Full Metal Panic! - Volume 6 - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: This Holy Night is Rather Noisy  
It was five minutes by bus from the JR Sakuragichou Station. The pier where the Pacific Chrysalis was moored was right next to a seaside park covered by couples in the twilight hours.  
The Pacific Chrysalis was a gigantic cruise ship that was 272 meters in length and weighed over one hundred thousand tons. It was one of the biggest in the world. There were many boats commissioned for the Caribbean Sea that were even bigger than this one; but still, a passenger ship of this size was rare.  
It was a snow-white boat with a streamlined funnel and repeated decks of guest rooms.  
To be fair, Kaname had been on a gigantic ship before now- Mithril’s attack submarine, the Tuatha de Danaan- but the Pacific Chrysalis seemed to be even larger than that. It looked like an entire city floating on the surface of the ocean.  
To Kaname, who only knew about battleships, the Pacific Chrysalis looked to be an extremely splendorous boat. Even its interior was far bigger than that of a submarine’s. Walking down the passageways or in the guestrooms of the boat gave the same impression as walking through a hotel on the land.  
“What a luxurious ship...” Kaname mumbled under her breath as she put her hand luggage on top of the bed in her room.  
Kyouko, who was staying in the same room as her, answered in an excited voice, “Isn’t it though!? What about the lobby we passed through when we got on the ship? It was so big and pretty that it took my breath away. We were even received by the Captain of the ship with an orchestra!”  
Everyone from school was still getting on board the ship.  
Many of the crew who greeted Kaname and the others at the top of the boarding ramp were foreigners. Kyouko and the teachers seemed to be moved by their kindness and courteous attitudes, but Kaname sensed an indescribable artificialness in it all.  
The looks on several of the crewmembers’ faces seemed to recognize her as she waited in line, their expressions saying “So, this is the girl?” It was like they knew her- no, on the contrary, it was like they knew what her fate was going to be after this- that was the kind of look it was.  
The faint expressions stiffened. They looked at each other with knowing looks, then their faces were bright and cheerful again like nothing had happened.  
She felt foolish.  
Since the incident with the last field trip was famous, and Kaname had been “the girl who was the last one rescued” out of all the students, it wasn’t strange that the crew would know about her school.  
“Hey, Kaname.”  
“Let’s go to the upper deck before we take off. I bet we can see the big Ferris wheel in Minato Mirai from the observation deck.”  
“Okay. But I’m hungry. Do you have any snacks?”  
“No, sorry. While we were waiting, Shiori and the others ate them all. I think Mayu had some Pocky*1, wanna ask her?”  
“Is that so? Well, she’s gained a little weight recently, so I should go confiscate it from her.”  
“Ooh, that’s mean!” Kyouko said. Kaname laughed and left the room.  
Many of the female students were wandering around in the brightly lit hallway, talking about this and that in noisy voices.  
Ahh, just my luck...  
There were also many ordinary guests getting on the ship, as well. Even though they had been severely cautioned not to cause a commotion, the students immediately did so, anyway. If Kaname started doing her duty as the class representative and tried remonstrating them, then-  
“You’re kidding me!” a man yelled out.  
It was in English. His throaty and overbearing voice drowned out the sounds of the girl students’ laughter.  
A large Caucasian man wearing a suit was letting a troubled-looking crewmember have it without any reserve or consideration. Kaname thought he looked a little like Schwarzenegger in some comedy movie she had seen.  
“Why do I have the same B-class room as a bunch of stupid little school girls!?”  
“I’m very sorry, Sir, but all of the A-class rooms are already full-”  
“Then how about you make new arrangements, you intercontinental ballistic idiot! How dare you treat a Commander in the United States Navy such as myself in this way! Are you trying to get on my bad side!? Don’t you guys have connections with the Air Force?!”  
“S-sir, please-”  
“Cut it out, Captain! This is embarrassing. Isn’t this why your wife left you just before the Japan trip!?”  
A handsome young Asian man seeming to be one of his companions held onto the angry Schwarzenegger*2. He was also wearing a similar suit.  
“What did you say, Takenaka!? Is an incompetent officer like you ungrateful that you were invited in Eliza’s place!?”  
“You think that!? Who do you think it was that forced me here when I was enjoying my holiday in Waikiki!?”  
“Hmph, what are you saying? That big-breasted Japanese woman you were messing around with was an STD waiting to happen. You should be thanking me!”  
“How can you say such a thing!? ...dammit, why’d you have to go and spoil our last meeting, which I went to a lot of effort to-”  
“Shut up! It serves you right!” the man called “Captain” spit out at him. “Even though your superior officer is suffering through the pain of a divorce, you just go around singing about your stupid little vacation! You should suffer, too! Go to hell!”  
“That’s all you really wanted, wasn’t it!? Your real motive behind this! Damn it!”  
The two men began to grapple with each other in front of the crewmember out in the corridor. Other members of the crew came running to help out, broke the two apart while trying to calm them down, then took them back into their room.  
The door closed, and the corridor was quiet.  
The students, who didn’t understand English, just stared blankly. On the other hand, Kaname, who had lived abroad, understood the conversation beginning to end, but “Seems all kinds of people are riding this thing, aren’t they...” was the only thing she mumbled, and hurried to her classmate’s room.  
♦ ♦ ♦ 
December 24th, 18:55 (Japan Standard Time) 
The Pacific Ocean, Off the Coast of the Miura Peninsula, The Pacific Chrysalis 
Before long, the cruise ship departed, and making its way through the Uraga Channel, left Tokyo Bay.  
The sun was already setting, but the enormous white ship quietly continued along its course under an entire sky full of stars.  
The cold air felt good. The crashing waves sparkled, and many merchant ships and fishing boats passed by. In order to get a glimpse of the refreshing scenery, the students gathered on the quarterdeck for a good view, innocently having fun.  
“Wow, it’s so pretty...” Kyouko said as she leaned against the railing and restlessly released the shutter on her digital camera. “What a waste, huh? It would have been nice if Sagara could have come, too.”  
“Why are you bringing him up?” Kaname said in a sour voice. Kyouko smiled bitterly at this common response.  
“Aaah, it’s always like this. But, where is he really?”  
“What do you mean?”  
“Where is Sagara? Couldn’t he have just said where he was going? He didn’t tell anyone.”  
When Kyouko spoke seriously like this, Kaname was weak. However, when it came to her best friend Kyouko, Kaname couldn’t deal with her cruelly.  
“Huh? But, well, umm...”  
“Tell me. Come on, come on,” Kyouko said, her large eyes sparking from behind her dragonfly glasses. Kaname took a small sigh, resigned herself, then told her the bottom line.  
“It’s not that I hate him. Just- there really isn’t anything.”  
“Really. Honestly, there were a lot of times when I wasn’t so sure, but, really, that was it. I mean, you can tell just by looking, right? Even though today’s my birthday... he’s gone to another get-together instead.”  
Sousuke had missed this trip just as he had announced. The day before, when his classmates were teasing him by saying “What? And you told us ‘Leave the security to me’”, he replied, “A situation came up and I can’t go” with a deadly serious face.  
“In case there is a sea jacking, do not oppose the terrorists. If you stay calm, they will probably not harm you. Got it? Do exactly as they tell you.”  
