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Full Metal Panic! - Volume 6 - Chapter 3


Chapter 3: The Two Captains  
 
 
December 24th, 20:52 (Japan Standard Time)  
In Front of the Vault Room on the Pacific Chrysalis  
 
Since it was going to take some time to break into the vault, Kaname did as Mao told her and decided to return back to her classmates for the time being.  
Sousuke followed her at once.  
“It’s okay. I can go back by myself.”  
“No, I’ll take you.”  
Just then, Kaname noticed as Tessa, depressed because Mao had dismissed her as being a nuisance, glanced their way.  
For some reason, Kaname felt indescribably guilty. Compared to Tessa, she was getting special treatment. Almost like they were playing favorites. She didn’t think it was fair.  
Kaname turned around because of these feelings.  
“I said I was okay.”  
“It’s not okay. I’m going with you.”  
Since Sousuke wasn’t giving up, Kaname did, and without pressing the matter any further continued walking. Sousuke followed in silence. They left the vault room, and headed over to the elevator that went to the upper decks.  
Me with such an unreasonable guy... she thought.  
Just an hour earlier, she had said things like “I don’t care about that idiot” and “he doesn’t think that I’m important” to Kyouko.  
As she gradually comprehended the situation, she realized that she was the one who had been the idiot. And she hadn’t apologized at all. She had kept lashing out at him ever since they 
had started fighting a few days before, even going so far as to be mean and say horrible things to Tessa.  
She had shown them her anger, and had been extremely rude.  
Even though Tessa was in a much more difficult position, Kaname had acted jealous.  
She didn’t even understand it herself.  
Why did she always act like this?  
I suppose I’m too naive...  
It might be that.  
It also might be that today was a special day for her.  
It also might be that she felt troubled when he wasn’t around.  
But she wasn’t always this way. Hadn’t she proven that on that rainy day two months ago?  
And she wasn’t sixteen anymore.  
When she thought that, she finally spoke.  
“Hey.”  
“What?”  
“Umm... never mind.”  
“Okay.”  
There was a long silence.  
She stood in front of the elevator and pushed the button to go up- then awkwardly, Kaname opened her mouth again.  
“Hey.”  
“What?”  
“Even though it’s turned into such a mess...”  
“Yes?”  
“I’m also... well, I’m happy that you came,” she somehow managed to say, and gripped his sleeve lightly. She couldn’t bring herself to take his hand.  
Then there was a long- a very long, silence.  
“I... I’m acting weird all of the sudden, aren’t I?”  
“No. I don’t think it’s... weird.”  
Now it was Sousuke who was having trouble with words.  
“I’m also glad.”  
“Y-you are...?”  
“Yes. Hm...?”  
Sousuke glanced around the corner of the elevator hall and pathway.  
“What’s wrong?”  
“No... it’s nothing.”  
“Huh?”  
“It’s probably okay.”  
There was a piquant ‘ding’, and the elevator doors opened. After they stepped inside, Kaname rallied her spirits and in a voice of forced cheerfulness said, “Um, you know, do you think we could try going up to the observation deck? There isn’t a need for me to rush back to everyone, is there?”  
She put her finger on the button for the very top floor, waiting for his expression.  
“Well, since there probably won’t be any more fighting tonight, it shouldn’t be a problem, but... isn’t it cold outside?”  
“It’s okay, since it’ll only be for a little bit.”  
“Okay. Wait a second.”  
Sousuke turned on his radio and began communicating with someone. Because the conversation was full of code names and technical language, Kaname wasn’t sure what they were saying.  
“-Uruz 7, roger. Thanks... it’s okay, we can go,” Sousuke said after he turned off his radio.  
Kaname’s face lit up with a smile.  
Corporal Yang from the SRT and Private First-Class Wu from the PRT (Primary Response Team) escorted Captain Harris to the area for the crew cabins.  
It was a never-ending, dreary passageway.  
Since it wasn’t an area for guest use, there were all sorts of pipes and steel framework showing. There weren’t any nice fixtures or carpet down here, either.  
“...that, Corporal. So then I said to the girl, ‘Hey, even if it is Christmas, you shouldn’t be wandering around this city at this time of night. You never know what some bad guy might try to make you do.’” 
“Right.”  
“So then- she was only eleven or twelve years old, right? Pretty young. She looked a little like Sergeant Major Mao, and she grinned at me.”  
“She’s a Second Lieutenant, now, though.”  
“Well, then she took this huge revolver out of her purse. It was a 38 caliber with a barrel five inches long. She said, ‘Beat it, solider. You’re disrupting business.’”  
“Ha ha ha...”  
“It was a terrible place. Made me question if there was a god or not. The only decent hospital was on my base.”  
Yang and Wu were sharing Christmas stories.  
“However, Wu, I was hoping to hear a more lighthearted story. Thanks to you I feel more depressed now... say Captain, could you walk a little quicker?” Yang called out in an easygoing voice to Harris, who was walking along sluggishly with his hands handcuffed behind him and dragging his right leg.  
“I was shot in the leg, wasn’t I? You could prepare a stretcher, but...!!” Harris lectured him angrily.  
“You’re full of orders, aren’t you, old man? Corporal, I don’t wanna guard this guy.”  
“I don’t, either. Damn it, I’m jealous of Kurz’s post.”  
“In a room full of high school girls...”  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
At the same time the two of them were complaining, the masked figure of Kurz Weber stood on the stage in dinner hall, intently playing a guitar and yelling into the mike.  
“Whoa!! Taake meee ouuut trench! Right before my eyes! The faaat, black! Cat, he said to meee!! Yeah!”  
The Jindai High School students thunderously applauded, clapping their hands and moving their bodies.  
“Oooh, look at that technique!”  
“Wow! That masked man is so cool!!”  
“...that guy’s voice sounds like a foreigner I’ve met before...” Kyouko muttered, but no one heard her.  
“Thank yooou!! C’mon, everybody!!”  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
Yang and Wu didn’t quite hear the racket that Kurz and the others were making, but they continued walking down the corridor, sighing deeply.  
“Didn’t he throw away his guitar...?”  
“That was how he felt at the time. He’s a capricious person.”  
“Since he’s susceptible to flattery...”  
“He wants to show off...”  
The two complained, and then...  
There was a sound from the crew cabin beside them. It sounded like a ballpoint pen or something dropping, then the rustling of clothes.  
“...Uruz 9 to Uruz 1. Is one of our people in D30?” Yang whispered into his radio. He was already pointing his submachine gun towards the cabin. It was loaded with non-lethal rubber bullets, but its striking power was nothing to laugh at. If you shot them rapid fire at someone’s face, the effect was like a rain of blows dished out by a pro boxer. Wu pulled Harris back towards him, and he and Yang looked in the opposite direction.  
The number of people restrained by the teams as well as the number of crew and passengers had already been confirmed. Other than allies, there shouldn’t have been anyone else straggling about, but-  
Clouseau replied quickly.  
“Uruz 9. That’s a negative. Report the situation.”  
“There was a sound from a cabin. We’ll investigate.”  
“No, transporting the Captain is your first priority. I’ll send others out there.”  
Yang gave a little click of the tongue.  
“That won’t work, they’ll have run away by then. I’ll confirm it. If I don’t contact you in one minute, secure the area. Over and out.”  
“Wai-”  
He cut the radio off. Using hand signals to tell Wu “Wait here”, Yang approached the problem cabin.  
There was a faint sound of rustling clothes.  
Yang took a deep breath, and then opened the door. He stepped quickly into the room.  
On the bed lay a white cat. There was no one else. Was it someone’s pet?  
“...it’s a cat.”  
“A cat? Good grief.”  
Yang’s shoulders relaxed as he looked back in Wu’s direction from the doorway. Behind Wu and Harris was a large, heavy-built man holding up a bucket.  
“Wu, behind you-”  
But he was too late. The bucket came down on Wu’s head. The man then thrust the dirty water bucket upside-down on his head, causing Wu to stumble around in a circle.  
“Uwabu...!?”  
“Wu!?”  
Even though Wu and Harris were directly in his line of fire, Yang shot without hesitation. They were rubber bullets, after all; they wouldn’t die.  
