[FFML] [XOver] Wednesday's Child: Chapter Four

Tail Kinker the.tail.kinker at gmail.com
Tue Aug 11 19:54:47 PDT 2009


                        Disclaimer

     Macross is owned by or licensed to lots of people -
Tatsunoko Studios, Harmony Gold, Studio Nue, Streamline
Video...note that none of them are me.

     The same can be said of Ranma 1/2 - Rumiko Takahashi,
Kitty, Shonen Sunday Comics, Viz Video. Not me.

     I didn't create any of them, and I certainly do not
own them.  Any use of them in this story is meant as nothing
more than tribute.  Please don't sue me.


                    Wednesday's Child


            Chapter Four:  Recon Platoon Delta



*March 17th, 1999*

     Dear Ranma,

     I know, you don't normally write eMail like it's regu-
lar post mail, but I learned to write letters properly, and
I don't feel like changing just for eMail.

     Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday - I
know, it's not until tomorrow, but hey, you might not get
this until then.  Daddy sent me an eMail to tell me your
group has been delayed, and won't be hitting the island
before tomorrow, so I'll also take this chance to wish you
good luck.

     Daddy had strong words about me spending time with
you.  He wouldn't tell me why, just that it wasn't appropri-
ate.  Guess he's worried about the age difference, or maybe
because you're his subordinate.  But he doesn't know I'm
sending you eMail, and as much as I'd like to keep these, I
have to delete them before Daddy gets home.  Maybe I'll
print them off, and stick them in my diary.  He never looks
in there.

     Anyway, good luck, and happy birthday, and try not to
get hurt.

     Sincerely,

     Hayase Misa


                         - - - - -


     Ranma grinned;  it was four hours later where Misa was.
So she must have sent the eMail about nine o'clock.  He
saved the message to permanent storage, set a file lock on
it - he quite doubted the Captain would be snooping in his
troops' private messages, but why take chances? - and closed
the terminal.

     "Sarge."  Captain Addams - "Major" Addams while ship-
board.  "Briefing in ten minutes."

     "Aye, Sir."  Ranma grabbed his clipboard off of the
desk, and stood.  "Be right with you."


                         - - - - -


     "Elements of the PLO, the Mujaheddin and the FJA were
spotted boarding a cargo vessel off Hawai'i."  Addams
clicked his remote, and a picture flashed up on the screen.
"This individual in particular is most wanted;  he was the
leader of the FJA, just before they turned nasty.  We don't
know if he still holds a position of power within the FJA,
but we are certain he will have information we want."

     Ranma clenched a fist under the briefing table;
finally, a crack at the Free Japan Alliance!

     Another click, and a satellite photo appeared on the
screen.  "The cargo vessel was tracked to this island,
rather off the path for its listed route.  We were lucky
enough to catch photos of it launching small craft, which
appear to be heading straight for the island.  Of course,
satellite imagery isn't good enough to recognize people.
Maybe next week."  Addams smirked.  "But given that on our
next pass, we observed weapons training, we can assume that
there is a terrorist camp on the island."  He clicked again,
and the image zoomed in.  "Unfortunately, the satellite
lacked infrared capability, and the canopy is too thick to
spot the camp.  However, we suspect it to be in this sad-
dle."

     "So we need to scout it out first."  It was Sergeant
O'Toole who spoke.

     "Affirmative.  Lieutenant Ibuki, you and Delta Platoon
will perform the recon."

     "Aye, Sir."

     "This is not to be a recon in force, Ibuki.  Weapons on
safe, unless you are fired upon."  Addams clicked again,
back to the wider view.  "Alpha and Bravo Platoons will
encircle the island, going here and here."  He indicated the
spots with a laser pointer.  "We will await a report from
Delta.  Charlie Platoon will remain on the boat as our
reserve."

     "Begging your pardon, Sir."  Ranma raised his hand.
"Having a canoe this size heave up on the beach isn't the
most stealthy way of approaching the island.  I know we're a
low-rider, but when we beach, we're gonna make noise."

     "I am aware of that, Sergeant.  Do you have a better
idea?"

     "Matter of fact, yes, Sir.  Delta Platoon is fully
SCUBA trained.  We can go ashore by dive tug well before the
boat beaches."