...he told them.  
There was a strange hidden meaning behind those words, but from the corner Kaname just gave a look of indifference when she heard them. After all, they were still fighting.  
“Normally he would have come. If he was serious, he would be here.”  
“I see... well, that may be.”  
“I feel bad for being so stubborn about it, but it’s obvious he doesn’t think that I’m very important.”  
“I wonder... I think that it just might be your persecution complex, though.”  
“It’s not that. It’s because he has another girl he likes.”  
“Huh, really? Who? Do I know her?”  
Suddenly Kyouko was very interested.  
“Yeah. Remember the girl who was a short-term exchange student at the beginning of second semester-”  
“Ah, Tessa, right?”  
Actually, everyone in Jindai High knew about Tessa.  
Because of the Perio Islands incident at the end of August, the Tuatha de Danaan had received some damage and was under repair for weeks. Using that time, Tessa took an extended vacation. And the place where she had chosen to take her holiday was Jindai High School in Tokyo.  
It looked like Tessa wanted to try enjoying a normal high school student’s life. She and Mao crowded in on Sousuke place, joined the class of 2nd Year, Group 4 in Jindai High under the guise of a short-term study abroad student, stirred Kaname and others’ lives up for a full two weeks, then went home. Of course, she hid the fact that Tessa was really was a Captain in Mithril.  
“She’s in Australia now, isn’t she? She still keeps in touch. Then that’s the party Sagara was talking about...”  
Wraith’s information had confirmed it. He was just using a mission as an excuse. Kaname guessed that right about now on Merida Island, a grand party was starting- then sighed. A large group of troops were beginning to drink, sing, and just have a good time; Sousuke and Tessa were probably also getting friendly-  
Before she knew it, Kaname had completely reverted back to her bad mood.  
“Aaah, I don’t wanna talk about it anymore!” she yelled, looking up at the night sky.  
“Oh, sorry.”  
“No, it’s okay. Anyway, let’s forget about that idiot and have some fun! ...speaking of which, what time is it? I wonder how long it’ll be till dinner. I’m really starving.”  
“Didn’t you get a snack?”  
“She’d already ate ‘em all... hah hah.”  
Just then, a voice came from behind her.  
“Excuse me, Miss Kaname Chidori?”  
He was one of the crew, a Caucasian male who looked to be over 40. He was meticulously dressed in a pure white uniform and regulation hat, with a very-well maintained beard. He stood straight and dignified, yet did not give the impression of being overbearing- he was rather like the crew of this wonderful boat, his figure combining both elegance and simplicity.  
“Huh? Yes?”  
“So it is you. No, even looking at you from a distance, I thought that’s got to be her... yes, last but by no means least. I am the Captain of the ship, Steven Harris. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”  
A sailor who knows how to treat the ladies, she almost said.  
Compared to this man, the senior officers on the de Danaan seemed very simple. He had almost no accent, and spoke fluent Japanese.  
“The Captain?” both Kaname and Kyouko said at the same time. Thinking about it, he was the same person as she had seen in a picture in the brochure they had received before the trip. He also seemed to be in the crew that had welcomed them aboard the ship...  
“Umm... it’s a pleasure to meet you, too. But how do you know me?” Kaname asked out of natural confusion.  
“Last week, when I met with your teacher, she pointed you out from the pictures we received. See- the picture on your ID card.”  
He pointed to the ID card pinned to her school uniform. The students had been given cards which had their names and head shots on them.  
“During that hijacking incident, you were the heroine whom everyone was worried about until the very end. I’m quite interested in it.”  
“Ah, I see...”  
“You’re also a very lovely young lady. It makes me quite happy... oh, and of course your companion is very charming, as well.”  
“Thank you. Ha ha ha ha...”  
Kaname and Kyouko both smiled insincerely.  
“By the way, how are you finding everything on this ship? Do you have any complaints?”  
“No, it’s fantastic! It’s very comfortable, big, and it doesn’t rock back and forth at all!”  
“That’s good to hear... if you have any problems or requests, please let the nearest person know at anytime. They will 
take care of it right away. You are our very important guests, after all. Yes- extremely important guests.”  
Kaname sensed some unnaturalness in these courteous words.  
He had a coaxing voice- yes, a coaxing voice.  
And his eyes had the look of someone with his prey completely in his hands, and was thinking “Now then, how shall I cook it?” Why was she getting that kind of impression?  
 “Is something on your mind?”  
No. She was just thinking way too much. She was probably just nervous. After thinking better of it, Kaname returned a clumsy smile.  
“No, not really. Thank you very much, Captain.”  
“Well, take care. And enjoy your stay.”  
Captain Harris then left.  
“Whew...” Kaname and Kyouko both breathed a sigh of relief when they saw his figure walk off.  
“Wow, that was stressful...”  
“Yeah. But he was cool, wasn’t he? So strong-looking. But elegant, too. But he really doesn’t seem like a ‘Captain’ at all.”  
“Not really. He’s very different from the Captain I know.”  
“Uh, no, I was just talking to myself.”  
Just then, they heard a loud noise coming from far off.  
When they looked, they could see that Captain Harris, who was going back inside the ship from the observation deck, had been run into by one of the girls in the cabin crew. She had fallen down and overturned a mop and bucket.  
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry...”  
The cabin girl apologized desperately.  
Her skirt was fluttering over her black tights, and she was wearing a white apron and hair band. Her ash blond hair was neatly braided, but they couldn’t see her face from where they were.  
They also couldn’t hear their conversation because of the distance. It looked like Captain Harris was warning the demure cabin girl from his lively gestures. The girl just kept bowing to Harris over and over again. After that, she picked up the cleaning implements, then hurriedly ran off towards the bow of the ship- and fell down hard again.  
“That’s a very clumsy maid...” Kyouko complained. Next to her, Kaname broke into a cold sweat as her suspicion grew.  
It couldn’t be. No... but then again, why would she be on this ship...?  
But that was all that they witnessed.  
Because it had gotten cold, Kaname and Kyouko went back inside the ship to look around at the facilities.  
They caught sight of a young bartender seducing a group of schoolgirls in the corridor in front of the bar lounge. He was a handsome man with blonde hair and blue eyes, his long hair pulled up into a bun, and wearing simple glasses.  
They heard the smooth talking man say in fluent Japanese:  
“-really, it’s true! I grew up in Edogawa in Tokyo. You know, there’s a great soba*3 place there, right? Just give me your telephone numbers. When I have some free time, I’ll give you a call-”  
“Ehh, but, hee hee hee...” 
“Hey, new guy! No flirting with the guests!”  
“Ah... okay, okay”  
After being chastised by the veteran crewmember, the playboy returned back to work. Looking at his retreating figure from behind, Kyouko mumbled, “I feel like I’ve seen that guy before somewhere...”  
“I-I wonder. Isn’t it just your imagination? There are a lot of foreigners who look like him. Let’s go somewhere else,” Kaname said with the anxiety increasing in her voice.  
They walked for a bit, stopping to look into the casino hall. Even though it hadn’t been long since they set sail, the regular passengers who were fond of gambling had already surrounded the roulette wheel.  
The dealer was a pretty Asian woman.  
She was somewhere in her twenties with short, black hair, and slender features. She was also wearing glasses.  
