument's sake, that plan would work, they knew exactly what kind of treatment Kaname would be subject to until that rescue. 
Kalinin noticed the faint look of self-loathing that appeared on Tessa's face, but he pretended he hadn't. 
"This makes sense, however-" 
"We'll watch over things for now," interrupted Tessa. 
"Very good. We still have some time. What should we do about combat standby?" 
"Put transport planes on standby at the Merida Island base¬three C-I7s. And get a KC-IO in the air in two hours or less. We'll come up with the flight plans as necessary." 
"Aye aye, ma'am," responded the communications officer before getting to work. 
 
"Remember, Lieutenant Commander, we still have Mao and Weber," reminded Tessa. "Let's have six M9 Gernsbacks and three FAV-8 Super Harriers prepped and ready by oh-seven hundred. 
And-" 
Tessa weighed the final decision in her mind before speaking. 
"Let's get the Arbalest into a usable state." 
"Aye aye, ma'am." 
"Let's not worry ourselves, now. We are prepared for situations like this." 
Kalinin nodded and said, "Plus, the enemy's unaware of his deadly cargo." 
Indeed, in a situation like this, Sousuke was undeniably dangerous. 
"True. Let's wait for him to contact us," decided Tessa. "Keep the ship at periscope depth." 
April 28, 17:18 (Japan/Korea Standard Time)
Sunan Air Base, Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
JAL Flight 903

Despite the gravity of the situation, the students on the plane were abuzz with excitement. 
The other passengers on the airc~aft sat gravely awaiting new developments, but the Jindai High School students revolted against boredom with all kinds of raucous behavior. 
Intense Hanafuda and mahjong card battles erupted. LIFE and Monopoly spread out across some of the seats. 
Some ofthe students were yukking it up with handheld karaoke sets, some were getting a head start on the class-trip tradition of telling dirty stories, and some were racing remote-controlled cars up and down the aisles. The stewardess' head pounded so hard, she was nearly ready to make a break for it. The teachers tried to maintain some semblance of order; but the kids were so rambunctious, they had no choice but to give up. 
"Hey, Kana, are you hungry?" asked Kyouko as they worked through a game of Old Maid. Kaname watched Kyouko draw a particularly terrible card; then she said, "Yeah. I wonder when we'll be able to get some food." 
"Maybe there's a convenience store around here," suggested Kyouko. ''I'll just give you the money, and you can go out and get some food, okay?" 
"Ha ha. Even if there was a shop around here, it wouldn't be Lawson, it'd be II-Sung. Ew!" 
"What's wrong with II-Sung?" 
"You don't know? What is wrong with young people these days?" joked Kaname. She turned around and looked at the seat behind her. 
Sousuke Sagara sat nearby, quietly thinking. 
That's how he reacts to an emergency like this? What the hell is the matter with him? 
Absentmindedly, she pulled a card from Shouko's hand: a joker. 
"Crap!" 
"Oh, that's really a shame. Too bad," said Shouko. 
Suddenly, silence rippled through the plane's cabin. Three men who had accessorized their suits with submachine guns entered the passenger compartment. A fourth man also entered; he was empty handed and smirking. He fixed the collar of his expensive-looking suit and magnanimously spread out his hands. 
"Carryon. Don't mind us!" 
Only a handful of the most brazen students resumed their activities. The smirking man whispered something to the other three men, issuing instructions.
"What's this all about?" Kyouko asked uneasily. 
"You, there," he called; it was the same voice they'd heard over the loudspeaker earlier. Who was he talking to? "Perhaps you didn't hear me. You, the pretty girl with the long hair." 
Kaname sat blankly, unsure how to respond. 
"Yes, you." He came closer and looked down at Kaname. He had a large, straight scar on his forehead, and his eyes had the same glassy lifelessness of a doll's. 
"Can I help you?" Kaname asked. 
"We're making a little video to send to the press, and we need someone to star in it." 
"Oh, I see. I don't think I'm really cut out for it. I mean, I'm just an ordinary girl," protested Kaname. "Nonsense. You're perfect for the role. Just come with me." "But-" The three goons with guns grabbed Kaname and brought her to her feet. 
"Hey, let me go! Find someone else." 
"Kana!" screamed Kyouko. 
Heroically, or perhaps foolishly, Eri Kagurazaka laid into the man with school-teacher ferocity. "What do you think you're doing with my student?" 
"We're just going to borrow her for a minute. We'll bring her right back." 
"I won't allow it. Ifyou have to take someone, take me," insisted Miss Kagurazaka. 
"It wouldn't be as effective. We need-" 
"Don't make excuses, you coward!" 
The man's face coldly registered the verbal abuse. 
"Who do you people think you are, anyway, hijacking a whole plane of people? Despicable! And now, you want to kidnap a child? 
Your morals are garbage! Whatever reasons you have for doing this, you can be sure-" 
Smiling, Gauron pulled a pistol from under his suit. The little red laser rested on Miss Kagurazaka's forehead. "You talk too much." 
"What? Please-" 
Heedless, the terrorist slowly tightened his grip on the trigger. 
BANG! 
Everyone in the passenger cabin flinched as the sound resonated through the plane.
 