     Major Addams nodded.  "Good idea, Sergeant.  Ibuki,
your thoughts on this?"

     Lieutenant Ibuki was a young officer, having come up
through the Academy, but he'd at least learned to listen to
his NCOs.  He considered the idea, then said, "Sounds like
that scene in *The Rock*.  The only caveat is that it will
make life hard for my pigmen.  Including Sergeant Saotome."

     "Especially Sergeant Saotome."

     Ranma snorted.  "Just means I'll be smaller and more
stealthy."

     "You mean you'll attract more attention," replied
Ibuki.

     A chuckle ran around the briefing room.  Despite
Ranma's fears, the Marines were more or less uninterested in
the curse, aside from the fact that it gave them an attrac-
tive, curvy girl to leer at.  They were too disciplined, too
professional, to do anything more than leer, but even the
low level of crap he'd had to deal with in the Army because
of the curse didn't exist here.

     Ibuki continued.  "None of my pig-men will really enjoy
this.  The MINIMI doesn't take well to water.  We'll need to
shroud them before departure, and un-shrouding them on the
beach is gonna make noise.  But it sounds like the best plan
we got."

     "Make it so."

     "Aye, Sir."


                         - - - - -


     Ranma released the dive tug, and swam the last ten
meters under her own power.  The rest of her Squad were
still attached to the tug, but she wanted to be the first on
the beach.

     The cap she wore had several strands of what looked
just like seaweed, and the oddly-shaped goggles were low-
reflective.  Between the two, they'd disguise her outline
sufficiently that a careful observer who spotted her might
mistake her for a sea otter, or a clump of vegetation...any-
thing but a human.  She slowly scanned the beach, then
slipped out of the water.

     The rest of the Squad made landfall right behind her,
and she waved one of them - a Private Roger Brown - forward
with her.  The two of them made a quick circuit of the land-
ing point, just enough to determine that they were in fact
not observed.

     "Okay."  She spoke in a very low voice, but didn't
whisper;  whispers carry a surprising distance.  "Break out
the gear."

     The soldiers carried, for the most part, the HK-8
assault rifle.  Surprisingly rugged and very reliable, all
they needed was a quick shake out to render them ready for
service.  Ranma's MINIMI was a bit more fragile, and had
been wrapped in a plastic shroud and heat-sealed against
water.  She quickly cut the shroud away, unsealed her first
box of ammo and clipped it to the gun.  As she did so, she
glanced about, seeing the second Squad beaching some dis-
tance away.

     The Lieutenant ghosted over to her;  whatever his fail-
ings as an officer, which weren't that many really, he was
excellent in stealth.  "Both Squads report ready, Sarge."

     "Thanks, Looie.  How you want to handle this?"

     "We have three hours before they bring the hammer
down."  Ibuki rolled out the plasticized maps.  "Checkpoint
Able is here, Checkpoint Baker here.  You take your Squad,
proceed to Able.  Second will then advance to Baker.  Don't
dawdle."

     "Yes, Sir."  Ranma turned and waved her senior Corporal
forward.  "Brigham, roving overwatch?"

     Brigham nodded.  "Yeah.  I'll lead off."  He looked
pointedly at the Lieutenant, and said, "Give us twenty sec-
onds after we move."

     Ibuki watched the Corporal slip back to his men, and
said, "I fucked up, didn't I?"

     "Just a wee bit, Sir."  Ranma nodded.  "We shoulda dis-
cussed this on the boat, not on the beach."

     "Thanks, Sarge."  Ibuki rolled up the map.  "Brigham's
moving."

     "Port Section!"  She whispered now, and raised a hand.
"Overwatch for Starboard.  Go."

     Twenty soldiers in First, two of them Corporals and two
more Privates, First Class.  They slipped out in groups of
five, close together, but not so close that they looked like
a parade.  Ranma eyeballed them as they moved, tagged one or
two mentally as needing a bit more training in stealth, and
brought up the rear, MINIMI at the ready.

     It took them fifteen minutes to reach Checkpoint Able,
with not a sign of enemy movement.  Ranma paused at the
checkpoint, and pulled out her binoculars.  She scanned the
foliage, and cursed.

