Full Metal Panic! - Volume SS - Side Arms 2 - Chapter 3

[A Gluttonous Comrade]
A patrol car, its siren wailing monotonously, passed Kaname and the others, who were walking home from school. It was followed by the local fire brigade truck, and the droning of a helicopter came from somewhere high above. The neighbourhood was really noisy today for some reason, and yet there seemed to be less people out in the street than usual. Kaname frowned, and looked at Kyouko and Sousuke, who were walking with her as usual.
- I wonder what's up with them today... All this noise, and the place looks deserted.
- Eh... How'd I know.
- Don't know. The current situation reminds me of a coup d'état somewhere in the Philippines or Thailand... There may have been suspicious movements by the JSDF lately, - was Sousuke's completely serious reply.

- ...No way, you've been quiet today, haven't you? Maybe they're chasing some slasher.
- In that case, there's no problem, shoot him on sight.
Kaname sighed, and remembered their previous discussion. She looked at a couple of photographs that Kyouko gave her not long ago, and smiled despite herself.
- Aaw, it's so cute! Four months old, right?... looks like a plush toy...
The little, but extraordinarily fluffy ball of fur in the picture lie on some kind of towel, and was looking at the camera with half-closed eyes. It was an American Shorthair kitten that Kyouko's family recently took
in. On the next picture the kitten was trying to grab the suckling bottle with a tiny, fluffy paw. On the next one it was staring at the camera, its perfectly round eyes giving it that unmistakeable, innocent look that would make anyone's heart melt with tenderness.

- Hehe, isn't it the cutest thing ever. During lunch break, I showed it to Akutsu and the others44... You should have seen her desperately trying to keep up her tough act!
- Aha-ha, I can imagine. So, what's it called?
- Mia-chan, - grinned Kyouko.
Kaname grimaced - it was the same as a girl at school that she was on bad terms with.

- The name blows. Next time we're at your place, we'll take a picture of her ass and-
- N- No!! Don't! And Mia-chan's a boy!
- Ah, right... Well, anyways. I'd love to have a cat, too... even though it'd be difficult, with me living alone,- sighed Kaname.
- But, Chidori, you already have a hamster. If you got a cat or some other animal, your hamster would become its first meal. Though it probably isn't even one full-size ration, - said Sousuke, and Kaname gazed at him menacingly.
- He-ey - are you always looking at my sweet little Hammy45 like that?!
- No. I am only warning you about the often ferocious behaviour of cats.
- Ferocious?! Have you even seen the incredible cuteness in the pictures here? You just have to turn anything into a murder story!
"Ouch" was Sousuke's reply, because Kaname gave him a good kick in the back. Kyouko, watching them, murmured:
- Well, in a way, Kana-chan already has a doggy...
Sousuke, not hearing these very truthful words, moved a little further from Kaname and continued as if nothing had happened.
- Chidori. I understand what you are trying to say. But you shouldn't lose your head over a hamster or a kitten. Your owner's pride is meaningless.
- Wha-at?!
- I didn't tell you about it, but I also have a cat.
Sousuke... keeping a pet? It was surprising to say the least, but Kaname folded her arms and looked at him skeptically.
- Hmm, you? A cat?
- Yes. And he's nothing like your hamster, or Tokiwa's kitten.
- Really?
- A beautiful, big white cat. I call him Whitey.
- Whitey?.. How long did it take you to come up with that?
- "Simple is best". White, so Whitey. No problem.
- Hmph, - Kaname was smiling scornfully. At best he'd picked up some stray around here, luring him with food. - Beautiful white fur, eh? Better than my Hammy, eh? Well, why don't you show us your wonderful cat!