“Now then, place your bets, place your bets! Don’t be so stingy, now- whaaat, this side isn’t set up at all. If you don’t hurry, I’ll have to call all bets off, you know-”  
It was a more a world of play gambling than a roulette wheel, but most of the customers pushed their chips out in a business-like fashion with smiles on their faces.  
“That person, too... I feel like I’ve met her before...”  
“...l-let’s go.”  
There was nothing else that Kaname could say.  
What in the world was happening on this boat?  
Kaname thought that after she parted with Kyouko, she might catch one of them and press them for some answers. No, she absolutely had to. However, after they had left the casino hallway, just as Kaname had resolved herself in her mind, Eri Kagurazaka yelled out to them.  
“Hey, you two! Didn’t you hear the announcement?! It’s time for dinner! Jindai High School students are to gather in the great hall!”  
When they looked around, all of the students and passengers who should have been here and there were gone.  
“Oh, yes Ma’am...”  
No helping it, questions will have to come later.  
Kaname and Kyouko followed along after Eri and walked to the great hall where supper was being served.  
♦ ♦ ♦ 
After he had finished greeting Kaname, Captain Harris had walked around the ship for a while, making sure there was nothing abnormal in any of the stations.  
It’s only natural. It was his ship, after all. He always paid attention to safety.  
If he allowed something to happen on his ship, there would be problems.  
Really big problems.  
Especially tonight, with such an important event drawing near.  
“Captain,” the chief engineer said to Harris as he caught up with him in the passageway. The man was a Columbian who looked to be over forty years old, and had a black mustache.  
“Señor, was that the Japanese girl?”  
“When do we take it out of the ‘vault’?”  
“Sometime during the night. We’ll pick a time when the brats are asleep.”  
“She’ll just obey without a fuss?”  
“Of course. All of her school friends are our hostages, anyway.” The edges of Harris’s mouth curled up. “I was thinking that we’ll throw her friend with glasses into the ocean first. That’ll make it easy.”  
“The water is freezing cold in December, isn’t it?”  
“Their falling off the ship will be an unavoidable tragedy. The whereabouts of Kaname Chidori and her friend will be unknown on this Christmas Eve.”  
“What about Mithril?”  
“This ship has already set out. They won’t be able to reach us here. This will please Mr. Gold. The organization will reassess my worth.”  
Soon it came time to attend the banquet and make his speech. He thought it was an annoying ritual, but it was part of the job.  
Harris lightly tightened his necktie, then walked to the great hall.  
The great hall where the Jindai High students had gathered was even bigger than their school gymnasium.  
In this enormous space there was an array of large tables- and on top of each table was silver dinnerware as well as large portions of food.  
It was the format for a buffet party. It seemed that the regular guests were eating in a different hall. Only waiters and those associated with Jindai High School were in here.  
The aroma of herbs drifted around the meat dishes. There was pasta made with generous portions of fresh seafood. There was glistening brown turkey barbeque and roast beef. There was lobster cut right in half and cooked in flavorful, rich soup.  
And everything was all-you-can-eat.  
When it came to eating out, most of the students, who had only eaten hamburgers, beef bowls, ramen or stand-while-you-eat soba, were moved to tears so much that they were speechless.  
“Not yet!!” the principal quickly stopped the drooling students as they started to jump on the food. Grabbing a hold of the mike mounted on the stage in the hall, she gained control over the students.  
“The Captain of the ship hasn’t made his speech yet! Got it, everyone? You were told this before you got on board, but- as Jindai High students, be sure to conduct yourselves in a manner that won’t bring any embarrassment, okay!? There are regular guests on this ship, too. Also, everyone, please behave modestly so as not to cause any problems. In the first place, right in the middle of the hijacking incident, you guys were acting impudently on the plane, playing card games and fighting amongst yourselves and bothering the flight attendants terribly, all of which was written about in a weekly article afterwards! How come when it comes to the TPO and standards, you guys are-”  
Principal Tsuboi continued her sermon for another three minutes.  
“-That’s all. Do you understand!?”  
The several hundred students replied “Yes Ma’am!” with strange enthusiasm. Their eyes sparkled, seemingly saying, “We get it already, now hurry and let us eat!”  
“Very well. Now let’s listen to some words from the Captain of this ship, the Pacific Chrysalis - everyone, give him a big hand!”  
The bearded Captain quickly made his way on stage. As if he were a rock star or something, the students applauded for him very loudly and blew whistles at him.  
“Ladies and Gentlemen of Jindai High School. I’m sorry for making you wait. My name is Steven Harris,” Harris said in front of the mike. The students gave comments of admiration at his fluent Japanese.  
“Welcome to the Pacific Chrysalis. I could not be more honored that you took us up on our invitation. I have heard about how dreadful your last field trip turned out-” he put in a clever cough, “but don’t worry. There are no terrorists riding on this ship.”  
The students burst into laughter.  
“That’s true!”  
“Way to go, Captain!”  
“There’s no way such a thing would happen again, is there!?”  
After waiting for everyone to settle back down, Harris continued.  
“Thank you very much. However, it is a serious matter. This ship that I run, as well as the smiling faces of our guests, are what I take pride in. A completely safe and pleasant trip. In order to assure those things, I, along with the crew, wholeheartedly... hmm?”  
Just then-  
A waiter wearing a black vest and butterfly tie blatantly climbed up on stage.  
For some reason, the waiter’s head was completely covered by a black mask- he was wearing a balaclava, and in his hand he held a shotgun.  
As the several hundred students watched closely, the man aimed the shotgun at the ceiling and fired once.  
Harris, the principal and the students all froze at the same time.  
“Nobody move!!” the man declared. There was a device on his throat, and his voice was deep and rough. It was tightly connected to the man’s serious-looking mouth, which peeked out from the hole in the balaclava.  
“Jindai High second year students! Listen up! We are the treacherous, inhuman organization, ‘The Troubled Revolutionary Group’. This cruise ship, the Pacific Chrysalis, which is filled with imperialistic and exploiting societal members, is ours starting now.”  
There was a long, long silence.  
“Again!?” a majority of the students cried out at the same time.  
At their critical and fed up voices, the masked man calmly replied, “I’m sorry, but yes. We will be commanding this ship from now on...”  
The man looked up.  
“Yes... our command...”  
He looked down beyond the stage as if searching for help.  
The bartender had gone up there unnoticed, rifle in hand, and whispered something to the man. There was some blonde hair sticking out from under the edge of his mask.  
“Mm... I see. Anyway, we, the... umm- ‘Red Army Faction different from the one you know’, now have control of this ship.”  
“Isn’t that different from the name he said before...?”  
“This is a problem .” 
“They don’t even seem to have confidence in themselves.”  
"We are a treacherous, inhuman terrorist organization. We are taking over this ship starting now!" At the serious-faced masked man's words, the Jindai High School students yell out in a fed up voice, "Again?" 
“...anyway, because we are a cruel and unusual terrorist organization, we will not even show mercy to women or children. Resistance means death! Unfortunately, these shotguns are loaded with rubber stun bullets, but they are enough to make someone opposing us cry and beg ‘please stop!’-”  
“No, they’re real bullets!” the blonde masked man cut him off.  