     "What does that look like to you, Brigham?"

     "Duck blind."  Brigham scowled.  "I doubt the inhabi-
tants are after duck, though."

     Ranma waved over her radioman, and softly said, "Signal
to Second:  Able."

     The radioman nodded, and clicked on the radio.  "Able."
Just one word.  Seconds later, Ranma saw the lead elements
of Second advancing through the weeds.  They would pass her
point, coming to Checkpoint Baker, several hundred meters in
advance of her, then provide cover if needed as Ranma's unit
advanced past them again.

     The Lieutenant was in the lead of Second, but stopped
at Checkpoint Able.  "We spotted a machine gun nest ahead."

     "Yeah, I saw it."  Ranma sighed.  "We won't be able to
sneak past it."

     "How close can you get?"

     Ranma snorted.  "Close enough to steal their break-
fast."

     "Good.  Can you booby-trap it?"

     "I wouldn't want to," said Ranma.  "It'll make noise.
And knockin' them out will just make them miss their call-
in.  I think we've got a problem, Sir."

     "Checkpoint Congo is practically right underneath
them."  Ibuki scowled.  "I'm starting to think we're not
gonna pull this off."

     "Bad news for the strike force," said Ranma.  "Can we
use a different approach?"

     "No..."  Ibuki pulled out his map.  "See, we've got
this hill along here...we'd be exposed if we went over it,
and there's probably more bad news on the other side, so
that's out.  Going the other way would mean backtracking,
and that would eat up more time than we have."

     "Okay.  How about this?"  Ranma grinned.  "I'll sneak
right on past 'em, do the recon myself, and report back by
radio."

     "Ballsy."  Ibuki considered his options, and said,
"Fine.  What are you taking for gear?"

     "Just a walkie-talkie."  She started peeling down.  "A
quick roll in the mud and leaves for camo.  The MINIMI would
just slow me down, an' I'm almost as dangerous without it as
I am with it."  She paused.  "Ya know, I realize that I'm
hot as a chick, but ya mind not starin' at my tits, Sir?"

     "Sorry."

     "No problem, Sir."  She chuckled.  "Don't know why any-
one would look at me with this stupid cue-ball haircut any-
way..."  She grabbed a couple of handsful of mud.  "You
wanna do my back?"


                         - - - - -


     The mud was not applied randomly.  With it rubbed in in
a tiger-stripe pattern, and some leaves caked in, and a lot
more of both in what remained of her hair, Ranma looked like
something the c-c-c-furry demon from hell dragged in.  It
broke up her outline, and by the time she was three meters
away, she was invisible to any observer, enemy or friendly.

     Which suited her just fine, since she was almost naked.

     *At least I don't need to use the Umi-Sen-Ken.*

     She paused at the machine-gun nest, and carefully
deprived it of all its ammo, relocating the rounds five
meters away from the site.  The inhabitants had no idea that
she was there, and wouldn't until and unless they tried to
use their weapons.  Five minutes later, she located a second
nest.  This one, she undermined the foundations.  If they
opened up with the guns, the entire thing would collapse.


     The third one, she could do nothing about;  the two
crewmembers were more alert than their counterparts.  She
quietly radioed in its position, and set up a flare mine and
tripwire.  If they fired the gun, they would at least adver-
tise their position clearly.

     Finally, she crested a ridge, and looked into the camp
itself.

     Six small huts, their tops carefully camouflaged
against satellite imagery.  A weapons range, and she saw ten
men - all of them were male - practicing weapons fire.  She
sneered at their marksmanship, but noted that all of them
were using full-auto.  You didn't need to aim when firing
twelve rounds per second.

     One hut was significantly larger than the other;  she
snuck underneath it, and pressed her ear to the floor above
her.

     "--care how they figured it out.  The point is, that
damn boat is on its way."

     Lucky.  They were speaking Japanese, though the fellow
she'd just heard had an odd accent.

     "How long before they hit the beach?"

     "Probably by ten.  Just our luck that Nguyen warned
us."

     "How did *he* know?"

     "Satellites.  The Chinese have some nice ones, can even
spot subs, and we've been getting their take for a while."