However, it wasn't a gunshot, just metal clanging. Everyone turned to look for the source of the sound. 
A male student slowly picked up a tray and fork from the aisle. 
"Excuse me," said Sagara, and he sat down as if nothing had happened. 
Gauron stared at Sousuke, scrutinizing him. Sousuke kept his face down, silently staring at the cup in his hands. 
Like prairie dogs, the students rose above their seats and looked back and forth from the man to Sousuke. 
"Hmph," said Gauron, quickly losing interest. He put the pistol back under his coat. "Let's just go. We have what we need." 
The terrorists headed for the exit, dragging Kaname past her gaping teacher. 
Realizing how close she'd been to dying, Eri Kagurazaka fainted. 
Students rushed to her aid, shouting for doctors. Calmly, Sousuke pushed his way through the plane until he reached the galley, where he placed his hands on the sink and finally breathed a huge sigh of relief 
Idiot. 
It was far from sane to purposely attract the enemy's attention. But in the moment, he had known it was the only way to save Miss Kagurazaka. His mind had fought its own battle. He knew it was not his duty to protect his teacher, but he also felt the very pressing desire to save her. 
In the end, he did not understand why he chose to compromise himself to save the woman. 
When the enemy had stared at him, it seemed to last an eternity. Masking his fury in a calm, albeit slightly ruffled exterior took every bit of Sousuke's willpower. 
It's a miracle that he didn't recognize me. 
Taking a moment to collect himself, Sousuke stretched his back. He would have to act quickly: Kaname Chidori was in the enemy's hands now. 
I must respond to the situation. 
There were no soldiers standing guard inside the plane-they mostly lurked around the outside of the plane, making sure no one exited. The plane was out of fuel, so there was no risk of it simply taking off And there was no way of cont~cting the outside world, considering that Gauron had destroyed the plane's long-range communication equipment. Indeed, the jumbo jet made a great prIson. 
Sousuke needed to break out. 
If he could just make it to his own luggage, he would be able to contact his allies and resume his search for Kaname. 
Being careful to make sure no one was looking, Sousuke crawled into the galley elevator and lowered himself down a shaft into the cargo hold. 
Cutting through the darkness with a penlight from his pocket, Sousuke searched through the large containers of luggage. 
After looking through at least a dozen large containers full of bags, he found his own. He discarded the change of clothes and toiletry set; eventually, his hands found what he wanted-a high¬powered satellite communication device with an attached codec. 

Happily, Sousuke also retrieved a twenty-thousand volt stun gun from the bag. It was enough to incapacitate an average man with just one zap. He thrust a few survival items into his pockets and lamented failing to pack any guns or knives. 

As Sousuke slung the gear over his shoulder and started to close the container, a shrill noise caught his attention. 
Somebody was opening the luggage-loading door! 
Quickly, Sousuke closed the lid to the container and hurried away, making a dive into the shadows of a large stack of bags as several men shuffled through the door.

Sousuke really wanted to look at the men, but he opted to remain safely hidden, instead. All he could do was bury himself farther into the pile of bags and try to breathe less cons picuously. 
Of course, the men headed right toward him-purposefully, with guns clinking against metal belts. Sousuke counted: one, two, three men. He assumed they were trained for combat. 
If they found him, he would have no choice but to fight, although he didn't like the odds of going at them barehanded. And he didn't even want to think about how many men were waiting outside. 
A Jeep carried Kaname to a remote corner of the base. 
A truck and two large trailers sat atop what appeared to be an out-oF-use apron. Loud, buzzing generators rested on top of the truck, enabling lamps to bathe the whole area in mercury-colored light. Several men with machine guns stood guard in front of the trailers, which resembled TV relay vehicles. 
"Excuse me, what is this?" 
Without answering, Gauron smiled and escorted Kaname from  the Jeep into one of the trailers, which was chock-full of elaborate electronic and medical equipment: pods and wires, computers and doo-dads.
 
From a desk near one of the computers, a woman in a white lab coat watched Kaname enter. "Is that her?" 

"Yes. Start the tests right away," said Gauron. 
"Tests?" said Kaname. "What exactly-" 
"Put this on," commanded the woman, handing Kaname a blue hospital gown. 
"Why?" 
"Your uniform has metal buttons on it," answered the scientist in perfect Japanese. "Also, ifyour bra has any hooks on it, you'll need to take that off, too." 
What's going on here? Wondered Kaname. And why do all the terrorists look Japanese? 
"Are you going to take an X-ray?" 
"Something like that but much more advanced: PET, MRI, MEG from SQUID. We'll also need to take some NILS reaction measurements. At least, for now." 

It was all Greek to Kaname. "I thought I was making a video." 

"Hurry up and get changed," urged the woman. 
"No. This is ludicrous! Why should I-" 
Thwack! 
A sharp pain ran through the nape of Kaname's neck, and she fell unconscious. 'That was taking forever," complained Gauron, holding the unconscious girl upright. "Now help me get her clothes off." 
"Idiot! What if that affects the tests?" 
"Don't worry about it. We just need to know whether she's the real thing." The scientist mad-dogged Gauron. "You don't understand what the Whispered are or how important they are." 
"I do so," insisted Gauron. 
"Well, I suppose you may, considering you brought the highly classified Codarl with you." 
"Even in its current unfinished state, I couid take on a whole battalion with that thing. But it's just a precaution-in case our gracious hosts here change their minds." 
"That's awfully cowardly of you. You must know your days are numbered." Gauron let Kaname crash to the floor. 
 