“Oh, that’s right. They are brutal slab bullets. It will kill the target in one shot. I am not lying,” he awkwardly corrected himself, then the terrorist pointed to the hall exits.  
“Of course, you are forbidden to run away from here. Look!”  
The students turned around, and in front of the many doors leading to the kitchen and corridors stood more masked terrorists carrying guns and blocking the way.  
Most of them were men dressed like members of the cleaning staff or waiters, but for some reason, there was one small girl among them. She was the maid with ash-blonde hair, and was armed with a submachine gun. She was wearing a scarf around the bottom half of her face and a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses.  
“All of them are skilled men who have been forged in a terrorist training camp in Libya. Remember that you will have no chance of winning if you fight them unarmed.”  
The terrorists blocking the doors all took one step forward in unison. The masked maid was late, and when she tried to follow suit-  
She wasn’t used to wearing high heels, it seemed- she wobbled, then fell down in a very grand fashion.  
“Captain...!?” the terrorist on the stage yelled without thinking. The masked maid picked herself up slowly, bravely but 
weakly replied, “I’m okay”, then raised her submachine gun. There was an awkward silence.  
The terrorist coughed, then continued.  
“...anyway, that’s how it is. Now then, Captain Harris, you will come with us. As we are cruel and inhuman terrorists, we have several points to negotiate with you.”  
He followed Harris’s blank look. Just then, Kaname Chidori was stomping up the stairs to the stage.  
“Stop, woman. Otherwise I’ll shoot.”  
The terrorist pointed his gun at Kaname.  
She didn’t stop.  
“I said stop.”  
But she didn’t stop.  
“You’ll recklessly throw your life away. If you don’t follow my order, your friends and teachers will be brutally-  
Kaname’s right hand hit him straight in the gut, and the terrorist was thrown to the floor. The mike fell off below the stage, causing loud feedback over the intercom.  
“Now listen up, Sousuke. What in the hell...”  
Luckily or unluckily, the mike didn’t pick up her voice.  
Kaname violently grabbed the terrorist up by the collar.  
“Come on.”  
“u... wait, Chidori. In these circumstances-”  
“Whatever, just come on.”  
“Listen to me.”  
“I said ‘Come’, didn’t I!?”  
Half dragging the terrorist, Kaname walked down off stage. For some reason, the other terrorists didn’t reproach her for doing so. Rather, they looked somewhat guilty. Because of that, when 
Kaname gave an angry look at one of the terrorists guarding the exit, he quickly and quietly gave way.  
After the door shut, it was silent for a while.  
Then the Jindai High students hummed and whispered among each other.  
“She was that brave against the terrorists...”  
“What amazing courage.”  
“Way to go, Miss Chidori!”  
“No, wasn’t she just mad because she’s hungry?”  
“But the way those two were acting, it feels like I’ve seen it somewhere before...”  
While these conversations were flying around the room, another one of the terrorists went up on stage.  
This time it was a tall woman. She was dressed as a casino dealer, and was wearing large sunglasses. She was also wearing a checked-vest with a bowtie and a tight, knee-length skirt. She was carrying a famous German-made submachine gun over her shoulder.  
“Ha ha ha. We’re sorry about that. Eh, because of that reason, no one is to leave this area, okay? That girl looked a little feverish, so my friend is escorting her to the medical room.”  
No matter how you looked at it, it looked like the terrorist was the one being escorted, but the woman was very clear about it.  
“Well, since you guys have plenty of hostage experience, I’ll just go over the important points. Just find ways to kill time like you did before. You can go home tomorrow.”  
There were whispers from some of the students saying, “I feel like I’ve heard that voice before...”  
“Eh, let’s see... is there anything you guys want? I’ll listen.”  
“Excuse me, but I’m kinda hungry,” one student yelled out quietly.  
“Oh, that’s right. Sorry about that, you can eat now. Well, I’ll be back later.”  
The students quickly sprang on the mountains of food. The terrorists took the pale-faced Captain with them and got down off the stage.  
♦ ♦ ♦ 
December 24th, 19:30 (Japan Standard Time) 
The Bridge of The Pacific Chrysalis 
There were those people who had snuck in as some of the staff, as well as those who had landed on the boat after it set sail in a helicopter hidden by ECS- about 30 members of Mithril in all. They divided up into teams of three to four people each, mobilized, and speedily gained control of the inside of the ship. 
The engine room, crew cabins, recreational facilities, communication facilities, air conditioning facilities, and all of the storehouses and food rooms... most of the passengers and crew had quietly followed their instructions when they saw guns pointed at them. The Mithril soldiers counted the number of “hostages” precisely, then reported the information in detail to their commander, Lieutenant Clouseau. 
Right now Clouseau was on the bridge of the Pacific Chrysalis. Just a few minutes earlier, he and two PRT personnel (Primary Response Team) had broken in here. The navigation officer and helmsmen had surrendered easily when Clouseau and the others threatened them with their rifles (which were loaded with rubber bullets). He didn’t like pretending to threaten innocent 
people with guns, but this was part of the job. There was no helping it. 
“This is Uruz 8. Area D4 secured with 32 people. No casualties.” 
“This is Uruz 5. Area A8 secured with 18 people, no casualties. No resistance.” 
“This is Uruz 8. C1 is secured, no people, no casualties. We’re going to continue on to C3.” 
No casualties, no casualties, no casualties... 
The reports were given, and the PRT soldiers entered the information into the laptops they had brought with them. Most of the crew and passengers were already under their control. 
“This is Uruz 9. D13 is secured with 3 people. No casualties. We encountered some resistance.” 
When he heard Uruz 9- Corporal Yang’s report, Clouseau said over the radio, “This is Uruz 1 to Uruz 9. Explain what you mean by ‘resistance’.” 
“I was hit by an old cleaning woman with a mop. Right now she’s lecturing us.” 
When he listened, Clouseau could hear the remonstrative voice of a middle-aged woman on the other end of the receiver. She was saying things like, “You should be ashamed of yourselves” and “Get real jobs” and such. 
Clouseau just closed his eyes as his temples twitched in annoyance. 
“We’re terrorists. Don’t let people lecture you.” 
“But she’s right. She’s saying that whatever our reasons, threatening people with violence is the lowest form of conduct. She told us to remember the faces of our family at home, Christmas when we were kids, and the hot, home-cooked meals... 
and such. Everyone on my team got misty-eyed, saying things like, ‘Where did we go wrong?’ and such-” 
“Don’t start crying about it, that’s just shameful.” 
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant. But it’s sad, having to pretend to be terrorists on Christmas... isn’t today supposed to be a day where everyone is the world is happy? I miss my mom’s cheesecake.” 
“Get over it and go secure the other areas. Quickly. Understood!?” 
“Uruz 9, roger...” 
“For the love of...” Clouseau muttered after he ended the communication. “Even with the circumstances as they are, I’ve never heard of this kind of operation before...” 
If not for the word, “Badame”, which Gauron left behind, they probably would have never suspected this giant cruise ship. Actually, even Mithril’s Intelligence Department came to that conclusion in a preliminary test. 
But they were wrong. 
There was a big secret hidden on this ship. Inviting the Jindai High School students here was a trap devised by either Amalgam or someone working for them. Their squad had taken these actions in order to foil their plans. 