     "Well, their most likely approach is from the east
beach, and we've got spotters all along there, along with
gun crews.  We've got over a hundred men ready and waiting
for them.  As long as they don't send a full battalion,
they're gonna swear they were dropped into a meat grinder."

     "Idiot.  We're not talking half-assed JSDF troops here.
These are the fucking *Marines*.  United Nations forces,
armed to the teeth with cutting-edge weaponry.  They proba-
bly already know where your gun crews are hidden--"

     Yep.  At least some of them, anyway.

     "--and they'll hammer those crews with ship bombard-
ment."

     Well, the *Shankland* had a six-inch, but it was a
relic.  Probably they'd have to send Delta to take out the
gun crews that she'd missed, just to take the beach.

     "So what the hell do we do?"

     "Evacuate.  We'll pull your crews back, get them to the
boat, and get away from here before the UN ship makes land-
fall."

     Okay, this was going to seriously bugger the mission.
She couldn't let that happen, not with the FJA right in the
palm of her hand.  She clicked on the radio, hit the mute
button, and started tapping the Morse key.
                         - - - - -


     "Signal from Sergeant Saotome."  The radioman raised a
hand.  "Morse.  Wait...'Surprise compromised.  Enemy about
to retreat.  Advise Delta move against them.'  And she's
repeating it, Sir."

     "Goddamn."  Ibuki sighed.  "The Captain ain't gonna be
happy with us.  Can you give me secure to the *Shankland*?"

     "You're live."

     Ibuki picked up the mic.  "Two-Four, this is Delta-
Three."

     "*Two-Four.  Go ahead.*"

     "Enemy forces are preparing to bug out.  Repeat, enemy
forces are preparing to retreat.  Recommend Delta Platoon
takes the island.  Go ahead."

     There was a brief pause, then, "*Two-Four.  Proceed.
Go ahead.*"

     "Proceed, aye.  Delta-Three, clear."  He clicked off
the mic.  "Corporal, instruct your fire-teams to take out
the machine gun nests."


                         - - - - -


     The muffled *crump* of the grenade launchers told Ranma
more clearly than any radio messsage that her suggestion had
been accepted.  She listened as the residents of the camp
started running about aimlessly.

     The voice of the camp commander - at least, that was
who she assumed it was - cut over the din.  "Get the ammo
into the first boats, get them away first.  No, wait.  Get
Tatsu in here, and hold the first boat for him."

     "He's on his way."  There was a brief pause, then the
sound of the door opening, and a new voice.

     "Joachim, what the hell is--"

     "We're evacuating.  We need to get you out with the
first boat."

     "Kozo told me that much, but he--"

     "Take these."  A rustling of papers.  "Get them to your
people in Japan.  Our organization is willing to assist,
provided you turn over at least two of the devices to us."

     Devices?

     "They don't come cheap--"

     "Neither do the lives of my men.  Remember that, Tatsu.
These weapons are out bargaining chip, and unless we can
spread them throughout the target countries, we won't be
able to use them effectively."

     "I want one in Tokyo, one in Seoul--"

     "Yes.  We will be placing ours in Madrid.  Our Mexican
brethren will be moving theirs to California, and the Ital-
ians will be wanting one to plant in Germany."

     "Which one will be detonated first?"

     "Probably the Tokyo device, for maximum overkill.  We
want them scared.  Even if the blast fails to cause suffi-
cient casualties, the fallout and radiation will add to it
in great numbers."

     Ranma could not repress a shudder, as it became
painfully clear that the two men above her were talking
about *nuclear weapons*.  Like any other Japanese person,
Ranma had a loathing of nuclear arms that went far beyond
what person of another nationality would expect.  The only
country ever to be targeted by these weapons, the Japanese
people had, in a resounding moment of unity, declared that
they would never use them.

     Except this Tatsu fellow, who was willing to murder
twenty-five million people to make a political point.

     This was the moment.  She knew that, now.  Every moment
since the blast that had ended Akane's life led to this
point.  Now, to redeem herself, she could save the lives of
twenty-five million strangers.

     No.  Not yet.  First, she had to do her duty as a
sergeant of the United Nations Marine Corps.  Again, she
tapped out her coded message on the walkie-talkie.