“Ouch owowowowowowowow!!” Wu screamed through the bucket on his head, and Harris crawled on the floor. The attacker struggled to hide behind the two, and grabbed the wire that was hanging from the wall.  
“Take this, you terrorist bastards!!” the man yelled, and yanked the wire with all of his might. There was the sound of metal moving out of place.  
“Eh? Wha-”  
Another bucket dropped from the ceiling, and struck Yang on the head.  
The clear sound like something falling rang throughout the corridor.  
The moment everything went white, Yang thought, “I feel like I’ve seen this somewhere before a long time ago...”  
After he had thoroughly hit the bucket-wearing terrorist called Wu over the head with a mop, Sailor screamed at the top of his lungs, “Ho... how’s that! Have you learned your lesson!?”  
Breathing heavily, he kicked the terrorist in the butt. The man muttered, “Ye-ah...” and didn’t move.  
“Hey, you! Are you the Captain?” Sailor moved to help the handcuffed crewmember.  
“Uh...”  
“Don’t worry, I’m on your side. I’m Killy B. Sailor, US Navy. I’m Commander of the USS Pasadena, and I happen to be a veteran tough guy riding your ship. After this whole affair is resolved, I’d like you to introduce me to everyone in the media as ‘the truly patriotic, invulnerable man, Captain Sailor’.”  
“O-okay...”  
Sailor picked up the enemy’s machine gun and checked the number of bullets remaining.  
Good, there was enough. The color of the bullet heads seemed to be different from those he had seen in basic training, but sailors didn’t worry about such trivial things.  
“First, we need to get out of here. Enemies are coming. You can walk, right? Or more preferably run.”  
“Wa-wait a minute, Sir. Before that how about these handcuffs-”  
“Ah, what a pain. Here, give me your hand.”  
He roughly searched the terrorists’ bodies, found a bunch of keys and then removed the Captain’s handcuffs.  
“That should do. Now, let’s go.”  
“No, I have to find a radio and contact the outside. You go on alone.”  
“What are you talking about? It’s too dangerous by yourself, that’s why you should come with me.”  
“I thank you for your concern, but I will be fine.”  
For some reason, the Captain was stubbornly adhering to independent action.  
“This ship is like my home. I know all of its hiding places. Plus, it’s best to avoid the danger of both of us being caught.”  
“Hmm...”  
“Let’s meet up later. You know the shopping center? There are plenty of places to hide there.”  
“Got it. Take care.”  
“Until then.”  
The Captain turned away from Sailor and ran off.  
Sailor didn’t notice the look of triumph on his face.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
When Tessa walked back to the vault room from the corridor near the elevator hall, Mao, who was hard at work on releasing the lock, said to her, “Hey, Tessa. Don’t walk all over the place. When we break the lock, I’ll call for you, so just settle down until then. Cause with you, if you do something dumb on top of everything else...”  
Staring into the display, she didn’t even try to see Tessa’s face. None of her other subordinates seemed interested in her at all, either. All of them were immersed in their own jobs.  
“Excuse me, Captain. Can you move back a little?”  
“Captain, that’s not a good place.”  
“I’m sorry, Captain, but I can’t concentrate.”  
Everyone kept telling her. It was annoying at first, but after so many times, Tessa lost the will to argue. She was a bother. She didn’t even have any information on how to open the door. The maid’s uniform, which she had shown off to everyone before the operation saying, “Isn’t it cute?”, was making her feel miserable at the moment.  
She had asked, should I bring something to drink? Mao and everyone had answered, “Yeah, do whatever you want”. How about Chamomile tea? she asked. “Whatever,” everyone had said indifferently.  
She had successfully become completely useless.  
Her shoulders drooping as she grappled with her acute solitude, Tessa walked to the crew kitchen on the same floor. It took her a few minutes. Compared to the kitchen for the passengers, this one was extremely modest. She looked for the materials to make tea, but she could only find some coffee cups. She took out a small bottle of herb tea, which she had brought along with her in advance, and at a loss for what to do, she sighed.  
She took off her sunglasses and rubbed her eyes. She wasn’t crying, but she was depressed.  
But right now, they were in the middle of a mission. She had to treat the field trip mood accordingly. On the other hand, she could assess her subordinates’ dedication and concentration going into a mission.  
However- no one would give her any notice. Even though today was a special day.  
Even Sousuke. He had gone with her.  
And in that elevator hall-  
Now in a dark mood, she was pouring some water into the teakettle when she received a transmission in the tiny wireless radio attached to her ear.  
“Uruz 1 to all units. We have an emergency.”  
It was Lieutenant Clouseau from the bridge.  
“Uruz 9 and Kano 28 were attacked close to B19. Their injuries are light, but- they lost the Captain as they were escorting him. Use caution. At the present, Uruz 3’s team has secured the 
area and is closing in, but there is a possibility that they have already slipped out of the area-”  
Someone had attacked Corporal Yang and whoever was with him, and had taken Captain Harris.  
When she heard the report, Tessa froze up.  
So, trouble’s finally here. She had to stop worrying like a little girl and get a hold of herself.  
Clouseau’s report continued.  
“-it seems that the attacker is a passenger. He’s probably doing this out of a sense of justice. Don’t kill him, or perhaps them. I repeat. Killing or wounding the rebel is prohibited. The man who took Captain Harris is Caucasian, six feet tall, has short, black hair, a muscular build, and is wearing a suit. He took a weapon, but it is loaded with non-lethal rubber bullets... I repeat, the attacker is Caucasian, six feet tall-”  
Tessa stopped listening about halfway through Clouseau’s communication. A man had suddenly run into the kitchen from the corridor outside.  
He was six feet tall (180 centimeters), Caucasian, and wearing a suit. He had a muscular build, and short, black hair. Incidentally, he looked somewhat like Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his comedy movies.  
To state it bluntly, he looked exactly as Clouseau had described.  
The man pointed his submachine gun (probably Yang’s), and yelled out in a throaty voice, “Riiight! Don’t move, you terrorist bastard!! ...hm?”  
When he observed the maid-uniformed Tessa, who was frozen in front of the range, holding a kettle and mug, the man’s eyes narrowed dubiously.  
“...uh.”  
“Are you a crewmember? ...what are doing in a place like this?” he said, then made a lot of exaggerated and pointless gestures, saying things like “Come on!” or “Pow pow!”, and doing 360s pointing his gun.  
“Uh, umm... you are...”  
“Don’t worry! I’m on your side. I just happened to be a brave passenger who was coincidentally riding on this ship. I just dealt with a couple of the terrorists just now.”  
“Huh?”  
“I’ve already rescued the Captain, but he went off somewhere by himself. I’m a little worried, but- he’ll survive, I’m sure.”  
He had let Captain Harris- a man connected with Amalgam, loose?  
“How could you?”  
“Don’t say that. I’ve stopped them for now.”  
“No, that’s not what I meant-”  
“Anyway, it’s disappointing that you’re so much younger than the heroine I had imagined, but that’s the breaks, I guess. It’s dangerous here. Follow me.”  
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about, but- huh, ah, ow! Please don’t pull me like that. Where are you-”  
The man trod off heavily.  
“We’re getting out of here! Those terrorist-scum will arrive soon! The moment they find you, they’ll do terrible things to you.”  
“No, I don’t think so. Umm, well. Please don’t drag me, it hurts. Are you listening to me? Ah, ow ow ow ow...”  
“Stop rattling on! Do you wanna live or die!? This pain is nothing! Run, sailor! If you have some balls, show some guts!”  
“I don’t have anything like that!”  
She didn’t even have the opportunity to grab the submachine gun and glasses she had laid down in the middle of the kitchen. As he gripped her hand roughly, she was pulled, actually more like bounced, since she wasn’t used to her high heels and kept stumbling, across the floor. Half crying, Tessa continued to protest.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦  
 