This was an almost completely independent operation. Even most of the staff in the Operations Headquarters didn’t know about the Tuatha de Danaan occupying this cruise boat. They gave each station in Headquarters different information so that they would be able to ascertain Amalgam’s movements and reveal who their insider was. 
They still didn’t know the details about what was hidden on this ship. 
That’s what they would be investigating from here. 
On top of securing the safety of the students and Kaname Chidori, they were also doing a thorough investigation of the “suspicious sections”. They would counterattack using a method that they enemy wouldn’t expect- if they kept that goal in mind, then this operation was reasonable. 
Of course, Clouseau still had his doubts about this plan proposed by Sousuke Sagara and Kurz Weber. He and the second in command of the de Danaan, Commander Mardukas, called this sea-jacking “ludicrous” and “haphazard”, and opposed it the entire time. In the end, however, Captain Testarossa and Lieutenant Commander Kalinin let them have their way with “passive approval”. 
I’m also a Lieutenant. There are rumors of me being promoted to Captain. I guess I’m going to have to learn about the bureaucrats... he thought. 
Naturally, they were always practicing this kind of terrorism suppression training. He was used to playing the bad guy, but- 
“But Lieutenant. It’s kind of fun being the terrorists for a change. It’s perfect for relieving stress,” one of the PRT sergeants said in a lively voice as he pointed his submachine gun at the navigation officer. 
“I’ll pretend that I didn’t hear that remark just now. And use call signs in front of the hostages,” Clouseau said with a cross look on his face. Just then, he received a communication from Mao from the subdued great hall. 
“This is Uruz 1.” 
“This is Uruz 2. The first hall is secured. There are 324 students and faculty. There are also 28 kitchen cooks and staff altogether. No casualties. For the time being, I’ve gone ahead and let them continue eating. We’ve also restrained the other captain.” 
“Understood. What about Ansuz?” 
“Ansuz” was the call sign of the commander of the Tuatha de Danaan, Teletha Testarossa. They used this name when she was outside of the ship during an operation. 
“She followed Uruz 7 and Angel out of the hall.” 
When he heard this, Clouseau raised his eyebrows. 
“Angel left the hall? I thought we had arranged for her to keep quiet with the rest of the students.” 
“It’s okay, I’ll call them back soon. What about the other teams?” 
“Eight areas complete. No casualties. We just secured the engine room earlier. We also have the communication facilities... it seems that some of the crew are armed. We have encountered some resistance.” 
Armed guards wouldn’t be riding on a normal cruise ship. That meant that they were soldiers working for the enemy, and that they were also “protecting something important”. 
“I see. So, do we follow the plans for this ship’s Captain?” 
“Yes, escort him. Courteously.” 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
After they had left the dining hall, which had exploded with noise after everyone was permitted to eat, they went to the deserted smoking lounge and- 
Kaname changed her attitude, and kicked Sousuke’s butt. 
“What are you doing?” 
“Shut up!!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “It was fine that you didn’t come on the trip! You could have just done your thing at the party on base! Incidentally, I don’t know what kind of 
dirty jobs you guys normally do- but is it normal to attack our own school!?” 
“No, we’re not really attacking anyone from school-” 
“But you’re really doing it, aren’t you?! Take of that mask, you...” 
“...don’t pull so hard, it hurts.” 
Kaname yanked the balaclava hat off of the struggling Sousuke. 
“Just what in the hell are you doing!? Explain yourself!” 
“Wait a minute, Chidori. Didn’t you read the email I sent you?” 
“Uh...well, umm...” Kaname faltered. Because she had been so angry at Sousuke, she had deleted the email he had sent her without looking at it. 
“I tried to tell you in advance. Since you wouldn’t listen to me, I took the trouble of-” 
“I... I don’t know anything about an email!” 
Realizing in a time like this that she was wrong but not being able to apologize was Kaname’s weakness. 
“A-anyway, no matter what the reasons, this kind of sea-jacking is unforgivable, isn’t it!? Aren’t you guys an anti-terror mercenary unit? It doesn’t make sense.” 
From behind them came a new voice. 
“That’s not true. We are being consistent.” 
When Kaname looked around, the masked, ash-blonde maid armed with a submachine gun was walking towards her. 
She looked more suspicious than a common terrorist. 
“Who are you...” Kaname started to say, but trailed off. The masked maid- Tessa, laughed boldly. 
“Hoo hoo hoo...I’m the supreme leader of the ‘Liberation Front Troubled Over Something’, or the LFTOS for short.” 
“That’s not the same name as before, either.” 
“Don’t worry about it. Anyway, I am the terrible leader of a group of veteran terrorists. I’ll kill children without mercy,” she said, and then went “ba-ba-ba-ba”, pretending to shoot her submachine gun. 
“’re a child yourself. See?” 
Kaname grabbed Tessa’s sunglasses and snatched them off. 
Tessa’s true face was exposed, and with her large eyes moist with tears, she hastily waved her hands around trying to get them back. When Kaname said “here”, and handed them back, Tessa took them back. 
“Good. Without these to make you feel so tough, you look like you’re gonna be crushed by your guilty conscience...” 
“Then it would be better if I didn’t pretend, right!?” Tessa sounded as if she had just been stricken. “You’re right... but this was the most reliable and safe way to do it. I... I’m really sorry about making the passengers feel uneasy or inconvenienced. Personally, wearing these sunglasses and acting like a gangster lets me keep a clear mind...” 
“...oh no,” Kaname said, and stole her sunglasses again. 
“Ahhh, g-give them back! If I don’t have them, I’ll, I’ll...” 
Tessa looked as if she were about to cry as she grabbed Kaname. 
“Looks really painful, there...” 
“I said it was, didn’t I!” 
“Quit it, Chidori. Give them back to her.” 
When Sousuke reproached her, Kaname got mad at him. 
“Hmm... who are you to tell me what to do?” 
“Give them back!” 
“...nooope. Hmph.” 
“You’re causing the Captain problems, aren’t you? I was trying hard to explain this to you before.” 
“Even so, you’ve got a problem in the way you convey stuff, you know!” 
She’s still fighting with me, Sousuke thought and shook his head tediously. 
“Would you please give me a break, Chidori? You’re acting even more unreasonable than usual.” 
“Well excuse me! I’m just an unreasonable, loud girl!” 
“I didn’t say that. Why do you always-” 
“Give them back, give them back-” 
“Ah, you’re annoying, too!” 
“Just give them back to her and listen to me!” 
“Will you stop giving me orders!? You’re always doing that!” 
“I have to since you’re so stubborn.” 
“You’re just as stubborn as me, aren’t you!? When something happens, you talk all big. Well, don’t you!? You’re always-” 
“Whatever you’re fighting about, just give me back my glasses!” 
There was Kaname, who wouldn’t give in, and Sousuke, who was irritated. There was also Tessa, who was waving both arms around feverishly trying to get her glasses back. It was a truly unproductive sight. Then a new voice resounded over the commotion of the three. 
“Cut it out!!” 
It was Mao. Holding Captain Harris prisoner at gunpoint, she made her way over to them. They all shut up when she scolded them. 
“Really... what are you guys making such a racket about? And Sousuke! Why is Kaname mad!? Didn’t you explain it to her!?” 