 
His right hand shot out and grabbed the woman's throat. 
"Don't push your luck, sow," he said, brewing the perfect blend of coldness and joy. "Just be quiet and do the job you're paid to do. Do you like making me angry? Do you want me to hurt you? 
Huh?" 
He tightened his grip on her throat until her eyes watered, and she choked out a wheezy, gasping cry of pain and ecstasy. Gauron clucked his tongue and deposited the woman onto her desk. 
"When will we have results?" he asked the sputtering woman. 
She hacked a few more times. "Tomorrow morning." 
"Can you do anything to speed that up?" 
"Even if we administer drugs, it'll be more than six hours before they take effect. Besides, there are preliminary procedures and 
"Well, you'd better get to work, then," remarked Gauron, "or I'll have to kill you, too."

Luckily, the three men didn't notice Sousuke hiding, even though they passed close enough for him to reach out and touch them.

From his hiding place, Sousuke could see the back of their suits out of the corner of his eye. These were not soldiers from this base but terrorists from the plane ride. 
"Where is it?" asked one of the men. 
"It's around here-in the only yellow container. There it is!" 
As they slid the yellow crate over, the ball bearings scattered on the floor, and a great rumbling noise filled the cargo hold. "It won't just go off. right?" asked the most nervous-sounding terrorist. 
"No. It's totally safe until the circuit's manually activated." 
They pried the lid off the container, looked inside the box, and whistled.

"Wow! That's way bigger than I expected!"

"We didn't want to take any chances in case we had to use it on the ground. Okay, there should be a red cord near the back. Take the electric tape off the jack and insert it into the socket marked three."
 
"Right. Inserting." 
"Hold on, I'm not ready yet. Okay, now: Stick it in there." 
Click! Beep, boop, blip! 
"Is that it?"

"Yeah, don't touch anything else. And don't use any hand radios in a one hundred foot radius." 

The lid clapped shut, and Sousuke heard the men brushing off the cuffs of their suit jackets. 
"Who all knows about this?"

"Just Sakamoto, the boss, and us. None of the locals know."
"Okay. It's really a waste-there are some really cute high school girls up there. It'd be nice to take a couple of souvenirs, you know...."
"Don't be an idiot! The soldiers would notice and the boss would kill us all." 
"The boss doesn't have to know!" ''I'll report you myself. I don't want the boss to kill me."
"Lighten up, I was just kidding," he said, and the three terrorists left the cargo hold.
Quickly freeing himself from the bags, Sousuke ran over to the yellow luggage container. After a slight pause, he opened the lid. Shining his penlight on the contents, Sousuke confirmed his worst suspicions. 
Those bastards. 
It was a huge bomb.
To be more exact, the crate contained two tanks, approximately five feet tall, and most likely filled with binary liquid explosives-the same kind used in AS rifles. The side of the tank had a case with a small electronic circuit and a backup circuit. Sousuke interpreted its blinking red light to mean that it could be activated at any time. 
If a bomb this large exploded, it would blow the entire plane to bits. With a flip of a switch, four hundred civilians would be toast. 
Sousuke knew a lot more about bombs than a regular soldier, but he was no specialist. On top of that, he didn't have the proper tools for bomb disarmament. He knew that defusing this bomb was beyond his capabilities-in fact, he was far more likely to detonate it by accident. 
Perhaps they want to slaughter the passengers to hide Chidori's abduction. It makes sense: If they return the other hostages but not Kaname, there would be questions. 
I imagine they'll let the plane take off jor Japan so they can blow it up somewhere over the ocean, where it'd be impossible to salvage any remains. No one would know that Kaname wasn't on board, and no one would ever suspect it was a kidnapping operation. 
The plane crash would put the North Korean government in a tight spot-but not necessarily one that would develop into an armed conflict. The terrorists surely had taken all this into consideration when forming their plan. 

But what reason could they possibly have to go to such great lengths to disguise their kidnapping of Kaname? Was she really harboring a secret worth the lives of several hundred civilians? 

No, realized Sousuke. That man enjoys pointless killing. That's why he'd think to do this. 
Closing the lid, Sousuke headed toward the nose of the airplane until he carne to the little trap door that opened to let out the plane's landing gear. From there, he knew he should be able to exit the plane. 
He had to find a way to contact the de Danaan. 
The machine that held Kaname was creepy and coffinlike. It was a cylindrical tube with acrylic walls. From time to time, the pedestal that held the machine would move, filling the tube with a thrumming noise.

A strap kept Kaname's head in place while special goggles spewed images of symbols and figures at her eyes. 
Star. Circle. Square. Tree. Botde. Rod. 
Occasionally, an unpleasant image would pop into view. 
Instinctually, Kaname yawned. It seemed like this had been going on for a long time, although it had been only about an hour. 
"Don't fall asleep!" instructed the doctor. 
"Right, right." 
Kaname's thoughts returned to her situation. When she had regained consciousness, she already was strapped into the machine, wearing only the blue gown. Even her underwear was gone! The thought of that creepy, disgusting man seeing her naked made her want to kick and shout, but the female doctor had insisted that she was the only one present for Kaname's clothing change. 
Reflecting on her current position, Kaname realized she probably should be more frightened. After all, she was alone in a time of crisis. 
And that terrorist would have shot Miss Kagurazaka if that klutz Sousuke hadn't dropped his silverware right then. 
It had been a long time since Kaname felt so near to impending death. The last time she had felt the sensation was while caring for her dying mother. 
Acknowledging her own mortality, Kaname knew it easily could be her turn to go next. 