Sousuke only shrugged in response.
- I don't mind. You've been helping me at school, the least I can do is introduce you to Whitey.
- Oh, really? Well, let's go to your place then. What about you, Kyouko?
- Let's, let's! Sagara-kun was making fun of our Mia-chan, I can't let this pass! - Kyouko also looked unusually offended.
- It's decided, then, we're coming.
- I don't mind, but first, - Sousuke checked his watch and looked at the nearby supermarket, - I have to buy food for Whitey. Please wait for me here.
He walked away quickly towards the shop, and Kaname and Kyouko immediately started whispering to each other.
- Wow, that's a surprise. Sagara-kun keeping a pet?
- And - a cat?..
Meanwhile two more police cars, their sirens blaring, drove past the two girls. When Sousuke got out with an unusually large bag, they followed him to his apartment.
- By the way, I don't think I've been in Sagara-kun's room before, - said Kyouko suddenly.
- Really?
- Kana-chan, you come here often?
- Ah... umm... no... well, sometimes.
Kaname's room was in the next building.
Kyouko gave her a mischievous glance and muttered something that sounded like "aha!" under her breath.
- What? What is it?
- Oh, no nothing, nothing at all, hehe.
Kyouko also knew that she often ended up having dinner with Sousuke and generally spent a lot of time with him. But these days they often did their laundry together. "We're both living alone, so washing them together is more economical. Besides, if I hang men's clothing on my balcony, burglars wouldn't risk coming in." She could reason like that, but no matter how you looked at it, it made them look suspiciously close, so she wouldn't tell anyone, even Kyouko. It was quite normal for a daughter to do her laundry separately from her father, - washing the shirts of a friend would really make them seem intimate. But enough about that...
- Hm... I can't get my key like this. Please hold this for a moment. Sousuke stopped in front of his room and handed the bag over to Kaname and Kyouko. It was packed, and very heavy. Kaname peered inside and frowned.
- What's this? It's full of meat?..
Sousuke, without answering, opened the door, and before going in told them with a mysterious face:
- Watch your step. You might trip on boots or ammunition boxes. Whitey! I'm home! You must've been lonely here, haven't you?
Kaname and Kyouko came into the living room after Sousuke, who was calling the cat. It hadn't changed much: the same impressive amount of weapons, ammunition crates, bulletproof vests and camo clothing. And from behind the bed, Whitey rose to greet them.
They heard a low growl. Normally, a cat would meow or purr in greeting, but Sousuke's "cat" growled.
When it emerged from the shadows, they saw that it was a full two and a half metres from head to tail, more than a meter high, and weighed, at first glance, no less than two hundred and fifty kilogrammes.
Its beautiful, gleaming white fur was laced with geometrically perfect black stripes. Its strong, but supple legs together with the growling gave it a distinct resemblance to a motorbike. A large cross-shaped scar covered its left eye, which didn't open.
The "cat" yawned, displaying a perfect set of fangs. Those jaws could easily sever Kaname's neck in one bite. It growled again, as Kaname and Kyouko remained frozen, without even breathing. She thought she was used to everything - weapons, bombs, mines, but this... this was something new.
They were still staring at Whitey, speechless, when he, growling, approached Sousuke and extended a large, white paw in greeting. Sousuke caught the paw - it looked like he had to brace himself to not be thrown off his feet - and started caressing the large animal's head. This "caress" was far from gentle, and it looked like he was vigorously scratching him. Whitey seemed to give him a gentle bite, then proceeded to lick his face with a tongue the size of a dust cloth.

- Yes, you're a good boy, go-od boy! You've been taking the care of the house when I was away, right?
Only the heavy breathing and the slurping sound of the cat's tongue were heard inside the room.
- Hey... you... that...
This was all Kaname could manage. She and Kyouko were ready to jump out of the room at any moment.

- This is Whitey. Aren't we a beautiful cat?
- No! This is a tiger!
- Well, they're cats, too, - answered Sousuke casually, pushing away the tiger's head. This rare, white tiger was playfully licking his head, and he looked like he had just taken a shower. The tiger growled expectantly.
- Ah, Whitey, I got it. Hungry, aren't we? Well, you can eat as much as you like, - said Sousuke and pointed at Kaname and Kyouko, who let out a small whimper.
- A- are you planning to let him eat us? - Kaname and Kyouko reflexively leaned back against the wall and paled noticeably.
- Of course not. Just give me that meat.
It dawned upon them that they were carrying a bag full of raw meat. They gasped in horror and immediately dropped it. Whitey jumped on it in a flash, tore open the bag with his claws and started to devour the contents. Blood and juices were flying everywhere, and the sound of crunching bones was positively chilling.