“I... didn’t.” 
“That was a terrible oversight. All of the other school kids and faculty fell in line properly, but her position is different, isn’t it!? This was your idea, wasn’t it? If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, there’ll be problems. Carry out your responsibilities, Sergeant!” 
“I’m sorry.” 
“I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to put this in my report.” 
“I don’t mind. It was my mistake,” Sousuke admitted without saying a word about Kaname’s mistake. It was an admirable thing to do despite the commotion up until now. 
As she watched from the side, Kaname’s chest tightened in pain. Speaking paradoxically, if he were the type of man who would say “It’s Chidori’s fault” at a time like this, there wouldn’t be the stubbornness like there was just now, or the problems. 
But because he was this way, she couldn’t give in. 
“...well, fine. We’ll talk about this later. We’ll explain it to her now. Kaname, you come, too.” 
“Eh? Where?” 
“To the vault room. Isn’t that right, Captain?” Mao said with a grin looking in front of her. Looking downcast, Captain Harris’s pale face froze up. 
“Umm, Captain...?” 
If he had been a captain affected by the sea jacking, he probably would have said something to Kaname, who was his passenger. “Don’t worry”, or something like that. But instead he only scowled at her and said nothing. 
Not one word of encouragement or comfort. 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
Just before the sea-jacking occurred 
Commander Killy B. Sailor, who commanded the US Navy’s SUBPAC attack nuclear submarine Pasadena and had come to Japan on holiday, was in the telephone corner. Since the regular guests had already moved to the dinner hall, there was no one else around. 
Sailor was arguing with his wife, who was back at their home in California. 
“-for Christ’s sake! I thought I’d call and ask what happened, and settle this! Huh? I... Idiot, I told you a thousand times, it’s a mission! It was a mission! But you give me a hard time and run off the night before our Japan trip... give me a break! Huh? ...then tell me, what else am I supposed to do!? When my subordinates and engineers are wrestling with engine trouble all night, am I supposed to say ‘I’m going home because the all mighty god will be mad at me’!? If you think I’m gonna do such a thing- what did you say!? You’re just like that jerk Smith... what!? That’s right! I’ll have myself a good time! With a beautiful woman! ...shut up, Takenaka’s in Hawaii!” Sailor yelled into the receiver. 
He had blue eyes, and black short-cropped hair. His features were chiseled, his eyebrows were high, and his jaw was square- if you had to describe him in one word, it would be “rugged”. 
His physique was also the same. His body was built like that of a macho Hollywood actor. He himself felt that he hadn’t been getting enough exercise recently, but he had no unsightly flab 
anywhere around his waist, probably due to his genetics. That was how his family was. If someone were to meet him for the first time, and find out that he was in the military, they usually would ask “Are you in the Army?”, which made Sailor very uncomfortable. 
He shouted at his wife, who was yelling at him hysterically over the satellite phone. 
“Shut up, and quit that screaming! Anyway, the Navy is my life! If you can’t accept that... oh, very good! You can just go and mess around with all those good-for-nothing guys around there! You’re always- hello? Are you listening to me!?” 
Sailor tapped on the receiver because he couldn’t hear her voice anymore. 
“Hey, Eliza! If you’re gonna be that way...?” 
Complete quiet. There wasn’t even any noise. 
She had hung up on him. 
“Damn that woman!” 
Violently hanging up the phone, Commander Sailor tried to curse- then just sighed. 
That was it. His married life was failing. He had planned this trip as a way to revive it, but it was over. 
Oh, well. He had paid a lot of money to come this far. He was going to at least enjoy it. 
Sailor calmed down and started to return to his table where a luxurious dinner was waiting for him, but something unusual happened just then. 
The sound of noisy gunfire came from the dinner hall. 
There was then the sound of the passengers screaming as well as other racket. They were the sounds of dinnerware falling off of a table, a pushcart being overturned, as well as someone yelling in a threatening voice. 
There was no doubt about it. That was gunfire just now. Either a submachine gun, or assault rifle- 
It couldn’t be a sea-jacking, could it? 
Wild footsteps approached from beyond the double doors in front of him. 
The terrorists were heading his way. 
Sailor quickly looked around his surroundings. He was the only one in the hallway. There was a girl’s bathroom right next to him. He quickly jumped through the door, and a moment later, he could hear the footsteps of the terrorists running in the hall. Right next to him. 
They would probably check the bathroom next. If he didn’t find somewhere to hide quickly...! 
In the center of the stalls was a maintenance door, which was used to adjust the water and sewer services on the ship. In a submarine these would be bare pipes, but on a cruise ship like this they were hidden by an inner wooden wall. Sailor opened the door and, stepping behind the inner wall, hid between the fat pipes. 
It was a cramped place. Immediately after he hid, the men came in. They quickly and skillfully checked each of the stalls one by one. 
When they confirmed that no one was in any of the stalls, one of them opened the door to the maintenance room in which Sailor was hiding and scanned the area with a flashlight. His heart was beating and he took a deep breath in through his nose, but somehow being in the middle of those complex and intertwining pipes hid his breathing, and the terrorist reported over his radio. 
“This is Kano 23. E10 is secure with 0 people. No casualties. Moving on to E12.” 
The terrorist violently slammed the maintenance door closed. Again, there was the sound of running inside the room. There was no idle talk whatsoever. From his experience, Sailor soon realized that these men had quite a bit of practice doing this. 
It was silent again. 
Breathing a sigh of relief, Sailor slowly went back into the bathroom. With his shoulders heaving up and down as he breathed, he grabbed onto the sink and stared into the mirror in front of him. 
“Think... god damn it, think...!!” 
He didn’t break down and panic, nor did he cry in fear because, even though the places were different, he had experience passing through scenes of battles. There had been many times when he, as someone who had spent half of his life on submarines, had almost died. Most of them were due to accidents, but he had combat experience as well. 
It wasn’t a well-known fact, but there were few active submarine captains who had ever actually fired on enemy ships. Probably only ten in the entire world. 
And Commander Sailor, Captain of the Pasadena*4, was one of those few. 
That’s right. I’m a veteran. I know what I should do because I’m a man of the sea. 
The terrorist had said “Kano 23” over the transmission earlier. He didn’t know what that call sign meant, but more than likely it meant that the enemy had a substantial number of people. 
“I won’t die,” he muttered to his reflection in the sink mirror. 
So think. Remember the Hollywood movies. The bad guys who hijack something on Christmas night are always unexpectedly defeated by the hero who just happens to be there. 
Yes, that’s it. The hero. 
So, in this situation, wouldn’t “Commander Killy B. Sailor, a veteran submarine captain who happened to be on vacation while dealing with a divorce that would make any audience sympathetic” be the perfect hero!? 
Yes, that’s it. No one would expect it...!! 
In a moment, a new sensation swept through his mind and body. 
There’s no doubt. The night will be mine! Thrilling fights and daring risks! Romance with the beautiful heroine! And a heroic showdown with the villain!! My problems with my wife Eliza are trivial in comparison! 
And of course the big boss will be a ruthless and unusual man, someone who used to be a navy man himself. The heroine will be a member of the crew, in her late twenties with exotic black hair. 