                         - - - - -


     "Signal from Sergeant Saotome.  'Enemy has
acquired...'"  The radioman trailed off.  "Sir, I'm really
wishing I could confirm this."

     "Negative, Private.  You'll give away her position."

     "Aye, Sir.  'Enemy has acquired special weapons and are
prepared to use them in a terrorist attack.'"

     "Fuck.  It's *Thunderball*, except for real."  Ibuki
rose to a half-crouch, and waved the First Section forward.
"Take the camp, now!"


                         - - - - -


     Ranma took three deep, cleansing breaths, grasped the
floor joists, and kicked herself through the floorboards.

     At times of stress, the human mind tends to see events
in small, disjointed segments.  Time seems to slow to a
crawl, though one's own actions are just as slowed as those
around.  For the martial artist, this effect is sought
after, desired, as it improves one's ability to grasp the
moment and act accordingly.  For Ranma, her speed was high
enough that she seemed, to herself, to be moving at normal
speeds.
     Her opponents were not so fortunate.

     Ranma's feet caught Tatsu straight up into his crotch.
He folded like a cheap beach chair, collapsing to the ground
and grasping his groin.  Ranma, in the meantime, continued
to fly straight up, turning a somersault in midair to land
on her feet.

     Joachim was less flat-footed than his companion.  He
stepped back and fell into a combat stance, though the look
of shock on his face belied any warning.  Obviously, he'd
not expected a mud-covered, mostly-naked woman to come fly-
ing out of his floor.  His stance and reaction time demon-
strated that at some point, he'd practiced some martial art
or another.  Ranma grinned;  this would make his beat-down
just that more satisfying.

     Ranma feinted, more to get a measure of this guy's
skill, and Joachim blocked, a high-hand move that tickled
Ranma's memory.  Ranma threw a second punch, this time for
effect, and again was parried.  Joachim followed up the
parry with a front snap kick, which Ranma dodged, and then a
sweeping kick, with the same leg, that she ducked.

     She had the style pegged now.  She threw a kick of her
own, and recovered badly from the block, leaving an obvious
opening.  He fell for it, throwing a kick to her side.  She
snagged it, and tossed him backwards.  He described most of
a full circle in mid-air before crashing to the floor.

     Her danger sense pinged, and she leaned to the side as
the *crack* of a pistol filled the room.  She pivoted, her
left foot coming around and smacking the sidearm from
Tatsu's hand.  Joachim was starting to rise;  a step forward
and an axe-kick put him back on the ground.  She dropped to
one arm, her legs sweeping out and back to knock Tatsu down
as well, and she rolled to come to rest with one knee on his
chest.  She cocked a fist above his head, waited until he
realized his position.

     She grinned wolfishly.  "This is for Akane."

     The fist came down.


                         - - - - -


     "One boat got away."  Corporal Evans safed his rotary
grenade launcher.  "The MINIMIs got some hits on it, but
it's still moving, and it's out of our fire range."

     "All right.  Good work, Corporal."  Ibuki glanced over
at the camp.  "What about those idiots in the armory?"

     "We've got them holed up, but they've got all the ammo
they'll need to hold us off until Judgement Day."  Evans
scowled.  "Corporal Brigham has his fire-team on that, but
they can't just open up, or they'll risk cooking off the
ammo in there.  And we still don't know where Sergeant Sao-
tome is."

     Ibuki nodded.  "Well, she knows how to avoid fire.
We'll--Oh."  Ibuki chuckled.  "Here she comes."


     Indeed, the aforementioned Sergeant was approaching
them, a body in each hand.  She'd grasped them by the belt,
and was forced to carry them high to avoid dragging them on
the ground, even though they were doubled over.  She marched
up to Ibuki.

     "Lieutenant.  I hope you'll forgive me for not salut-
ing."

     "Not a problem, Sergeant.  You're not wearing your
cover anyway.  Or much else."

     "With all due respect, Sir, stop starin' at my tits."
She grinned, and tossed the larger of her two burdens at his
feet.  "This guy is the base commander here.  And this ass-
hole..."  She tossed the smaller one down.  "He's the guy
that was gonna nuke Tokyo."