- Don't we have a healthy appetite? Good boy... Whitey is a real glutton.
- T-that's not really the problem here-...
- I'm now buying the meat from the supermarket and the butcher, but if I had a large enough refrigerator, then I would be able to keep a couple hundred kilogrammes of beef here. The expenses, however, would still be significant.

He had not finished talking yet, when they heard that someone was talking through a loudspeaker outside. At first they thought it was some kind of publicity campaign, but it turned out to be a municipal car, with loudspeakers on the roof.

"... caution. Once again, we ask citizens to stay in their homes for their own safety. If you are only coming back home, please make sure all the doors and windows are closed. Even if the windows are high, the tiger can very easily come in through them.

I repeat: last night, a male Bengal tiger escaped from its cage in the Fuchuu neighbourhood, where it was being raised. The tiger has not yet been caught, but it had been spotted in Choufu, near Tamagawa river and Shimoishihara. It is thought that the tiger may now be hungry. We ask citizens to stay in their homes for their own safety. If you are only coming back home, please make sure all the doors and windows are closed..."

The puzzle was solved. The patrol cars, fire trucks and helicopters, and the absence of people on the streets - it was all because of him. Yes, when they were coming out of the school gates, they heard Kagurazaka-sensei shouting at some students to get back into the school building. They didn't pay much attention to her and soon forgot about it...
- Don't worry, Chidori. As far as I know, Whitey didn't eat anybody.
- Grrrm, - affirmatively growled the tiger.
- Y-...yo-ou!!
Without even thinking about the tiger, Kaname charged Sousuke and landed a full-strength blow with her harisen. Fortunately for her, Whitey appeared to be too busy with his food, and only glanced at the beaten Sousuke once before continuing to crunch a particularly juicy bone.
- That hurts, Chidori.
- You ass! - yelled Kaname, not noticing Kyouko, who was trying to restrain her. - First it was guns, then bombs, now it's a tiger! A tiger!!
- He's just a big cat.
- No he's not!! - Kaname was shaking Sousuke by his collar.
Seeing this, Whitey let out an anxious low-pitched whine. His master was evidently being threatened by this unknown female.
- Where did you get him? Explain, right now!
- Hm. It could be a long story, - Sousuke moved away, folded his arms, and looked at the ceiling, as if trying to remember the details. - Two years ago, I was a fighting as a mercenary in Southeast Asia. More precisely, on the side of the anti-government guerrillas in Myanmar...
Speaking of Myanmar, an ordinary Japanese would only remember Suu Kyi's contant house arrests46. In reality, that country suffered because of the constant imposition of military regimes, and the ethnic minorities continued to wage a guerrilla war against the government troops. Sousuke joined the former just as open hostilities began. During the campaign he was engaged in an infiltration operation with a small partisan group near the Chaukamba mountain ridge on the Indian border.

- Details aside, I was with the troops of the anti-government movement of North Myanmar. There was no hope of allied support on that kind of terrain. Then, because of one soldier's mistake - name was Hema, as far as I can remember - we were spotted and forced to engage the enemy. To lure them away, I separated from the group, and when I was wading through the jungle alone, I met this fellow here.

Sousuke's eyes were gazing far away, as if he was seeing his memories unfold that very moment. He was gently stroking the back of the tiger, who was almost purring from bliss after the great meal.

- He was still a kitten then. A stray bullet probably killed his mother, and he himself was injured - see his left eye? That's a mark from that time. If I had just let him go, he'd probably have died, so I did what I
could, and looked after him for some time. The enemy's encirclement was pretty tight anyway, and I couldn't move much. Once even his mother's corpse, because of the smell, served us as a cover from their patrols.
Kaname could only stare at him and mumble something unintelligible.
Several days later, an opportunity to escape the enemy's encirclement presented itself. Whitey by then could walk a little, but getting through the dense jungle with him in tow would be too difficult, and risking your own life for him would be unreasonable. If Sousuke was caught, the tiger cub would probably be shot, and he himself would be subjected to inhuman torture.

- It couldn't be helped. I had looked after him for a while, then left him half of my food supplies and left that place. I did not honestly think he would survive. After I returned to the base, I remembered him often.