I might not make it home. She reconciled herself with the thought. 

In the corner of a storeroom that was at least a quarter of a mile from the jumbo jet, Sousuke eagerly extended his parabolic antenna. After checking the compass on his watch and mentally crunching some numbers, he adjusted the antenna and put on the headset. 

Within five seconds, he was connected with Mithril's West Pacific base. 

"Hello?" said a communications officer who was in charge of dispatching the calls.

Sousuke recognized her voice. "This is Urzu Seven of the de Danaan. Sergeant Sagara. B3128." 
After a pause, the dispatcher confirmed his identity and asked if he was okay.

"Affirmative, Shinohara. Please connect me to the Tuatha de Danaan." 

"One moment, please." And she reflected the satellite signal to reach the submarine. 

"Mister Sagara! Are you okay?" asked the very familiar voice of Captain Testarossa. 

"Yes, ma'am, Captain Testarossa," replied Sousuke, with much more formality than he would use to address any other girl his own age. He wasn't sure how Tessa had come to be Captain, but he understood the importance of her position and afforded her the utmost respect. 

"Thank goodness! Hold on a moment, please. Lieutenant Commander!"

"Sergeant Sagara! This is Kalinin," he barked, as if Sousuke wouldn't have known. "What's going on there?" 

"I'm at Sunan Air Base," reported Sousuke. "Although there are two separate opposition groups-the Japanese men who hijacked the plane and the local army-the security here is pretty low." 

Sousuke then proceeded to describe in (perhaps excessive) detail the types and positions of the various weapons, the layout of the facility, and the whereabouts of the plane itself. 

The officers were not surprised to hear that the terrorists took Kaname Chidori from the plane. Tessa did seem a little shocked, however, to hear about the bomb in the jet's baggage hold. 
"Oh my God," she whispered.

"There's no way I can disarm it with the equipment at my disposal." 

The Captain took a moment to process this. "Understood. We will consider countermeasures." 

"Yes, ma'am." 

"Sergeant, do you know where they're keeping Chidori?" asked Kalinin.
 
"Negative. I will search for her; but right now, I don't even know if she's still on the base somewhere." 

"Well, keep out of harm's way. We'll need you to stay alive long enough to create a diversion." 

Sousuke inferred that the de Danaan would launch a rescue operation and that his top priority was the plane passengers' safety. 

"Roger." 

"Thanks to you, we have a good idea of what we're up against. We'll need some time to mobilize, though. Can you contact us again-"

"At twenty-two hundred hours," suggested Tessa. "Local time." 

"Roger," assented Sousuke. "One more thing, Lieutenant Commander, sir." 

"Yes, what is it?" 

"The leader of the hijackers-it's Gauron." 

Sousuke could hear Kalinin's facial expression. 

"He has changed somewhat since we fought him, but it was unmistakably him." Sousuke's use of the word 'we' predated his and Kalinin's time at Mithril. 

"I thought he was dead." 

"I did, too, but apparently he's not. There's a large scar on his forehead where I shot him before."
"Did he recognize you?"
"No, sir. Fortunately, my appearance has changed enough since then." 

Sousuke remembered the days before his most-recent growth spurt, when his hair was long and wild, his skin dark from sun and gnme. 
"Okay, now the bomb makes more sense," decided Kalinin. "Don't let your guard down, Sagara." "Roger. Urzu Seven out." Quickly dismantling his antenna, Sousuke rose to leave. "Don't move," commanded a man with a slight accent, cocking his gun to emphasize the directive. 
 
April 28, 20:32 (Japan/Korea Standard Time)
Yellow Sea, Periscope Depth
Tuatha de Danaan, Deck 3, Corridor B 

"What was that about?" inquired Tessa as she walked with Kalinin toward the operations meeting room. 
"You mean Gauron," he stated. 
"Yes. Do you know him?" She stopped just in front of the door to the meeting room, waiting for Kalinin to answer. 
After a moment, he spoke somberly. "'Gauron' means 'nine dragons' in Chinese. The dangerous terrorist we call Gauron is said to have nine nationalities. To date, he is responsible for at least thirty assassinations and two aircraft explosions, but he still is completely unknown to most Western anti-terrorist organizations." 

At that point, Tessa recalled that Kalinin used to belong to a Soviet Special Forces group. 

"Several years ago, Sergeant Sagara and I confronted Gauron. We were hiding from the KGB, allied with some Islamic Afghani guerillas."
 
It was not new information to Tessa that Andrei Kalinin got caught up in a huge KGB and Soviet military conspiracy-he still was considered a deserter.

"The KGB hired Gauron to find us. One day, while I was out, Gauron attacked the guerilla village with two Arm Slaves, nearly wiping it out." 

Now, this was news to Tessa. 

The AS was the mightiest present-day land-war weapon. Unlike tanks, they could go just about anywhere-jungles or mountaintops, it made no difference. In the face of this weapon, a human being was as powerless as an ant. 