     Ibuki raised his eyebrows.  "You dragged two corpses
out here because...?"

     "Not corpses, Sir."  Ranma shook her head.  "Prisoners.
Now, you wanna hand me my jacket, or at least some hot
water, Sir?  I'm feelin' a bit self-conscious."

     "Didn't bring my tea-kit."  Ibuki tossed her a jacket.
"Here.  Now, we got this problem over in the ammo shed."

     "Ammo shed?  Blow it up."

     "We don't know how far the shrapnel's going to fly."
Ibuki shook his head.  "So we'd really rather not do that."

     "Sir, there's, what, forty of us?"  Ranma jerked a
thumb towards the hills.  "We can take cover, blow it from a
distance."

     "We're supposed to take as many prisoners as we can--"

     "We can be cops, or we can be Marines, Sir.  I don't
see a third--Hey."

     "An idea?"

     "No."  Ranma rubbed her ear.  "You hear somethin'?"

     Ibuki paused, and said, "Yeah."  He shouldered his
rifle, took a step towards the bay.  "Is *Shankland* start-
ing her beaching?"

     "That ain't a diesel engine, Sir," said Ranma.  "We've
lived cheek-by-jowl with one of them for the last year, and
that don't sound like one.  Sounds like..."

     "A jet?"

     "Still too low-pitched.  I dunno what--"  Ranma broke
off, and pointed at the ground.  "Shit.  It's an earth-
quake."

     "Everyone!"  Ibuki turned and yelled.  "Into the open!
Out of the buildings, away from the trees, we got an earth-
quake coming!"

     "Rocks dancin', trees shakin'...yeah."  Ranma glanced
around.  "Third Squad is still..."  She looked up.  "No.
Not an earthquake.  Look, Sir!"

     Ibuki followed her glance.

     The horizon to the east was glowing like a sunrise,
though the sun was already well overhead.  He stared, open-
mouthed, as a billowing line of fire cut across the sky,
crossing south of them at ridiculous speed.  The shockwave
of its passage shook the island like a dog shaking a bone.
He saw the huts collapsing, the ammo shed exploding as the
vibrations tore through it.

     The heatwave from the object's passage hit next, kin-
dling the dry trees and causing them to burst into flame.
The ground bucked beneath his feet, knocking him over.

     "Get to higher ground!"  Sergeant Saotome grabbed his
arm, dragged him vertical again.  "Move, Sir!  All troops,
proceed to the hills.  Get as high as you can!  Now, now,
now!"

     "Saotome, what--"

     "Tsunami.  I can see it comin', we got maybe sixty sec-
onds.  Move!"


                         - - - - -


     The lookout fumbled his field glasses to his eyes, then
tossed them aside and yelled, "Tsunami off the port bow, ten
o'clock!"

     "Left standard rudder, all ahead full!"  The exec
snapped out the order by instinct, then glanced over at the
lookout.  "Please tell me you're kidding."

     "No, Sir, we got a big wave coming in!"

     "Fuck."  The exec stabbed the comm.  "Captain to the
bridge, tsunami incoming."

     "I'm here, Leon."  Captain Hayase stepped onto the
bridge deck, still closing his jacket.  He grabbed the PA
mike.  "All crew, below decks and secure for weather."  He
hung up the mike.  "Rudder amidships.  All ahead flank.
Crewman Jacobsen.  Report."

     "Tsunami coming from the south, Sir, following the path
of the meteor."

     "What meteor?"

     "It went overhead a minute or so ago.  Shockwave shook
the ship."

     "I'd just thought we'd hit some chop."  Hayase eye-
balled the approaching wave, and picked up the mike again.
"All hands, brace for impact, ten seconds."  He dropped into
his chair, and quickly buckled himself in.

     *Shankland* struck the wall of water bow-on, pitching
up as she did so.  The wave swamped the forward deck com-
pletely, and the Captain pulled his cap down over his eyes.
The bridge windows shattered, spraying the bridge crew with
shards of glass propelled by the massive wave.  Then they
were through, the *Shankland* listing badly to port.
Screams could now be heard on the bridge, and the Captain
adjusted his cap again.