After that, he told about the injured white tiger cub to another Japanese mercenary, who didn't seem to pay much attention to it. However, that former comrade in arms contacted Sousuke the day before yesterday. It appeared that he had now become a smuggler of highly valued animals, and as he received news of a white Bengal tiger with a scar on the left eye, he remembered Sousuke's story, and asked him if it was possible that it was the same tiger. Sousuke, naturally, could not just let him be.

- On top of everything, he was being held captive nearby. So I got him out of that warehouse yesterday night. It's him all right, the one I met in Myanmar. From what I overheard, they were planning to poison him, and then send him to a taxidermist to make a stuffed animal for some rich client. I could not allow it, of course, - Sousuke sat cross-legged near Whitey and gently clapped his back, - so I... opened his cage and took him home.
The tiger was purring like a small motorcycle by now, his eyes partly closed. Sousuke was looking at him fondly and scratching his cheek. There was a very unusual sense of closeness between the two, and one really couldn't say that the tiger wasn't behaving just like a large, good natured cat.
- Well... I understand the circumstances, mostly, - said Kaname, lightly massaging her temple with a finger, as usual in these cases. - But are you really planning to raise him? You saw what they're doing to the neighbourhood to find him.
- That will calm down in a while.
- No it won't! Besides, while people think there's a tiger out there, they'll be afraid to even come out of their houses!

- They shouldn't be. As I said, he does not attack humans.
- All right, but even so, think about it - he's a tiger raised in the wilderness! You can't just lock the poor thing in this room forever! If I was in his place, I'd get neurotic after a while!
- No problem. I'll take him out for a walk every night. Last night, too, I let him run around a bit - as a predator, he's got some nocturnal habits, you know. Started marking his territory.
- See what you did to the neighbourhood?! Think about the trouble you're causing for other people!
- I'll raise him responsibly, believe me.
- That's not the problem, you've got to understand that it's realistically impossible! You simply can't keep a tiger in an apartment! Give him back!
- But if I do that, he'll die.
Kyouko, watching them bicker, murmured to herself:
- It's as if the boy picked up a poor little kitten on a rainy day, and the mother's scolding him...
The two, of course, did not hear her.
- Well... then send him back to Myanmar or wherever you met him! It's all for his own good!
- Definitely not. Because of the civil war, the place where Whitey lived is now full of landmines. And the area is succumbing to deforestation. If he goes back there, he won't be able to survive.
- So, what can you do?
- As I said, I'll keep him here.
- Jeez, you're impossible, - Kaname sighed deeply, and scratched her head. - Do whatever you want, but I don't want to know anything about it - hey-- he-ee!..
Whitey playfully stretched out a paw, caught her and pushed her down, grumbling affectionately.
- Hm, Whitey seems to like you. Isn't he a cute cat... maybe you'll reconsider, Chidori?
Kaname shrieked as Whitey started licking her face. Kyouko was still trembling near the wall.
The food expenses for the tiger were so considerable that even Sousuke admitted it was a problem, but they postponed the decision for later, and that evening something else happened.

Kaname was already in her pyjamas, getting ready to sleep, when she heard sirens outside, much louder than usual. Some people were shouting.
Kaname yawned, stretched a hand to get the phone47, and dialled Sousuke's number, a suspicion forming in her mind.
- Hey... did something happen?..
- Ah. Chidori. Well, it looks like... Whitey escaped. I went to the shop to buy more food, and it looks like he broke down the door. It was time for his walk, after all.
The tiger was probably running around somewhere close, and she could hear the tension in Sousuke's voice. It cleared her head, and she got up immediately.
- Ah, see?! What are you going to do now?
- The situation is really out of control...
- Great, just great! So, where are you now? - asked Kaname, hurriedly putting on a jacket over her pyjamas.

- I'm searching the nearest blocks. Right now I'm on the Keiousen bridge on the Tamigawa, but... Whitey likes bushes near rivers...
- So, what? With all your weapons, you're afraid of the big scary suspicious gentlemen that wander around there?
She saw a patrol car and a TV truck pass her block. In the back of the truck were hunters in their typical vests, hunting rifles at the ready.
- I thought it would turn out right, somehow...
- Good grief, that's what I've been saying, it's impossible to keep him! Find him quickly, hand him over and it'll be all right.
A moment's silence followed on the other end of the line, then she heard Sousuke's voice - it was strained, as if he was fighting to keep it steady.
- I can't... What they're saying about him in the newspapers and on TV are all lies. They're practically saying Whitey eats people, and that they're going to shoot him on sight.
- So... what can you do?
- I'll deal with the hunters that are chasing him.