"Many died, including innocent women and children. If I had been there, though, it wouldn't have happened." Understanding the heaviness of the situation, Tessa just nodded. 

"And so I vowed retribution. Two weeks later, I got my chance. Gauron followed us to the mountains ofPakistan. We ambushed him, using me as bait and Sousuke as sniper. There were complications, but Sousuke brought him down," 

"Apparently only temporarily, though." 

"So it seems." 

Although she understood that Gauron was a brutal man, she still had a hard time swallowing the idea that anyone would kill several hundred people just to cover up a kidnapping. She certainly never would have thought of it if Sousuke hadn't warned them. She imagined Gauron sneering at everyone's optimistic hope that the hostages would return home safely. 

"Well," Tessa surmised with an uncharacteristically cold smile, 
"I guess we'll have to make this Gauron character pay dearly for his actions, then." 
"Yes, ma'am." 
Although Tessa normally was a very gentle person, she ultimately lived in the same world as Kalinin and Sousuke-even the same world as Gauron. 

She had to. After all, she controlled the Tuatha de Danaan, the most precise and powerful killing machine ever created by human hands. She had the power to kill millions of people if she ever had the need.
 
"We'll arrange the details later, Lieutenant Commander. First, let's commence with the operation meeting." 

They opened the door and entered the dim room, where all six department heads already were waiting for them. 
 
April 28, 20:33 (Japan/Korea Standard Time) 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
Sunan Air Base 

"Turn around. Slowly." 
Sousuke did as he was told, noting that the officer holding him at gunpoint was nearly six and a half feet tall, and he was quite burly on top of that. 
"You're one of the high school students from the plane, right? I'm surprised you managed to get all the way over here without getting shot." 
Keeping a safe distance, Sousuke relaxed a little. This officer was alone, and no one else was in sight. 
"Who the hell were you talking to?" bellowed the ape. 
"If you must know, I was in contact with-" 
Sousuke interrupted himsel£ winging the transmitter at the man's face. It caught the man off guard; he barely managed to twist away, deflecting the transmitter at the last minute. 
That split-second was all Sousuke needed to close the distance between them: He kicked the man's gun right out ofhis hand. It flew tantalizingly through the air before crashing to the ground. 
"Wha-" 
As ifthis were part ofhis daily routine, the huge ogre immediately heaved a wild punch at Sousuke's face. Although Sousuke blocked it, the punch had enough force to knock him backward. 

As Sousuke took a single step backward, the man already had a roundhouse kick flying toward the sergeant's head. 
Sousuke barely dodged the kick, but the giant's attacks just kept commg. 
For his size, the man was ridiculously fast and skilled. 
"Did you honestly think you could take me in hand-to-hand combat?" 
As he fell back a few steps, Sousuke's rear foot found a concrete block. He leapt off the block, flinging a vicious jump kick toward the man's jaw. 
With a grunt, the goliath toppled. His head smacked the asphalt, and his limbs splayed. Without delay, Sousuke pulled out his stun gun and zapped the man. 

"B-b-bastard," sputtered the convulsing man. 

This isn't working too well, worried Sousuke. 

"Wh-wh-wh-who a-a-a-are y-y-y-you?" 

"I'm the garbage man." 

Finally, the man stopped struggling against the electric current. 
 
Sousuke expertly bound and gagged him, using whatever materials he could scrounge from the storehouse; then, he examined his transmitter. It was cracked, and its circuitry guts spilled out. He flipped the switch a couple of times to no effect. 

He would not be able to contact the de Danaan. 

Uh-oh. 

After collecting the unconscious man's pistol. Sousuke rifled through his first-aid supplies. The case contained sulfuric acid, aspirin, morphine, a syringe, some bandages, and a few other items. 

Eventually, he found what he was looking for: a small bottle of alcohol. 

According to Kaname's estimates, she had been in the cramped tube for several hours already. 

It was so tight inside that experimental drum that Kaname couldn't move enough to alleviate the pain in her shoulders or back, and the frigid doctor ignored Kaname's requests for a break. 
The whole time Kaname was in the chamber, images of unknown meaning flashed in front ofher. Somehow, the doctor knew whenever the girl closed her eyes, as she immediately would yell at Kaname to keep looking ahead. The doctor had said that if Kaname focused, it wouldn't take as long. 

Suddenly, the images ceased flowing, and Kaname was surrounded by blackness. 
"Is it over?" 
After a moment, a strange nOlse answered her question-a heavy, distant sound seemed to be coming from all sides at once. It made her nervous. 
"What is this?" 
Again, the doctor said nothing. 
Images began to appear on the screen in front of her. 
This time, they were words that changed every two seconds or so. 

sea 
campaniform sensillum 
tree 
intrinsic coercivity 
decagonal phase . 

After a while, the pace picked up. Eventually, the nonsensical words came and went at a rate of ten per second. After that, the simple words like "tree" and "sea" stopped appearing, and there were only formulas and technical terms.

Kaname became aware that she was staring. 

I recognize this. Where have I seen it before? 

She wasn't familiar with the words, but somehow, Kaname comprehended their meaning. She understood the concepts better than the greatest scholars in the world. 

Alloy of two-dimensional quasi-crystal structure, she thought, without knowing why. 