About the Same Time  
The Pacific Chrysalis, Observation Deck  
 
Everything will set a good mood, she thought, but despite Kaname’s expectations, the observation deck was dark, cold and empty.  
She could no longer see the night view of the bayside, and the freezing wind howled all around her. The sound of the waves was utterly melancholic, and it was as if the Tsugaru Channel or Sea of Japan had come out of a ballad.  
On the other hand, it could set the mood for a lovers’ suicide...  
The feelings of nervousness and excitement were driven away by the sounds of the ocean. Kaname’s eyes widened at the completely un-Christmas-like mood.  
“It’s a nice night,” said Sousuke, who hadn’t picked up on the atmosphere. “I feel at peace in this kind of weather, because a moonless night helps support a surprise attack in the darkness. What do you think, Chidori?”  
“You say that, but...”  
However, it was rare for Sousuke to talk like this. Perhaps he’s trying to raise the mood, somehow... Kaname suspected.  
“It’s cold, isn’t it?”  
“Afghanistan in the wintertime is colder.”  
“The wind is strong, too.”  
“Strong wind is good. It decreases the danger of enemy security detecting your footsteps.”  
“Some beautiful illumination would be nice.”  
“We’re on guard right now. That would be foolish.”  
“...”  
The hopeless conversation wouldn’t expand. Normally, he would have continued on this topic.  
Sousuke cleared his throat.  
“Today is Christmas, isn’t it?”  
“Yeah.”  
“It seems that there is a custom of giving presents on Christmas, so I thought I’d to give this to you.”  
He took a fountain pen from his pocket.  
“...?”  
“At first glance, it may look like just an ordinary fountain pen, but it’s actually a small stun gun. The maximum output on it is 20,000 volts. However, the battery will only work for one or two uses, so keep that in mind.”  
“Okay. Umm, thanks.”  
Kaname was at first surprised by this gesture; but when she found out what it was, she was disappointed.  
Another self-defense weapon. She had received quite a few of these things in which she had no interest so far. And now as a Christmas present. She was thankful, but it was still, well, unsatisfying. Utterly ignorant of her feelings, Sousuke continued to enthusiastically explain how to use the weapon, when his mobile radio made a small noise.  
“Hold on a second.”  
After listening to the communication, Sousuke frowned.  
“What’s wrong?”  
“There’s trouble. I have to get back to work.”  
“Oh, I see...”  
“You need to go back. I’ll take you back to where our classmates are.”  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
The terrorists were not as capable as Sailor had first thought.  
They were very organized, but their marksmanship was terrible, not to mention the fact that they didn’t seem to have the guts for this kind of thing. He could see that they were hesitant to fire at him. On the contrary, they looked very worried about shooting him and the maid.  
They were very skilled at trying to surround him, but when they did, they looked confused and indecisive.  
“Don’t move! Now just come quietly and- huh? Captain!? Owawawawawah! Ouch!”  
The terrorist, who had just stepped out from behind a corner in the corridor, was caught off-guard as Sailor gunned him down and ran away.  
Firing the submachine gun with his right hand while gripping the maid in the other, he yelled out a battle cry.  
“Have you learned your lesson, you terrorist-bastard scum!? I don’t care how many of you there are, bring it on!”  
“Umm, umm, since you’re just fighting on your own, could you please let me go?”  
“That’s right, I’m your enemy! A man-to-man fight! Are you underestimating the great Sailor!?”  
 