A metallic sound, most likely a silencer being attached to a submachine gun.
- Well if you end it quickly... no, wait!
- He's a comrade in arms, - Sousuke responded in a very serious tone. - When I was surrounded by the enemy, he was the only one with me. We both shared the same food, the same pain, and both held our breath when the patrols came. I cannot abandon a comrade.
At that moment, she heard shouts over the telephone. An angry voice was yelling "There! Get back!
Come around, dammit!" Sousuke's voice became even more tense.
- Whitey's in danger. Got to go help him.
- Hey... wait a second!
- Thankfully, he's not hungry, so don't think he'll attack humans. Anyway, I'm going to fulfil my responsibilities as owner to the end.
- No! Don't! It's dangerous! Do you hear me, Sousuke?!
He hung up, not paying attention to her pleading.
What happened then was too fast to grasp. The world was ignorant of Sousuke's presence and identity, and the incident remained a local mystery. The tiger was surrounded by hunters at the Tamagawa riverbed, but then Sousuke, stealthy as a ninja, "dealt" with the hunters with a stun gun and tranquilizer pistol, one by one, and the police and fire brigade, watching from a distance, got their share of smoke grenades and flashbangs. The news helicopter, watching the scene from above, got a bullet in one of its hydraulic systems, and hastily left the scene. It was Sousuke's way of non-lethal combat, even though it was obviously violent from any normal person's point of view.

Having driven all the "enemies" away, Sousuke carefully snuck close to Whitey, who looked scared by all the racket around him.
- Whitey, are you all right?
- Grrhm! - the two hundred and fifty kilo tiger jumped at Sousuke and gave him an almost human hug, his whine sounding as if he was crying.
- Aah, good boy, good boy! Even if I didn't give you permission to go out... this town's even more dangerous than your forest, you understand?
- Rrrm...
- Well, if you, that's all right. I bought you a dozen prince melons for your afternoon snack. Let's go back now.
- Grrm!!

- Don't you dare to come back!! - Kaname crawled seemingly out of nowhere, and struck Sousuke on the back of the head with her harisen.
- That hurts, Chidori.
- Grrnn...
The boy and the tiger looked at her in protest. Her pyjamas were smeared with mud, she was wearing some old sandals and a thin jacket hung loosely on her shoulders.
- I thought we hid well enough...
- I'm starting to read the pattern of your movements lately, you know! With all that's happening!
- Ah, intuition that develops on the battlefield, I see.
- More like, my responsibility as owner... anyway, now that you've caused such a racket, you can't just go back, can you?
- Hm. I intercepted on the police radio a call for reinforcements here. If I set up Claymores48 and lure them there together, I could get them all at once...
- No you won't! - Kaname pinned Sousuke to the ground, and Whitey, seeing this, growled defensively.
- Grrrmmm...
- It's all right, Whitey. She is ferocious, but she won't attack tigers unless she is hungry. However, as she is quite easily provoked, it's better not to do anything that agitates her.
- Grm.
- Ahem... Is it all right for me to start acting like a ferocious, easily excitable animal RIGHT NOW?
Kaname's shoulders were already shaking in anger, but at that moment, they heard shouts from very close by the bushes they were hiding in.
- Here, here! There's a bloodstain!
- Careful, everyone!
- Tranquilizers won't work! Shoot on sight!
It looked like the pursuers were approaching fast and encircling the scene. The situation became even more desperate.
But... a bloodstain?
- No problem. It's just a scratch, - said Sousuke, wiping the sweat from his brow. Only now she noticed that his right shoulder and upper arm were covered in blood. - One of the hunters had unexpectedly resisted to the stun gun. It turned out he had a knife, and I had a bit of trouble with him. Don't worry, I've only incapacitated him.