(Rugon and ninikke ntachi Q tan. Type•1 structural malerials of ngoninna IX frame. The 8 magnetocrystalline anisotropy which occurs in part bu stabilizer zirconia roriya 2gu rare earth ion is non•linear ki a bure EK in rnona niki toshikuna. Praseodymum, terbium, dysp&osium. No chi te Ypoly $ poly aru amide gel tomi J' bubbles, ju RG ze sechipu the Cpliable na na naisharu muscles-) 

Her thoughts knew no limits. 

(D•T fu D fe GP fu pallad-d-dium reactor is cube kuriru rutsu mige in lattice Yp yo ru triple "C Gfusa t G fu JHI of containment of hydrogen••. Electromagnetic holo ho camoflague camo. 130130130 OMGOe maximum magnetic energy capacity is tsu rara Pfield K i W basic partial derivative BB raaa. Barium melatitanate, pelovuscile model kala ka Rta, reversible phase transition. CarboKK!)Un • composite armor, nano nano nanocomponent WPCJr;. Press Ka detection de Rfrom campaniform sensation sensillum',' Biu ma m, dysp. 100 ku of element impediment soshi in about pipipi m^2-) 

Erupting like a data volcano, Kaname felt a chill, as if someone in the back of her mind were whispering everything to her. 
Suddenly, the voice was silent. 
The display went black, and the strange noise quieted. The tube holding her opened. 
More than anything, Kaname felt profound fatigue. She was short of breath, her face flushed. She struggled to understand what had happened. What was I looking at? Was it a dream? 
"How do you feel?" asked the doctor, pulling an apparatus off Kaname's head. The light seemed excessively glaring to her. 
"Terrible." 
"I see." The doctor made a note of it on a chart. "Regardless, the experiment must continue." 
"Please, just let me go," begged Kaname. "I've had enough of this sleep learning."

"Learning? Don't be ridiculous. These are all things you've known since before you were born." 

Smiling cruelly, the doctor pulled out a syringe. 
 
April 28, 22:05 (Japan/Korea Standard Time)
Yellow Sea, Periscope Depth
Tuatha de Danaan Briefing Room 

"Everything must be swift," proclaimed Kalinin. 

In all, more than thirty soldiers peopled the cramped briefing room. 

AS operators, helicopter pilots, VTOL aces, and foot soldiers listened intently, Mao and Weber among them. As soon as they heard about the hijacking, they returned to the de Danaan. 

"If we delay any longer, the situation likely will get worse. Now, generally, Mithril does not like to get involved in situations that are so squarely in the whole world's sights. However-and this is regrettable-we failed to prevent this circumstance." 

Kalinin paused to make sure everyone was still with him. 

"That's why we're going on a rescue mission." 

A satellite photo of Sunan popped up on the screen behind Kalinin. It was a picture from fifteen-hundred thirty that same day, showing where the enemy forces were and where the jet was. 

"A wave of support aircraft will go in first, leading in a team of six Arm Slaves. We'll go in with the attack helicopters next, followed by the transport choppers and VTOL fighters." 

Kalinin explained the details of the plan: the landing zones for the helicopters, the formation the Arm Slaves should take, and the time table, right down to the last second. 

"Arm Slaves will catapult directly from this ship via XL-2 urgent deployment boosters. Any pilot who's had any alcohol in the last eight hours, speak up now." 

Urgent deployment boosters were one-way disposable rockets capable of launching a single AS twenty-five miles-quite useful for taking an enemy by surprise. 
At the mention of alcohol, Mao and Kurz exchanged conspiratorial glances. "Don't worry," whispered Kurz, checking his watch, "we just made it." 
With no time to lose, Kalinin kept on trucking through his briefing. "Our primary concern is a large bomb." 
A CG representation of the Boeing 747 appeared on the screen. It was semi-transparent, enabling them to see the location of the bomb as Sousuke had reported it. 
"According to Sagara, the bomb has remote-detonation capabilities. We must eliminate it before the terrorists recover from our first blow and flip the switch." 
"How are we going to do that?" asked a helicopter pilot. 
Kalinin gave a terse explanation, which made some of the soldiers uneasy-and others quite happy. 

"But sir, that will render the jet non-operational." 

"Correct. But the jet's out of fuel, anyway. We won't have time to gas it up in the middle of battle. We'll move the hostages to another aircraft to evacuate them."
He paused. "This presents another problem: the sheer number of people."
The plane had four-hundred twenty people on board, making it the largest hostage situation in the history of terrorism. 
"Even if we sent every transport ship we have, we couldn't carry them all. Therefore, we have two C-I7s coming from the Pacific Merida Island base to meet us. They already are en route and will refuel over the Yellow Sea just before the operation begins."
 
"I thought those seated only a hundred and fifty people?" said one of the men. 
"Comfort is not the name of our mission," rebutted Kalinin. "We are not a commercial airline. The transports will perform a forced landing, load the passengers, and be back in the air in five minutes." 
"Five minutes? That's cutting it close!" someone complained.
 