  
“H-he’s not listening to me...”  
“You bastards, bastards! Wriggle like that worms you are!”  
The maid’s entreaties fell on deaf ears. Sailor ran down the passageway, scattering the enemies obstructing his path. Of course he didn’t hear the mutterings of “Dammit, he’s fucking full of himself since we’re going easy on him,” as the terrorist he shot fell down.  
“Aaah, Corporal Howard... please let me go, let me go!”  
The maid struggled to try and free herself from Sailor’s grasp. Without any regard for her, he turned aside, aiming at an enemy that had appeared behind him, and fired. Then there was a thick “gotsun!” sound.  
“How’s that!? Don’t underestimate the American Navy! You bastards are... hm?”  
The maid, whose head had just been rammed into a nearby pillar, dangled senselessly from his arm. Her pupils swam around dazedly.  
“...oh, well. Anyway, if you think you can catch me, just try it! You terrorist scumbags!!”  
Carrying the stupefied maid, Sailor continued on his rampage, running away from the area.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦  
 
About the Same Time 
Deck Three, Corridor C, The Pacific Chrysalis  
 
As he listened to the ringing gunshots from far off, Harris quietly inhaled and moved on.  
There had been several times he had almost been discovered by his pursuers, but this was his ship. He knew its 
structure quite well. There were routes that didn’t run through the ordinary sections of the ship- since there were a number of maintenance rooms hidden in the interior, he had somehow been able to outwit the enemy and escape.  
He could finally calm down and think. No, not yet.  
This is bad.  
Even though they had planned it out perfectly, they had been outsmarted completely. Mithril had attacked without hesitation, and restrained the passengers. What bastards.  
At this rate, not only would they expose the contents of the “vault”, but they’d also gather all sorts of data. Even if he were able to escape and hide- Amalgam would not be forgiving. They would kill him for sure.  
So, what to do?  
Should he just let them do as they liked, then go into hiding when they returned to port? No, that wouldn’t work. It would be hard to escape from them alone. There was not choice other than to prove his ultimate loyalty to the organization by bringing them a present that would help him escape the repercussions.  
In order to do so, he would have to contact them first.  
And start “them” up.  
He moved through the cramped crawlspace above the ceiling. Several times he heard careful footsteps approaching nearby. The enemy was looking for him. It was certainly a miracle when he finally managed to struggle his way to the rescue boats without being discovered.  
Of course, this was Christmas. God was watching over him-  
He slipped into one of the rowboats from the port side of the observation deck, then fumbled around in the pitch blackness 
until he found the survival kit laying inside. Within the sturdy case was a satellite radio.  
It wasn’t his secret, personal line, but he remembered the frequency and code for emergencies. With an unfamiliar hand, he operated the radio and connected to a relay station under the influence of Amalgam.  
“I have an emergency relay. Top priority. Please hurry...!” Harris reproached in a hushed voice. It wasn’t long before a direct supervisor answered.  
“What is it?” said an electronic voice.  
“Mr. Gold- there’s trouble. We’ve been attacked by Mithril forces. They’ve hijacked my ship, and are trying to force the ‘vault’ open.”  
The man on the other end of the line seemed to contemplate Harris’s report, muttering “hmm, hmm...”, then said, “So, what do you plan on doing?”  
“Well, I-I...”  
“You’ve risked valuable machinery and information, used an insecure line, and taken up my time to give me a report, haven’t you? Tell me something.”  
“I... I’ll get that girl somehow, and escape. If you’ll make recovery arrangements.”  
“Do you think you can?”  
“Yes,” he replied. He really didn’t have any other choice.  
“Concerning which, I would like permission to use the machines which were stowed with the food stores the other day. If I can use those to create a disturbance, then I will be able to take advantage of the opportunity and obtain results.”  
There was a short silence.  
For Harris, it felt like an eternity.  
“Very well. They were put there for this type of situation, anyhow. The contents of the vault... well, give up on that. I’ll go ahead and explain the situation to the other executives. You get back to work. I’ll let you know the recovery procedure afterwards.”  
“Th-thank you. I will definitely bring you results. That’s because of my unwavering loyalty-”  
“Understood. Hurry up and get off.”  
And before Harris could reply, the transmission was terminated.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦  
 
About the Same Time 
Somewhere in East Asia  
 
In the middle of their conference, the so-called solid reflections of the executive staff ended the communication with Harris and voiced their respective displeasure.  
“He’s a hopeless fool.”  
“It seems that he thinks we’re not aware of the situation yet.”  
“It would probably be good to monitor the situation, first.”  
“We used to have excellent subordinates.”  
There were a number of dangerously cynical remarks.  
Mister Gold, without changing his expression one bit, snorted a little bit.  
“...I won’t deny that Harris is a fool. But I will not state that there was an oversight in choosing such a person.”  
“How annoying. Wouldn’t have just kidnapping her on a normal day been simpler? We keep doing these things in such a round-about way...”  
“Indeed. Curiosity is well and good, but this has gone too far.”  
“And why weren’t we informed of this operation from the very beginning? This could be taken as an act of betrayal.”  
“On the contrary, it’s quite the reverse,” Mister Gold said with an innocent look. “There’s no point in leaving the girl alone any longer. Don’t you feel that the incident with Mister Iron made that clear not too long ago?”  
“That traitor, Iron.”  
“It seems Mister Kalium was killed by that bastard.”  
“Exactly. And there is something that I don’t understand about that. How come that within Mithril, only the Western Pacific fleet suspected the boat that much? Even General Amit, Commander of Mithril’s Intelligence Bureau, judged the Pacific Chrysalis to be clean as a whistle. However, the force on the Tuatha de Danaan had enough confidence to pull such a daring operation after doing their own investigation. Why is that? The most probable reason is that someone has leaked information to the Tuatha de Danaan.”  
One person clicked their tongue.  
“Iron, huh. It was probably him.”  
“He tried to burn down Hong Kong just for fun.”  
Already the dead man’s- Gauron’s- thin, patronizing smile had come to mind. The executives wriggled around in discomfort.  
The code name of the Amalgam officer had been very sarcastic up until now. Iron couldn’t be mixed with mercury, and therefore couldn’t become amalgam.  
“And? What do you plan on doing now? At this rate those thieves from Mithril will take all of that ship’s information and withdraw.”  
“Yes, they will. The value of that equipment is already low, but... even so, it wouldn’t do to let them do as they please.”  
“You speak as if everything was already settled.”  
“Three of the flying boats have been dispatched to the nearby waters. Each of them is equipped with a ‘Leviathan’. They should have arrived already.”  
“Are you planning on sinking the ship?”  
“There is no other choice.”  
“And what about Kaname Chidori? Killing her would be pointless.”  
When the person said this, there was a small laugh. In unison, the holographic figures encircled around the table looked at the one seat. Only the transparent characters of “Voice Only” could be seen floating in the room.  
“What’s so funny, Mister Silver?”  
“She won’t die,” the cool, refined voice echoed. It was the voice of an adolescent male.  
“Why are you so certain? Is it because you’re also a Whispered?”  
“Our power isn’t something so convenient. Only... I guess you could say simple personal thoughts.”  
“Hmph...”  
“However- we put some of ‘those machines’ in the food stores. If Harris starts them up, then they will be able to assist him in his job.”  
“Personal autonomic cavalry, huh?”  
“Yes. With just 12 Alastors. They will be given orders to find, protect and escape with Kaname Chidori.”  
“Can those murdering puppets make those kind of advanced decisions?”  
“It is not exactly what you would call advanced. The rules of engagement are very simple.”  
“What kind of rules of engagement?”  
“So why not try listening to Mister Gold?” the young man’s voice said in jest, but there was an iciness coming from his shadow.  
When everyone had all eyes on him, Mister Gold easily continued, “‘Remove all obstacles’. Kill anyone in the way. That’s all.”  
 