Kaname was speechless, and could not understand why Sousuke would go that far to protect the tiger... but then she realised: it was how he always acted. He always put all of his energy into protecting his friends and companions. Same with her... protecting her even when he was badly hurt...
- That's an... unexpected rival, - she muttered.
- Eh? What?
- Grrn?
- No, nothing... so, what are we going to do now? - said Kaname, fighting to keep her voice steady. – I said already that it's not possible to keep him like you planned. Whitey's a good boy, and doesn't eat people, I got it, but...
- Aha?
- Grm?
Said Whitey and Sousuke in unison.
- But that doesn't really change the fact that he's a pretty dangerous animal who can kill a human in one blow. You can't just treat him like any other small pet.
- I don't agree. If we try, he can also adapt to life here.
- I'm telling you, he can't.
- No, he can, - Sousuke's answer was unusually firm. - I also found it hard in the beginning, but now I'm confident I can adapt. Whitey is no exception. One must adapt to survive.
Kaname couldn't find anything to answer.
- He's is a strong fellow. He'll get used to this town, too.
It was obviously an absurd belief, without any reasonable basis - but for some reason Kaname couldn't laugh it away. The reason he brought up was too serious. Yes, Whitey may really be a comrade in arms for him. It was impossible, but a life was at stake.
- But... no matter how you look at it, keeping him is just impossible, - she finally said, and it seemed that Sousuke and Whitey both sighed feebly.
- I understand. I think my apartment's contract allows no pets, either.

- That's not the problem...
- And I would not return him to the minefields in Myanmar. I'm at a loss, - he concluded in a very gloomy voice.
- Sousuke...
- I got it. I've got a great plan. I know a place for him to live in, with much more room than my apartment.
I'd also be able to look after him there at any time. I'll get him there this evening, - his voice suddenly became very clear. - And we wouldn't have to worry about any danger to society. A former comrade from Cambodia had a tiger, who died recently of old age. I'll get the corpse tomorrow, and with a little trickery we'll be able to persuade them to close the matter, make it seem that Whitey died.
- You could've remembered that earlier!..
- Anyway, let's get out of here.
Believing Sousuke, Kaname helped him take Whitey out of the encirclement. This was again an operation in his style. Breaking through the hunters and the firemen wasn't easy, but somehow they got through without a scratch.
Sousuke told her that he and Whitey would be fine afterwards, and leaving them she went home and immediately fell asleep.
It was a break between classes. The teacher in charge of English for class 2-4, Eri Kagurazaka, had just finished correcting a vocabulary test, and decided to get some fresh air on the rooftop. There wasn't anything else to do, and the view from the rooftop was splendid, especially in that weather.
On the door to the rooftop was a recently posted sheet of paper that read: "Do not enter. Used by Sagara." Eri thought it was strange, but not paying heed to the warning went out anyway. She opened the door, and came face to face with a big, white tiger. Eri let out the single loudest shriek of her professional career, and promptly fainted. Whitey, in good mood, as usual, proceeded to lick her face thoroughly.
After being repeatedly hit by Kaname, Sousuke finally accepted the idea that the school rooftop was not the best place to keep a tiger.

- So, where did you put him finally? - asked Kyouko a few days later during lunch. Several people from the class were cheering loudly behind them as the Hanshin team was rushing to victory. Kaname, a big fan of the Giants, was pouting silently49.
- On an island in the West Pacific, - told her Sousuke. - It's a military manoeuvring ground, and they have a problem with wild pigs breeding too fast. Whitey won't lack food... but I think he'll be lonely. A shame,
By the way, in the report he had submitted to the commander of that base was only mentioned "one cat". The commander immediately imagined a cute kitten, and signed the report without further questions - an action that she would later regret...

This book is a revised compilation of short stories originally published in Dragon Magazine. It contains two stories with a more serious tone, and one story from our characters' school life. The title of this book, by the way, comes from military terminology - a "side arm" is the weapon you would carry on your "side", that is, near the hips or lower back. Whereas a soldier's "main" weapon would be a rifle, a pistol usually serves as a side arm. And so, the short school story complements the two long ones, like a sidearm would complete a soldier's equipment. In the last "Side Arms", if you remember, a similar story was about Tessa suddenly coming to school, then going to the hot springs, played the same role. Here, Kalinin and Mardukas take the lead with their gloomy stories, and besides the story about the tiger, there's no comedy, so forgive me for this darkened mood!

That said, I have to include here some long, and possibly boring descriptions. You won't find any moe or anything of the sort! They're here to complete the FMP! world's story. Even though the book is almost finished, pleased let me expand upon the background of our stories in this longish afterword.