"Five minutes is eternity protecting something that big," countered Kurz. 
"Yes," Kalinin agreed. "Sunan air base is near a highway and close to the capitol, Pyongyang. Reinforcements will arrive quickly. The capitol's defense force is elite; we need to avoid engaging them. We'll do our best to delay them, but we can only scatter mines." 
"What if one of the transports becomes unusable?" asked Mao. "The other one must take off according to plan. Even if there are empty seats," the Lieutenant Commander said coolly. 
"Cram as many remaining hostages as you can into the transport helicopters. If you have to abandon the Arm Slaves to squeeze them in, make sure to destroy them completely; this takes priority over your lives, although we pray it won't come to that." 
A heavy silence marked the time it took the soldiers to digest that. "Have we heard anything else from Sagara?" asked an AS operator from the second unit. 
Kalinin shook his head. "That gives us one more reason to hurry. Let me reiterate: There is no room for error on this mission. Mistakes would have lethal results. Now, remember that you're here for a reason; we are the only ones capable of pulling this off. I'm counting on all of you. Questions?" 
There were no more questions.
"Then, observe the noise regulations and move out."
The soldiers shuffled to their feet. 

April 28, 22:29 (Japan/Korea Standard Time)
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
Sunan Air Base 

That must be what he was talking about, determined Sousuke. 

From his position in the shadows of a dumpster, Sousuke could see the trailers and the high-output generator on the old tarmac. 
Thanks to the huge oaf he'd overcome, Sousuke knew Kaname should be in the trailer with all the electric cables. At first, the officer wouldn't tell him anything, but after Sousuke injected him with an alcohol that had made the guard absurdly drunk, Sousuke couldn't get the man to shut up. It wasn't the best way to conduct an interrogation, but it worked. 
Sousuke wondered whether anyone had stumbled across the drunken man yet. 

Probably not-after the interrogation, Sousuke knocked him out and dumped him down a manhole. 
There were three guards outside the trailers, each armed with a submachine gun. They didn't appear to be associated with the local military. 
Sousuke glanced at his watch. 22:30-well past the time he was supposed to contact the de Danaan. 

What's the matter? Sousuke wondered. 
The safest course of action, Sousuke knew, would be to keep out of sight until the reinforcements arrived. Then, he could rescue Kaname from the trailer. 
But Sousuke couldn't shake nagging questions he had about the nature of the torture Kaname could be experiencing. He thought about the girl he had saved in Siberia two weeks earlier. 
Doctors had said the girl was under the influence of alkaloids, indicating exposure to truth serums. Sousuke knew very well what kind of mental scars those kinds of drugs could leave behind. 
He thought about Kaname's angry scowl, her complaining face, her pensive look, her beaming smile. Each was great in its own way.

And all would be thoroughly lost to the inhumane experiments! 

Her eyes would sink, her mouth would droop open, and liquids of various colors and consistencies would leak from her orifices as hallucinations tormented her. She would claw at her own skin until it was gone. 

Kaname would live, but what kind of life would it be? 

Following this line of thought, impatience surged through Sousuke.
 
His first impulse was to spring into action to save Kaname. This surprised and disturbed him. 

I can't tifford to be impatient, he reminded himself My number one priority should be the safety oj the hostages on the plane. Kaname comes second. Besides, these people went to a lot oj trouble to get Kaname. They're not going to destroy her in just one night. It's probably a slow process-like death by asbestos. 
A gunshot broke his train of thought. 
It seemed to have come from inside the trailer. 
The source was most likely a medium-caliber pistol. Sousuke's well-honed survival instincts told him that rushing into the fray was not the best idea. 

Sousuke had the potential to make a bad situation a whole lot worse. If he were to act foolishly now, it could endanger his allies' rescue operation-that is, if there was a rescue operation at all. 

No, I can't Jorget my priorities. Only an amateur would go in now. I'm smarter than that. 
But still . .. 

What if Kaname had been shot? What if she were badly wounded-and here I am, just standing around out here with this perfectly goodJirst-aid kit going to waste? What if Gauron's in there? He'd shoot her once just to make her grovel before he capped her in the head. 

Kaname . .. 

Fluttering up from the dustiest depths of his stomach, an odd feeling gripped Sousuke. It was such an old and nostalgic sensation, he didn't even remember what it was called: Jear. 
While Sousuke's war of reason raged, a second gunshot rang out. 
Disregarding his mission priorities for the first time in his life, Sousuke sprang out from behind the dumpster. 

Two minutes before the first gunshot, Kaname freaked out inside the cramped cylinder. "Calm down! Open your eyes and look at the image!" barked the doctor. 

Ignoring the doctor, Kaname continued to flail wildly. She was a mess-sweating profusely, breathing heavily, and not hearing much over the constant buzzing in her ears. 

"Shut up! Let me out of here!" Kaname was not crazy, just mad. 

She didn't know what was going on, but a girl could play lab rat only for so long before it made her really nuts. 

"Let me go back, or I'll break this stupid machine!" yelled Kaname, thrashing so wildly that the goggle display slipped off her head. 

"Dammit! Cut it out!" 

The little bed Kaname was on slid out of the tube. Visibly irritated, the doctor came over to Kaname and held the girl's head down. 

"I tried to do this the nice way, you brat!" 
"Nice? You bitchy old hag!" 
"Excuse me?" 
"You heard me! You remind me of my middle school science teacher, who did too many experiments and forgot she was married. 

And she was a taskmaster, too!" 

While she ranted, Kaname thrashed so violently that she loosened her restraints. The doctor reached to tighten them. 