♦ ♦ ♦  
 
December 24th, 21:36 (Japan Standard Time)  
The Open Sea around the Izu Islands, The Pacific Chrysalis  
 
When Tessa opened her eyes, the shootout was over.  
Things had happened, and they had succeeded in running away.  
After getting hit in the head and losing consciousness, Tessa managed to say, “It’s okay. I can move, now”, and then proceeded to walk while the “rebel” pulled her arm.  
And worst of all, it seemed that she had dropped her radio during the gunfight.  
As she staggered along connected with her new companion, she somehow managed to get information about him.  
His name was Sailor, and he was an American. He and his subordinate had come on this trip for their vacation.  
“By the way, miss, what’s your name?” Sailor asked as they approached the corner of the dim corridor, where he carefully listened for any noises.  
“Umm... I’m Mantissa. Teletha Mantissa,” she said, naming the alias she often used.  
“I see. Well, miss, from here on out you stay right behind me. Don’t worry, I’m a veteran. Those terrorist bastards wi- hey, where do you think you’re going?”  
He violently grabbed Tessa by the collar as she started to toddle off in the other direction.  
“No, it’s just... now that we’ve finished with the introductions, I was thinking we could go our separate ways here...”  
There was no way that Tessa could subdue such a large man by herself. She had thought of yelling out, but- for some reason, at a time like this, there was no indication of friendly footsteps heading their way. She had to hurry up and get away from this person, so that she could inform everyone of his location.  
“What kind of nonsense are you spouting!? Come on!”  
“Uhh, but, but, I have a bad feeling about going that way.”  
The way that Sailor was headed was in the direction of the on-board shopping center. Even in the staff meeting before the operation, it was the boundary deemed “hardest area to secure”. There were so many exits that finding a place to escape wouldn’t be a problem, and many of the goods in the stores could be used as traps and whatnot.  
“Why don’t we go that way? I think that way will be better for both of us...”  
She pointed in the direction of the sports gym on the upper deck. It was a blind alley. Perhaps her colleagues would come down this way before long, and then skillfully capture Sailor.  
“That’s a blind alley. It would be difficult to escape.”  
“Oh, is that right? Well, then, why don’t you throw away your weapon and surrender? I’m sure that those people aren’t as bad as you think.”  
Sailor scoffed at her.  
“You’re naive. Those guys are villains. They’re terrorists. An ordinary maid like you wouldn’t understand. Do you think you do? Have you even once had to fight terrorists?”  
“Yes. Reluctantly, though. I hate doing it, but- ow!” Tessa gave a little cry as he smacked her upside the head.  
“Why’d you do that-!?” she protested with tears in her eyes.  
“Don’t make fun, stupid!”  
“I’m not making fun of anything!”  
“In any case, an amateur like you should shut up and follow me. Got it!? If you run away, I’ll shoot you to death!”  
“That doesn’t make sense...” Tessa thought, whining. However, it might be wise to go along with him like this and pretend to let him have control of the situation. She couldn’t contact her associates now, but she would probably get the chance to find a ship telephone before long.  
In his touch just now, there was the feeling of the rage of an amateur ground soldier who has gotten in over his head. However, he wasn’t so bad that he was incompetent. No one else had been that worried about her.  
“Very well, then. Anyway, let’s hide somewhere and wait for an opportunity.”  
“Mm, it’s good you’ve got it. Let’s go.”  
And then Sailor, in the end almost dragging Tessa, moved out.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
As the dispirited Yang and Wu stood in front of him, Lieutenant Clouseau even lost the energy to shout at them.  
“There isn’t any excuse...”  
“We’ll accept any punishment...”  
They were in the place where Yang and Wu had just been attacked- a corridor in the crewmen’s area. They were indeed standing at attention, very soldier-like, but were so wretched it was painful.  
“I’ll deal with you after we get back. Get back to defending the cargo rooms,” Clouseau ordered. Yang and Wu saluted and ran off.  
“...what are you doing? They may not be cut out for that,” said Lieutenant Castero, who had accompanied Clouseau, as he watched the backs of the retreating two men. His call sign was “Uruz 3”, and he was the Commander of PRT operations. He was a Latino male in his 30’s with a slender moustache.  
“Do you mean Yang?”  
“Yes. If it had been another SRT member, they would have probably killed the guy or rendered him powerless. But Yang couldn’t do it. That’s different from just being careless.”  
“It might be because I forbid him from killing the guy.”  
“That’s not a reason. He’s SRT, and depending on the situation, he has to prepare for the consequences and disregard that order. Although that’s not something I can say openly.”  
“...”  
“Yang has the skill and the experience, but not the mind set. He should be returned back to the PRT.”  
“Lt. Commander Kalinin’s viewpoint is essential for that argument. After this operation is over-”  
Just then he received a communication. It was from Sousuke’s team, which was carrying out the search for the rebels.  
“This is Uruz 7. We were a moment too late. The rescue boat is completely empty. He took the satellite communication equipment. Be on guard.”  
Because the friendly helicopters in the sky were causing interference with satellite communication equipment, there was a lot of static in the aboveground lines.  
“Uruz 1, roger. The de Danaan intercepted the transmission. The MH-67 is already jamming the appropriate frequencies, so don’t worry about that. Expand the perimeter and search.”  
“Roger.”  
After he cut the transmission from Sousuke, Clouseau clicked his tongue a little.  
“Damn. It seems Harris is better at hide-and-seek.”  
If this had been a regular ship, they would have been able to track down Harris without any trouble at all. But the Pacific Chrysalis was huge. Without using metaphors, this ship was a city. There were only a few of them in contrast. They had been forced to divide up a majority of the personnel guarding the “hostages” until they had completed their takeover.  
“Don’t jump to conclusions yet. As we’ve just seen, our problem attacker also reeks of being an amateur. They can’t do anything impressive.”  
Just as Castero had said this, Mao contacted them.  
“This is Uruz 2. We have more trouble. We’ve lost Ansuz. Her stuff was left in the crew kitchen. It may be that John McClane has taken off with her.”  
Mclaine was the name of the hero in the movie “Die Hard”. In it, he single-handedly fought against terrorists that had hijacked a building. It was a big hit from back in the day.  
“We know already. She is with McClane. Thanks to that, we have our hands full. Besides, why did you let her out of your sight?”  
“Well, umm... damn, I screwed up! The barrier wall of this safe’s been more trouble than we anticipated, so we’ve had our hands full, too.”  
This remark reminded Clouseau of their other problem, and he asked, “How much longer will it take?”  
“I don’t know. It may take as long as planned, or it may take three hours more than that.”  