And my chief officer Takenaka... well, his role is to probably to be shot to death by a terrorist somewhere along the way. 
Takenaka, the poor bastard... 
He sighed mournfully. After arbitrarily killing off his subordinate, Sailor headed out. 
But don’t worry, Takenaka. I will avenge you for sure! Spurred on by the anger from your death, at around the 60 minute mark in the movie, I’ll start my ruthless counterattack...!! 
First, he had to find a weapon. For now, he had the skirt from a mop. He would attack the small fry and get a pistol. Then a machine gun. He felt the same as when he had seen the Medal of Honor shining brilliantly so long ago. 
You’d better be ready for me, you terrorist bastards...!! 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
December 24th, 20:21 (Japan Standard Time) 
In Front of the Vault Room on the Pacific Chrysalis 
“ What’s up with this vault?” Kaname asked Sousuke and the others. 
They were in the lower level of the ship, in an obscure pathway near the engine room. At the end of the path stood the problem vault. Its massive, unique alloy door remained locked fast in front of Kaname and the others. 
These kinds of cruise ships were often equipped with a large vault for the safekeeping of valuable gems, treasures or works of art. On a ship of this scale, it was like a very small bank. 
“Don’t tell me that you came to rob this?” 
“That would be correct,” Mao replied easily, beckoning to the end of the line. “Now then, Captain. Come over here.” 
Sousuke prodded him in the back, and Captain Harris stepped in front of the vault door. He wore a bitter look on his face. 
“Will you open it for us?” 
“I refuse. What business do terrorists have with a vault? Do you think you can get away with this farce? If you hurt my precious passengers, I will make you regret it!” 
“Hmm, and you’re telling us to cut out our act?” Mao gave him a thin smile and waved her gun. 
“What are you talking about?” 
“October of last year, this ship went to the new Kurusu shipbuilding dock for repairs. There isn’t any paperwork left, but apparently they did quite a bit of work in the area around the vault room. Using the space for the fuel tank, they remodeled the isolated compartment and extended a very strong and solid barrier 
wall. It’s pretty unbelievable that an ordinary passenger boat would need such work, don’t you think?” 
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 
“Without any regard for operating efficiency, the workers were replaced daily- was that so they didn’t catch on to what you were working on?” 
“I don’t know. The repair work last year was simply to upgrade the fire prevention equipment. And besides, as far as this and that with the construction work, I myself am employed by the company and have no authority over it.” 
“Of course the you on the surface wouldn’t. But there’s no reason that the you as a Captain wouldn’t know about the armed guards or this area of the ship, is there?” 
“And I know that you received a certain amount of money from ‘someone’ from the board of directors who own the company. They have no connection to the foundation on paper, but somehow there’s a flow of money there.” 
It was like a scene from a crime drama. Mao was the detective, and Harris was the criminal. Kaname was the unknowing audience A. 
“What do you mean...?” Kaname asked, and Mao shrugged her shoulders. 
“Basically that inside this vault is something that is even more important than smuggled goods. For Amalgam, perhaps something extremely important...” 
Harris’s shoulders suddenly stiffened up. 
“So now he shows his true colors,” Mao grinned. 
“Besides, the way you looked at Kaname just now. I don’t think she’s just another ‘precious passenger’ she? You knew about her before now.” 
Harris’s face went pale. His fingers and jaw trembled, both eyes opened wide, and his forehead as well as the back of his neck starting sweating heavily. 
“You should know who we are now,” Sousuke, who had kept quiet up till now, said solemnly. “Shun On, Ariake*5, the Perio Islands, Hong Kong... we always were on the defensive, but now we’re taking the initiative. If you understand you’ll cooperate with us.” 
“...I don’t understand. I don’t understand anything of what you’re saying. It’s nonsense,” 
Harris muttered after taking a deep breath. A moment later he looked at Kaname, who was standing near him, and suddenly sprang at her. 
There was a small knife in his hand, which he had probably hidden in his cap. 
Kaname froze. Reaching out, he aimed for the nape of her neck. 
But Sousuke had moved faster. 
He used the stock of his shotgun to hit Harris in the arm, then quickly counterattacked by driving it heavily into his unprotected stomach. 
“Guh...” Harris groaned, and dropped to his knees. Sousuke then kicked up, hitting him in the face and causing him to fall backwards. Harris coughed violently. 
“This is this man’s true character.” 
Even Kaname, who was always beating up on Sousuke herself, turned pale at this show of violence. 
Mao just shrugged in front of the now groveling Harris. 
“My my. What a shameful change of character. Were you going to try to take her hostage? Too bad. It’s time to drop the ‘perfect gentlemen’ act.” 
“That’s right. Your actions are nonsense.” 
With Harris crouched down in front of him, Sousuke continued. 
“I have an idea as to why you got my school involved and what you were planning. You intended to take all of the students hostage to coerce Chidori into doing something, didn’t you?” 
Bulls-eye. Harris gnashed his teeth and gave Sousuke a cold look. 
“But, remember...” 
Sousuke grabbed him by the nape of the neck and jerked him up. He pressed the tip of the knife that he had taken away against Harris’s neck. 
“’s not just Chidori. Just try to even lay one finger on any of these students. I personally will peel off your hide and take my time about killing you. Got it? I will make you feel the worst kind of pain and despair. If you think that Mithril is really posing as an ‘army of justice’, then you’re seriously mistaken. We know your style, too. Don’t forget it.” 
The man’s face twitched in terror. Tessa, perhaps from feeling Sousuke’s quiet malice, looked very unsettled and didn’t stir an inch. 
“Sagara is very scary, somehow.” 
“He really does have a strange edge to him.” 
“He must be angry because he’s hungry.” 
“He seems to be in a bad mood...” 
Kaname and Tessa whispered back and forth to each other from nearby. Sousuke overheard their conversation, and with his temple twitching, said, “...Chidori. I’m right in the middle of threatening a prisoner right now, so could you be a little quieter?” 
Kaname’s demeanor suddenly changed at his remark. She gave him a sullen expression. 
“Why did you only say it to me?” 
“Huh? Th-that’s-” 
“That’s right! Don’t differentiate between us! You should scold me, too!” Tessa cut him off. 
“Why is he like that...” 
“That’s because Sagara always acts reserved around me.” 
“That’s not the problem, is it!?” 
“That is the problem! He always is. Are you only leaving me out?” 
“Tessa, you’re...” 
“I get it, so will you two be quiet-” 
Mao, who was standing beside the three who were arguing yet again, composedly reached into her vest and took out a large handgun. 
Silently, she aimed at the ceiling and fired. 
After an ear-piercing metallic sound, dust rained down around them. 
In front of the now silent Kaname, Tessa and Sousuke, Mao returned her handgun back into its holster, clearing her throat. 
“Now then. Let’s not pursue this conversation.” 
“Yes ma’am...” Kaname and Tessa answered at the same time. 
“Speaking of which, Captain. Will you quietly open the door for us?” 
“Okay. But I can’t open it.” 
“Not you, Captain, that Captain!” Mao yelled angrily, and putting her hands together apologetically, Tessa dropped her head. 
“Ummm. I was... only kidding.” 
“Good grief.” 
Mao scratched her head. 
Getting back to business, Sousuke and Mao threatened Harris. To relieve some of the tension, Kaname and Tessa kept their distance. 