But the woman's grip slipped. In the struggle, somehow Kaname's right arm shot up off the table. The upward momentum brought her elbow right into the doctor's face. Staggering backward, the woman smacked her head on a shelf and collapsed. 

Kaname spent a moment wondering whether the woman was dead before she realized her right hand's new freedom. She managed to free her other arm, which made unbinding her legs much easier. 

Doctor Semiconscious grumbled a little and made feeble attempts to stand up. Kaname didn't know what to do. Should she make a break for it? But where would she go? 
Deciding to figure that out later, Kaname ran toward the trailer's door. 

"And where do you think you're going?" The seething doctor leveled a pistol at Kaname. "Don't move. You'll be sorry if you do."
"Thanks, but I've had enough of this. If you don't mind-" 
Bang! 
The bullet lodged itself in the trailer's wall. 
"Hey! Watch it!" 
The doctor fired again, taking out the LCD screen behind Kaname. Snarling, the doctor looked just angry enough to shoot Kaname.

Before it could come to that, however, men with submachine guns kicked open the door. 

"What's going on in here, anyway?" asked one of the men, pointing the muzzle of his gun at the tip of Kaname's nose. He looked around the trailer. 

"Nothing-just a little disturbance. I thought I'd scare her a little," replied the doctor. 

"And you shot at her? Do you know how much this equipment-"

"Five point eight million dollars. Now, if you don't mind holding her down for a moment ..." The doctor pulled out a syringe, expunged the air, and squirted a few drops skyward.

The armed guards pinned Kaname to the bed.

"What is that?" shrieked Kaname, eyeing the approaching syringe.

"I didn't want to have to use this. It's not good for a young woman's development. But someone didn't want to cooperate, did she?"

"P-please-"

"I tried to do this the nice way."
Helpless, Kaname knew she could not match the strength of the men.

"P-please. I'll cooperate," pled Kaname.

"Too little, too late," the doctor cruelly chuckled, bringing the needle closer.

Right as it was about to puncture the skin ofKana me's arm, the men holding her down groaned and collapsed. 
Taken aback by this unexpected development, Kaname sat up to see the doctor, who looked very frightened and was engaged in an active attempt to back into the corner. Her attention fell on something behind Kaname. Slowly, apprehensively, Kaname turned to look. 
"Sagara?" 
Indeed, it was Sagara-stun gun in his left hand, pistol in his right. A submachine gun hung around his neck, and there were extra ammo magazines tucked under his school uniform's belt. 
"Chidori, are you injured?" he asked calmly. 
"Huh? Uh, n-no. I'm okay." 
"Good. Then get behind me and stay close." 
Shielding Kaname, he encroached on the doctor's corner. 
"You're a high school student from that plane? But how the hell did you-" 

"I'll ask the questions here. What is this equipment? And why did you kidnap her?" 

"I can't tell you that." 

Firing two rounds, Sousuke aerated some ofthe fancy machinery next to the doctor. 

He pointed the gun directly at the woman. "Are you sure?" 

"Okay, okay! Don't shoot. All of this is to see ... whether she's a real Whispered." 
"Whispered? What's that?"

"It's complicated," babbled the doctor, "but essentially, a Whispered is a treasury of Black Technology, holding knowledge that could change the whole world's balance of power. Extracting this knowledge still is extremely difficult; but someday, as an almighty, living database-"
 
Suddenly, Sousuke jerked Kaname's arm; he leapt behind a CT scanner, pulling her with him. Immediately, gunshots rang out, sparks flew, and chunks of plastic and metal rained down. 

Kaname and the doctor shrieked simultaneously. Promptly, Sousuke returned fire, emptying a whole clip in the exit's direction. 
"Gahhhl" shouted an unknown man. Discarding the spent handgun, Sousuke readied the submachine gun before peeking his head out to look at the exit. 
The doctor lay face down on the floor in a rapidly expanding pool of blood-apparently the victim of crossfire. 
"We need to run, Chidori." 
"She ... she's dead ..." 

"She's still alive, but we don't have the time or obligation to help her." Grabbing Kaname's hand, Sousuke led her toward the exit. Unable to comprehend the situation, Kaname started to ask Sousuke what was going on-but he told her he would explain later. 
There was a man near the trailer's exit. Clutching his lower abdomen, the man fought to get up. When his shaky hands made a last ditch attempt to grab his gun, Sousuke mercilessly booted him in the face. 
"That looked painful." 
"Let's go." 
"I can't walk around like this! I have to change." 
The little paper gown came to an end well above her knees. She knew she might as well be running around in her underwear.
"Just forget it, there's no time."
"Don't be such a pervert, Sousuke!"
"I'm not being a pervert," he protested. "Liar! You're probably planning to pull some funny stuff in all this confusion, aren't you?" 
"Of course not. Now, let's go." 
"What the hell are you, anyway? You're not just a two-bit underwear thief. are you?" 
"Please listen. I came here only because I was worried about you-" 

Gunfire interrupted the argument. Bullets struck the entrance of the trailer, prompting Sousuke to throw himself on Kaname. His leaping tackle brought her to the floor. 

"Aieee! Watch where you put your hands, creep!" 
"I told you, it's not like that." 
"Get away from me, you rapist!" 
And no matter how much Sousuke pled his case, no matter how many bullets struck the side of the trailer, Kaname continued her verbal assault. 
 


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