“Just great. By then we’ll be surrounded by the Japanese Coast Guard.”  
“That’s why we’re hurrying, but I’m worried about Tessa. When she’s not on that ship, she’s so clumsy she’s useless. We need to find her quickly.”  
It sounded like she was working on the lock while she talked to him. The tone of her voice was brisk- actually, she seemed rather restless. Truthfully, she probably wanted to go looking for Tessa herself.  
“Understood. Don’t worry about the Captain. Leave it to me, and keep up your work over there.”  
“I’m counting on you.”  
After the transmission ended, Clouseau groaned. His stomach had suddenly started hurting. It was the first time that had ever happened.  
“Damn, one thing right after the other...  
“That’s how it is. I’ve never seen a mission go as planned,” Castero said, shrugging his shoulders.  
Then there was another communication. This time it was from Kurz Weber.  
“This is Uruz 6. We have trouble!”  
“What is it now?”  
“The school kids have eaten up all of the food, and now they’re saying they want more. Can we let the cooks back into the kitchen?”  
“Do whatever you want, you idiot!!” Clouseau shouted, and cut the transmission.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
As soon as they had entered the shopping center, Sailor walked over towards the luxury items corner.  
“Excuse me, Mr. Sailor? What are you looking for?” Tessa asked, to which he quickly replied, “I’m looking for alcohol. Some vodka would be good.”  
“Don’t tell me you’re going to...”  
“That’s right, I’m going to make a Molotov cocktail. Weapons won’t be enough.”  
“Please don’t! If you do something like that, people will get hurt!”  
“That’s the point. We’re fighting those evil bastards, after all. The terrorists will scream, burn up and drop into the sea... oh, it’ll be a sight. You look, too. Oh, hey now!”  
Just then he found about 10 bottles of “Spiritus”, a 90-proof alcohol. If you stuffed a rag down the neck, lit it then threw it, in an instant you’d have a firebomb.  
He got some handkerchiefs and towels from another store, then quickly set to work. Even Tessa, who opposed this idea, ended up helping him finally.  
After he had finished three bottles, Sailor cursed, “Dammit, I keep slipping and can’t get the stopper out.”  
“...?”  
When she looked at her partner’s hand in the gloom, Tessa was taken aback. Sailor’s hand was covered in blood.  
“Oh, my god. When did you get hurt?”  
“During the shootout. It seems I was cut by something.”  
“Why didn’t you say so earlier!? We should go to the sick bay.”  
“Are you stupid!? The enemy has spread out their net. Besides, I don’t need anything for a cut like this!”  
“Then take off your jacket so I can have a look.”  
To a fair extent, Tessa had knowledge about emergency first aid. To build up her nerve, she had actually observed real surgical procedures.  
“It’s none of your concern! You’re not a nurse, you’re a maid. Since you’re a maid, be maid-like by shutting up and making the bombs!”  
“Oh, for heaven’s sake... anyway, just let me see it.”  
“Hey-”  
Tessa forcibly yanked off Sailor’s suit and took his strong right arm in her hands. On the inner part of his elbow, just below the crease, his shirt was soaked in blood. There was a cut that would probably require five or six stitches.  
“Do you know how to stop the bleeding? Right here. Press down here hard.”  
“O-okay...”  
“Harder. Almost against the bone.”  
When Tessa touched the interior part of his upper arm, Sailor suddenly looked embarrassed.  
“I... I know that much!”  
“Really. Even with an injury like this, you’re still able to shout like that and run around all over the place.”  
Either by stubbornness or stupidity, Tessa wondered. Despite her amazement, she took a nearby towel and tore it up.  
“Of course I am. I’m a sailor, ain’t I? I wouldn’t cry about something like this.”  
“A sailor? In the American navy?”  
“That’s right. I’m on vacation right now. Whatever they’re hiding, I’m going to- huh!?”  
Sailor screamed as she wiped the wound with a towel soaked in Vodka. Tessa giggled.  
“A sailor doesn’t cry, does he?”  
“You, you little-”  
The United States Navy, huh? Judging from his conduct, he was probably a non-commissioned officer who was almost a chief-warrant officer, Tessa guessed. A middle aged-man who would kick the butts of the sailors on an old naval warship or above ground base while shipping supplies- something like that.  
But on the other hand, she was worried by the fact that he wasn’t sunburned.  
Does that mean he’s a desk worker? 
Still thinking about this, she wrapped scraps of towels in place of bandages around his arm.  
“...however, you’re a strange girl. You’re very composed for just a maid.”  
“You think so?”  
“Ordinarily, a maid would be more afraid and upset. But you’re so easy-going, even in this emergency... you’re somewhat like my subordinate.”  
“Then he must be an excellent person,” Tessa said cooly, but Sailor made a sour face.  
“Excellent, huh? More like the worst subordinate.”  
“Ah.”  
“He criticizes every little thing I do. He makes fun of his superior officer. That’s the worst. And he doesn’t give me an ounce of respect.”  
“Is that so... I can’t tell you the details, but I can really sympathize with your feelings,” Tessa said, sighing deeply.  
“Oh, is that so? You understand, do you?”  
“Yes. Having your subordinates treat you like you’re worthless is really hard.”  
“Ain’t that the truth. It’s hard. That bastard Takenaka doesn’t understand...!” Sailor agreed feverously.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
At the same time, the vice chief of the US Navy’s attack submarine Pasadena, Lieutenant Marsee Takenaka, was having an enjoyable conversation with the attractive women seated across the dining table from him.  
“Wow. When they said ‘sea-jacking’, I thought there would be more of a brutal atmosphere, but...”  
“I did, too,” agreed the woman, who was wearing funny glasses and dressed in a black evening gown. “The terrorist gentlemen have been quite kind. They’ve paid attention to our needs, even going so far as to say, ‘If you’re bored, just say so’. I was quite relieved... well, honestly, when this incident is over, I intend to make some strong protests to the Operations Department...”  
“Huh?”  
“Uh, no, don’t worry about it... by the way, where is the man who was with you a little while ago?”  
“I don’t know,” said Takenaka as he delightfully stuffed his cheeks full of fat, juicy steak. “Probably in one of the telephone 
corners, discussing money matters or something with his runaway wife...”  
“My, poor thing.”  
Takenaka waved his finger at the woman’s display of compassion.  
“Not really, it’s what he deserves. He’s utterly obstinate and never listens to anyone. I guess his wife can’t put up with it, either.”  
“Really?”  
“Really. Their family is full of good-for-nothings, so there’s always some kind of trouble.”  
“Oh, my...”  
“He’s my boss, but he criticizes every little thing I do. He makes fun of his subordinates. That’s the worst. And he doesn’t give me an ounce of respect.”  
“That must be really hard.”  
“That’s the truth. It is hard. I just don’t understand him... no, no, I’m sorry. Anyway, let’s enjoy our dinner, shall we?”  
“That’s right. What’s happened tonight has nothing to do with me, so I think I’ll take it easy.”  
“Huh?”  