[Voice from the North]

This story is about the past of Kalinin and Sousuke. I did not really have the chance before to explain in what ways the parallel universe of FMP! differs from our own. The further back you go in history, the more it becomes like our own, which is the reason why I had to bring in the story of Kalinin with a quite realistic approach to it. Otherwise people would say that new villains start appearing in the series like it was another Fujimi fantasy novel. If truth be told, this kind of story is even easier to write for me personally.

Also, I confess that I'm not the type of writer who likes to describe violence and gore. Even injuries to the human body related to all the different weapons I mention, I chose not to spend too much time describing realistically. Those of the readers who would want to know more about plane crashes and their gruesome consequences, I redirect to a book called "Crash victims" (published by Kodansha), which is an excellent non-fiction work on the autopsies of victims of Japan Airlines crashes. After reading it, all those exploding planes and robots in anime and games won't be so fun anymore.

Now, let us turn our attention to the divergence of the FMP! world history, and ours. In the second half of the 80's Kalinin returns to Afghanistan, and the USSR would later capture the country entirely, and
the Taliban movement wouldn't be born. By the way, sorry for killing you at my own convenience, Gorbachev-san and Alksnis-san...

With the situation being so different in Afghanistan, the power balance in the Middle East would also shift dramatically. Even the relationship between India and Pakistan may be radically different from reality. With all those differences accumulating, and being compounded by different effects of the system of international relations, a really historical investigation becomes impossible, so I left these details vague. Well, since FMP! isn't really an alternative history simulation, I thought it'd be all right to leave it like this (...I'm just being irresponsible...)
I would not want to end this section on this somewhat sad note, so instead I'll answer some questions about Sousuke's upbringing that I've been getting since a long time, including some related to the story in this volume.

A long time ago I had decided that Sousuke would be a normal child. He'd go to Akiba to buy used PC parts, get some light novels from there and read them on his way back home - like a normal otaku kid. In the first character descriptions he wasn't particularly strong or anything, just known for being good at athletics. Of course, he then would have had some hidden natural talents, but to make him into an elite soldier required a completely different mindset, and, of course, some luck.

If I have more time later, I'd write something about the first confrontation of Sousuke and Gauron.

[Birth of TDD]
This is a story about the past of Mardukas and Tessa.
The submarines appearing in this volume - the "Turbulent", "Dallas", and the Victor-class - are all real warships. We can't be certain whether submarines like K-244 in "Voice From the North" really performed such intelligence gathering missions, but it seems that there have been incidents at sea which remained unknown to the public at large. Interested readers should take a look at "Secret Submarine Warfare" (published by Shinchosha) and "Hostile Waters" (a publication of Bungeishunju)50.
It is well known that people like Mardukas lived and worked in that era. He, Carl and even Teresa aren't particularly good at shooting, martial arts, or any other flashy combat styles, - it's not as important for them as for Sousuke and others.

The Falklands war that Mardukas mentions, Captain Brown and his "Conqueror" are also a true story.

Perhaps it was a little impudent of me to shamelessly use it like that, but I thought - why not, if it adds to the fun. Besides, real-world people often come into play in the FMP! world. In the first volume of "Owaru Day by Day", when Kurz visits his hometown and meets the tank ace, Otto Carius; he is a real person, whose life was similar to that of the famous ace Sakai Saburo. Like him, the Carius lived a peaceful life after the war (managing a pharmacy), but in fact was commanded a Tiger tank during the
war (and you can get a model of him and his tank from Tamiya). But enough digressions on my part.

The gentlemen who we met here around Guam, and who called Teresa to that island, also have models in fiction and non-fiction... but let's leave it at that (uh-oh...)

Which reminds me: among today's young readers many people don't know anything about the Cold War era or the Soviet Union. I don't know if I should lament it or not... Anyway, I get a lot of quizzical looks about that, and then people exclaim: "Aah, so it was like that! But how couldn't they see?.." In reality, no one in the 1980's could have imagined the Cold War ending and the Soviet Union collapsing. Looking back now, it's clear that its foundations were falling apart, but then people couldn't think of it like that.