“Let’s see. Anyway, open it.” 
She pulled Captain Harris up and made him stand in front of the console. 
“I... it’s impossible. I can’t open it,” Harris sputtered incoherently after reading the display screen. 
“Again? Are you just trying to buy time? Huh?” 
“It’s true. The electromagnetic lock for this vault has already changed to emergency mode. It won’t accept my pass code.” 
“Oh, is that so? Then if I do this, will it accept it?” 
Mao pointed her submachine gun at Harris’s right knee. 
“I won’t kill you right off. I’ll give you a friendly warning to start off with. Is that okay with you, Sousuke?” 
“That’s a reasonable course of action.” 
“I’ll count to three.” 
Harris’s expression changed, and his entire body flinched. 
“P-please believe me. There’s nothing I can-” 
“I’m not lying. When it’s in this mode, it’s-” 
“P-please listen! No matter what happens, it can’t be opened-” 
Mao aimed at Harris’s knee, who had now taken on a look of desperation, and fired. 
It was a three point shot. There was the sound of a muffled gunshot. 
Harris let out a blood-curdling scream and fell over. 
“Aaahh! Ah! Aaah! You shot me!? You damn bitch!” 
“Next is the left leg.” 
“Stop it, stop it, please! It won’t open! Damn it. It’s true. I’m telling the truth...!” 
Mao and Sousuke looked at the half-sobbing Harris as he clutched his leg, and then looked at each other. They seemed somewhat disappointed. 
“What do you think, Sousuke?” 
“I don’t think he’s acting,” Sousuke stated, watching him calmly. 
“So that means we won’t be able to do this the easy way, then...” 
“That was the assumption to start out with. Let’s begin the operation.” 
“Right. Get Spake and the others to bring the equipment.” 
Sousuke flipped his radio on and made contact with the other teams. 
“Hey, Admiral! How long are you planning on crying? Hurry and get up!” 
Mao violently kicked Harris as he wallowed around in pain. Kaname and Tessa, who had been surprised by the sound of the gunshot and had run back this way, cried out in protest. 
“M-Miss Mao!? No matter how bad a person he is, that’s going too far!” 
“Melissa? I know that it was inevitable, but you should at least give him some first aid...” 
Mao frowned. 
“First aid? All he needs is some ointment.” 
“See? It was just a rubber bullet.” 
There wasn’t one drop of blood coming from where Mao had shot Harris in the knee. If it had been a real bullet, the floor would be stained red by now. 
“Ouch ouch ouch!! A medic... someone call a medic!!” 
The only one who hadn’t noticed this by now was Harris, who continued his grandiose display of pain and suffering. 
Before long there were the sounds of many footsteps as the members of the other teams came to the vault. There were those among them who recognized Kaname, and said things like “Hey, Kaname!” and “How’s it going?”, but because they were all wearing the black masks, she didn’t know who was who. 
Corporal Yang and another soldier were leading Harris away, who was still crying things like “Ouch” and “She shot me”. It seemed they were going to question him in another area of the ship. 
They brought some assorted electronic machinery in on a cart. They were more than likely tools for getting the door open. 
“So you’re gonna break the door open now?” 
“Yes. We have to release the lock. This door’s covered by a barrier wall that even a direct explosion couldn’t scratch, like that of the reactor of an aircraft carrier.” 
Mao removed the console panel with her own tools, and started working on the electrical equipment within. 
“Is that strong?” 
“Affirmative. The atomic reactor of an aircraft carrier is able to take a direct hit by an enemy missile without any damage. This vault is similar to that,” Sousuke replied. 
“I was thinking of letting you see what’s inside, but... it seems that this is going to take some time. Would you mind going back to where the rest of your classmates are?” Mao asked. 
“Okay. But what is inside?” 
“We don’t know yet,” Tessa said, “but we’re certain it was for getting you. It’s probably something made by a Whispered, such as the TAROS or some other research device... after this we’re going to question the Captain and break into the vault. Then we’ll thoroughly collect all the data and withdraw from this ship.” 
“Oh, so that’s why you came, too,” Kaname finally realized. As a captain of an underwater submarine, Tessa was indeed very capable- but the moment you threw her into a gunfight, she became just about useless because of her clumsiness. She had made careful preparations just in case there was trouble like the time in Ariake, but it was still a rare thing for her to do it on the scene. 
“That’s right. My expertise and power is necessary to investigate the equipment inside,” Tessa said, puffing up a little. 
“I had thought that you just wanted to come and play dress-up in a maid’s outfit.” 
Tessa drooped. 
Ah, I think I went a little too far, Kaname thought, but Mao immediately agreed with her. 
“Kaname’s right, Tessa. One can’t help but thinking that about you today.” 
“I see...” 
“So I’m asking nicely, please don’t get in our way, Captain.” 
And without any regard for the now disgruntled Tessa, Mao connected a few cables to her laptop computer and said into the radio, “Uruz 2 to Kano 6. Try cutting the power a little to C35.” 
It wasn’t long before the ceiling lights blinked for a moment, then lit back up again. Mao looked at the holographic depiction on her laptop and clicked her tongue. 
“Ahh, no good. Alright. Go back. Just as I thought, it’s independent... yeah, we’ll have to disable the security features one by one. We’ll need some help from Dana. The connection- yeah, the V-circuit and G-circuit are too slow. I’ll have to ask for a wire link-up. You’re bringing some fiber optic cable, right? Call turtle to starboard...” 
Kaname quietly listened to Mao’s technical conversation. 
“Give priority connection to turtle. Huh? The Commander says no? Then tell him it’s an order from Tessa.” 
When she heard Mao use her name without asking, Tessa got mad. 
“Melissa! Please don’t use my authority all on your own!” 
“Fine, fine. Then will you give me permission?” 
“Well, I-” 
“We’re in a hurry, so be quick, okay?” 
Mao was waving her hands impatiently. After hesitating for just a moment, Tessa said with a sullen look, “...permission granted.” 
“Okay, thank you... Spake, can you prepare the ‘stethoscope’?” 
“OK,” Spake replied as he manipulated the device that would scan the inside structure of barrier wall by using ultrasonic waves. 
“Alright, let’s test it once... hey, Kaname, you go back with the rest of the hostages. Sousuke, you take her. Tessa, don’t mess 
around, otherwise you’ll trip over a cable or something. Then you’ll be in our way. You go over there. If you have some time, you could bring me a sandwich.” 
Mao ignored Tessa as she tried to protest, then clapped her hands together. 
“Got it, everyone!? We don’t have much time, okay? So let’s get down to business!” 
Everyone on the team to break into the vault replied with a “Right!” and then broke up. 

Translator’s Notes:  
1. Pocky is a type of Japanese candy (you don’t know that by now?!)  
2. The term used here in Japanese is “Shuwa-chan”, which is a nickname for Schwarzenegger in Japanese.  
3. Soba is Japanese buckwheat noodles. 
4. This might be confusing to some readers, so to clear it up: if you are in charge of a ship, you are called “captain” no matter what actual rank you may hold (i.e.: Sailor holds the rank of “commander”, but is the “captain” of the Pasadena). 
5. Ariake was where the Behemoth incident took place. 

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