“Ah, it’s nothing. Anyway, Takenaka, why don’t you tell me more about yourself?” the woman said with a captivating smile.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
“Actually, I also keep a certain position,” Tessa revealed a little after listening to Sailor’s own story.  
“Oh?”  
“As you can see, I’m young, and those who are older than me make fun of me. They probably don’t think I’m suited for my position...”  
“Hmm, there’s a lot to a maid’s world, too, huh...”  
“No matter how much I try to prove my worth, no one will recognize my accomplishments. They just treat me like I’m a nuisance in everything. It’s rather mortifying...”  
“Yes, yes. I understand. I also worked my way up from a sailor, and it was hard to make it to my current position. Those bastard subordinates of mine from Annapolis used to make fun of me.”  
“Eh?”  
Tessa gave him a blank look when she heard what he said.  
“Yo-you’re an officer?”  
“That’s right. A commander. Although an amateur like you probably wouldn’t understand... I’m the Captain of a new-style Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine.”  
“Eh? Ehh!?”  
He served on a submarine. And he was the Captain.  
Then she was completely taken aback when he continued, “Incidently, the name of the ship is the Pasadena, affiliated with SUBPAC... hey, what’s wrong? Do you have facial neuralgia or something? You look pale, too,” Sailor said, raising an eyebrow.  
Tessa was shaking intensely, and there were beads of sweat pouring down her face.  
During the Perio Islands incident at the end of August, the American submarine, the Pasadena, that Tessa’s ship almost sank- this man was the Captain of that ship.  
“Yo-you’re-”  
“I’m what?”  
“You’re a- Captain?” she said with apparent difficulty, which annoyed Sailor.  
“What, you don’t believe me!? I’m one of the few submarine Captains with actual combat experience out there! It wasn’t too long ago when we gave some mysterious, gigantic submarine a run for its money, making it back off and saving one of our ships on the surface. The military is considering awarding me the Silver Star for that. Impressive, isn’t it! ...uh, damn. That was confidential just now. Forget what I said.”  
But now Tessa was also annoyed.  
“Now wait just a second. What’s all this ‘mysterious’ business? And no one’s given me a run for my money, ever! And we also dodged two shots in that situation, so don’t make fun of my skill, either. There were mitigating circumstances for us, too!”  
“Huh? What are you talking about?”  
He didn’t seem to understand anything of what she was saying. Tessa came back to her senses and closed her mouth.  
“Oh, no. It’s... well...”  
“Well?”  
“It’s classified. Please forget what I just said.”  
“Eh? ...I don’t get it, but whatever.”  
He didn’t seem the type that worried about details.  
How did a person like this manage to make it all the way up to being a captain...? Tessa wondered in amazement.  
Well, there were lots of reasons, actually. The US Navy was a large organization, but surprisingly inefficient and political. It wasn’t as if would be completely logical. Brute guys like him might get promoted by some stroke of luck.  
However there was still one thing she couldn’t figure out.  
“But Mr. Sailor, why is an American like you on this cruise? Why bother coming all the way to Japan when a Caribbean 
cruise is much cheaper?” Tessa asked. Sailor’s face turned sullen and downcast.  
“Umm... well, there are various reasons and such...”  
“Reasons?”  
“I used to serve on a ship that went to and from Yokosuka base a long time ago.”  
“Ahh.”  
“I wonder how long it’s been. Back then, when the Captain officially allowed me to look through the periscope of the ship, I saw Hachijojima in the distance. The weather was bad, so there wasn’t anything particularly beautiful about it- but even so, I was moved. I thought, ‘I’ve worked my ass off to make it this far.’ The memory of the way the light shone off of the windows of the houses there still has a place in my heart.”  
Tessa could imagine how he felt.  
Not just anybody was allowed to look through the periscope on a bridge. And for someone like him who was working his way up from being a sailor, it was probably an unexpected pleasure.  
“I was thinking of showing that scenery to the god, but she and I are on the verge of divorce now. Our relationship has gone completely cold. Since I wasn’t sure what I should do, I wanted to show her how much pride I have in my work. I know to an outsider it probably sounds childish.”  
It was certainly childish thinking. But since he and I are in the same position, we might have both been doing the same sort of thing, thought Tessa.  
“Well, is your wife on this ship?”  
“No,” he said with a small sigh, “the morning we were supposed to leave on this trip, I came home after work to find her room completely empty.”  
“...”  
“When I think about it, she never had any intention of going from the very start. I spoke with her on the phone earlier, but- well, I said some terrible things to her. But I understand now. She’s seeing another man.”  
His voice was laced with desolation. The profile of Sailor, who had been so energetic up until now, for just a moment, seemed to look old.  
“An ordinary, virtuous shore man. I’m upset, but there’s nothing I can do.”  
“...nothing at all?”  
“No, nothing at all.”  
For some reason, Tessa felt like she was listening to music. A melancholy blues song that she had heard many times a long time ago- Elmore James’ Sho’ Nuff I Do.  
Even though he had turned his back on her, she still loved him.  
Even though there wasn’t anything she could do about it, she still loved him.  
That was what that song was about. When she remembered the very un-Christmas-like melody, Tessa mumbled, “Me, too.”  
She and Commander Sailor were the same. They had all the same troubles. Sailor cast Tessa a side-glance.  
“Is there a guy you like?”  
“Yes, but he...”  
She had forgotten all about it because of the shootout, but now she remembered it again.  
After they had parted ways in front of the vault room, she had followed behind Kaname, who was trying to carry on small talk with Sousuke, and had overheard their awkward conversation while they were waiting for the elevator.  
Even the most thickheaded person would have been able to sense the special chemistry that existed between those two. That time, Tessa had been made to realize something that she was not a part of.  
He didn’t look at her.  
He looked at that girl.  
That was how it was.  
“There’s probably nothing I can do about it, either.”  
“Is that so? Well... if you feel that way, then that’s probably true.”  
“Yes.”  
After she gradually wiped away a tear that had welled up with her index finger, Sailor hesitated, then said, “I haven’t had much experience in love, but- you’re young, and you have a good personality. You’ll meet a better man sooner or later.”  
This was the most honest thing he had said up till now.  
“...do you really think so?”  
“Yeah. But make sure you find a sailor. You can’t trust shore men.”  
“Ha ha... does that mean that you’re a candidate, too?” Tessa joked, finally breaking a smile. He just waved his hand indifferently.  
“That’s impossible. Kids are out of bounds for me. Anyway, I prefer big-breasted brunettes. Wah ha ha.”  
“...he doesn’t know how to phrase things politely, does he...”  
Sailor continued laughing, completely unaware of Tessa’s sullenness.  
 