That's why ordinary people would believe rumours about them developing planes that travel at Mach 5, and completely silent submarines. And if you read 80's science-fiction, you'd still find the Soviet Union three centuries into the future. So, taking elements from that view of the world, my aim was to not make FMP! look like it was in a completely different universe.

This series was first published in 1998, and while then it was still fresh in popular memory, now, in 2006, the word "soviet" itself seems to be going to of use.

Regarding the division of China, it happened because of a civil war in the beginning of the 90's; it should be noted that in reality there was a tense situation there, which of course was even more pronounced in
the FMP! world.

Finally, as to how Tessa became captain and gained the trust of her crew - well, that's something I'd like to write about, later.
[A Gluttonous Comrade]
Normally, when compiling a collection of short stories, you'd want to get all of them following the same theme, or at least mood, but here I decided to top it off with a comical story.

The tiger that you have seen in the recently published "Continuing On My Own" finds himself in a pretty bad situation here. By the way, my apologies to all readers who have not read the stories published in
the magazine before and were a little surprised.

I'm sure you noticed the enormous gap in style and atmosphere of the two first stories and the last one - in fact, it's pretty jarring, isn't it... Sousuke's again in his baka-mode from most short stories. No matter
what kind of past and destiny he's burdened with, you can't really sympathise with him when he's like that, can you? Well, that's all right. Besides, be happy - you haven't seen Kaname so vigorous in a while,
since in the novels she has good reasons to be constantly very unhappy to say the least. You know, the author's frustrations also build up over time!!

Well, that's about it. Err, what else is there... Well, let's recap what's been happening recently.

The third volume of Ueda Hiroshi-san's "FMP! Sigma" was published last month, and there's a cute picture of Tessa holding Bonta-kun on the cover. There's a DVD, high-quality as usual, bundled with the volume. This is an important point in the serialisation of this work in the "Dragon Age" magazine.

A little before that, the TSR OVA "A Relatively Leisurely Day in the Life of a Fleet Captain" came out.

There's plenty of fanservice for admirers of Tessa-tan, and something about the daily life of everyone from Mithril. It's been selling well, too.
So yeah, I asked Takemoto-san from KyoAni to pay special attention to Tessa's shower scene, and he did it perfectly! In that quality - that was intense! Couldn't help noticing that my name in the credits was just above her ass though (seriously, watch that episode). I was compiling the fifth book at the time, and came rushing to the studio then. Seeing my name there, I protested to the staff:
- Hey, what's that?! You guys can laugh all you want, but if my name stays there, all the thirty billion Tessa fans are going to come after me, because they'll think I intentionally put it there! They'll throw
eggs at me at Narita Airport! Come on, please, do something about it!
But apparently it was too late, and there were technical reasons, and they said they couldn't do anything.

They should really do a creditless DVD release then, no other way!
Yeah, just kidding. Kyoto Animation did a wonderful job, and I would like to thank them again.
Oh, and speaking of them, they let me help a little with their incredibly successful "Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"! Because the staff was overworked and couldn't spare a moment, I helped them by playing
with Kuroi-san... ok, I'll stop joking around - worked on the scenario, actually. Kuroi-san is the cat of the KyoAni staff, by the way, and seems to be the most important person in the studio.

... So, where was I? Oh yes. The next main novel after "Burning One Man Force" , that is, "Come Make My Day" is now being serialised in "Dragon Magazine". Everyone from the "Danaan" is back, and the story is reaching its climax!

Also, the other day, I was talking to Ebikawa Kanetake about the design of the ARX-8. What a conversation, too...
Me: Yeah, I really think that if we can, we should give him MAP weapons...
Ebi: MAP weapons? *sweatdrop*
Me: Since it can't fly, MAP weapons would be way better. Let's make it look like SoraA, eh?
Ebi: SoraA... *large sweatdrop*
Me: Move and attack range should be at least 6. More than 5000 attack points, too. And 4 slots of reinforcements.
Ebi: Can I go home now? *rivers of sweat*

Ah, sorry, kidding you again. I just wanted to say that Super Robot Wars is awesome. And I didn't even plan for this machine to appear in combat just yet.

Anyway, to all the staff, and most of all my readers, - thank you very much.

'Til next time, then...
Shoji Gatoh
June 2006.

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