♦ ♦ ♦ 
 
 
In the kitchen, the cook said, “Hey, Mr. Guitarist-terrorist. Yeah, you. There’s a shelf behind you with cans of whole tomatoes. Could you bring them all to me?”  
“Lessee, whole tomatoes, huh?”  
The masked Kurz, who had his rifle hanging from his shoulder and was picking at what remained of the canapé, clapped his hands together and looked through the kitchen shelves.  
“Ah, here it is. There’s only two cans, is that okay?”  
Standing in front of a large, steaming pot, the cook yelled, “What? Ahh, damn, that’s right. This is different from usual. High school student eat a lot.”  
“Well, they are growing kids.”  
“I’m sorry, but would you mind bringing me some from the storeroom downstairs? There are two boxes of them. I can’t make this stew without tomatoes.”  
“No problem. About where will they be?”  
“You’ll know when you get there. There are invoices posted all over the place.”  
“Roger-”  
Kurz turned to the PRT soldiers who were also in the kitchen and said, “Hey, take care of this place,” and made his way down to the storeroom alone.  
He passed through a darkened corridor and went down the stairs.  
He had heard about Yang and the others being attacked, so of course he was on his guard.  
This ship had many storerooms. Of those, the food that was used in the cuisine for the Great Hall (except for the fresh food), various-sized pieces of furniture, and the stage equipment were all kept in the storeroom right underneath the kitchen. Yang and Wu would be patrolling around the storeroom.  
Kurz switched on his radio.  
“This is Uruz 6 to Uruz 9. I’m coming that way, so don’t shoot me by mistake.”  
There was no answer.  
“Yang. Why aren’t you answering me? Teacher, someone’s not in their seat...”  
Still no reply.  
That was strange. Ordinarily, no matter what the situation, he would usually reply back with “Uruz 9, roger.”  
“Uruz 9, answer me. Uruz 9,” Kurz called out again, all kidding aside, but he still didn’t receive a reply. He also used Wu’s call sign, but with no luck.  
He contacted the bridge, where headquarters had been set up.  
“Uruz 6 to HQ. We have a code 11 in area C. Shrink the perimeter.”  
“HQ, roger. Be careful,” Clouseau’s voice replied back to him.  
Don’t tell me those guys were trying to show off and got their asses kicked again... how embarrassing...  
He corrected his grip on his rifle and approached the storeroom. The passageway felt confined because of the gun’s long barrel.  
Tonight Kurz was carrying an automatic assault rifle. It was a German-made 7.62mm. It had been remodeled for higher targeting efficiency, but it wasn’t a sniper rifle. A sniper’s gun would be of no use in this kind of confined space.  
He reached the door of the storeroom, then strained to listen.  
He could barely hear the sound of something very low. It almost sounded like the hum of a fluorescent lamp, but it was a 
little different. Then there were the light sounds of what sounded like someone treading through a puddle of water.  
No, it was something thicker than water. It sounded almost gooey.  
For some reason it didn’t feel human. Strange.  
He thought about it, but there was no helping it. Kurz took a deep breath, opened the giant door, and stepped into the storeroom.  
The storeroom, with its pale illumination, was bigger than he had thought. The ceiling was also high. There were rows of small containers neatly lined up, as well as pallets with mountains of cardboard boxes stacked up on top of them. There were also glass windows and mirrors.  
He couldn’t see the area very well. While carefully sighting his rifle, Kurz continued deeper into the room.  
There was one container that was wide open on the left side of the room.  
Huh...?  
No, it hadn’t been opened normally. The metal fittings and hinges were broken, and the door was bent out of shape. It looked as if something on the inside of the container had forced it open using some incredible power.  
He had a bad feeling about this.  
It was something that you didn’t learn in training. It was different from the feeling he would get if amateurs like Harris and the other guy were hiding somewhere and then sprang an attack on him- this was more dangerous.  
He made it to the middle of the storeroom. In the gloom, the shiny floor reflected back the lighting. Some kind of red, syrupy liquid had been splattered forcefully across the room for 
several meters; it was caked on the walls, iron poles and even the containers on the other side of the room.  
Blood? Internal organs...?  
Then he saw someone’s leg on the other side of some crushed boxes.  
Had this been what had made the sound muffled by the liquid earlier?  
“...Yang?”  
This looked as if a person had exploded-  
In the next instant, Kurz quickly jumped to the side.  
A large bullet crushed the floor where he had been standing. It raised up an enormous amount of dust, while at the same time sounding off a low, muffled gunshot.  
He turned around towards the direction that the bullet had come from- aiming his rifle at the top of a container in front of him and to the right. “Someone” jumped off right in front of him, and he repelled them as they closed in on top of him with a horizontal hit with the barrel of his gun.  
Whoever it was had tremendous power. Kurz’s rifle bent into an arch, hit and rebounded off of the wall. His hand went numb and a dull pain ran up through his index finger.  
He caught a glimpse of his enemy, a large man wearing a coat.  
Was this the passenger Yang had been talking about? No, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t a passenger. It wasn’t even human-  
“-!”  
Kurz narrowly missed his opponent’s fist, which went into the container behind him, causing a ear-shattering noise to ring through his ears. The robust man had almost the same destructive power as an enormous swinging hammer.  
Kurz couldn’t run away now, because its hand was gripping his neck.  
“...guh”  
It was merciless, firm, superhuman strength.  
It raised its arm, and Kurz’s toes left the floor. His eyes blurred. Pain wracked his body. It was trying to break his neck. He couldn’t breathe. Most of his dimming field of vision was occupied by his enemy’s face.  
It was a flat mask. And where the eyes were supposed to be, there was only a straight, red-glowing slit.  
It didn’t have a nose or mouth.  
And it was expressionless. Completely expressionless.  
Kurz couldn’t even read that it had any murderous intent at all.  
 


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