     "Corpsman to the bridge.  Damage control parties to the
weather deck."  He unbuckled himself and stood up, wincing
as he did so.  He glanced down, saw a shard of glass pro-
truding from his leg, staining his white uniform pants with
blood.  "Leon?"

     "Exec's down, Sir."  The helmsman, Petty Officer David,
was crouched next to the Commander.  "Knocked his head
against the hatch when it popped."

     "All right, Corpsman is on his way.  PO David, contact
all section leaders and see how bad our casualties are."

     "Aye, Sir."

     The Captain limped to the helm column, and ran the
telegraph back down to half speed.  He tapped an internal
comm.  "ChEng, report."

     "*What the fuck was that?*"  The Chief Engineer sounded
shaken.

     "Tsunami.  How are we faring in your department?"

     "*Three crewmen knocked about, but no real casualties.
Portside engine is drowned.  We'll get it drained out in
five minutes.  The entire portside crew compartment is
flooded.  Bailing pumps already started, and we'll have trim
again in twenty or thirty minutes.*"

     "Alert me when you have the portside engine up again."

     "*Aye Sir.*"

     Hayase released the intercom stud, and stared at the
blackened strip of sky ahead.


                         - - - - -


     Ranma glanced around her gathering troops.

     "Where's the Lieutenant?"

     "No idea."  Corporal Evans looked to be in shock.
"Brigham's missing too, as well as the entire Fourth Squad."

     "What about the bad guys?"

     "We didn't leave too many alive, Sarge."  Evans looked
down at the body at his feet.  "This little prick, I dragged
up this fucking hill, but the bigger guy was still down
there."

     The saddle between the two hills was still awash,
though it was draining.  The camp was just plain gone, swept
away by the massive wave.

     "How many effectives we got?"

     "Between the waves and the bad guys...well, we're down
to fifteen men.  Aside from ourselves."  Evans scowled.  "I
thought you had the Lieutenant."

     "We got separated."  Ranma sighed.  "Radio?"

     "We can contact *Shankland*, but they've probably got
their hands full."

     "Yeah."

     "Sarge!"  Private Velikovsky waved, and Ranma trotted
over.

     "Lieutenant!"  Ranma knelt beside the man, and felt at
his throat.  "Got a pulse."  She sat back.  "Medic!"

     Ibuki groaned.  "Sarge--"

     "Keep quiet, Sir, the medic is on his way.  I think
you're gonna be on the sick list for a while."

     "First *The Rock*, then *Thunderball*, now *Armaged-
don.*"  Ibuki grinned weakly.  "Why can't I star in a
porno?"

     Ranma chuckled.  "Because shore leave was cut short."

     "Sarge."  Evans dropped the radio pack beside Ranma.
"*Shankland* on the horn."

     "Thanks, Mike."  Ranma grabbed the telephone-shaped
mouthpiece.  "Delta-Two."

     "*How did you make out through that weather,
Sergeant?*"

     "Not too well, Major."  Ranma sighed.  "Aside from
myself, we got seventeen survivors, maybe a few more on the
other hill.  Lieutenant Ibuki survived, but is a casualty,
and I think Private Roberts is also among the walking
wounded."  She paused as a star-shell went up from the other
island.  "Okay, we got signal from south island.  Wait one."
She toggled the mute.  "Corporal, get something for sema-
phore, find out who's on the other hill."  She opened the
channel again.  "We've confirmed at least one survivor on
the south hill."

     "Shankland* is running at flank speed to the island.
We took some knocking about, but no fatalities and no miss-
ing.  Damage is limited, and ChEng has a hand on it;  we'll
be fully shipshape in a few more hours.*"

     "Some good news, anyway."

     "*Good thing the Skipper knows how to drive this
boat.*"  The simulated Major paused.  "*What about the mis-
sion?*"

     "One prisoner.  The rest...well, if we didn't kill 'em,
the wave certainly did."  Ranma grinned wolfishly, and
wished the Major could see it.  "But this one goon we *did*
capture...he's worth the rest.  Trust me on this."

     "*How do you mean, Sarge?*"

     "I mean this asshole's gonna justify everythin' we do,
Sir.  Capturin' him made my *decade.*"


                         - - - - -


     Dear Misa,

     I'll humour you, and write my eMails the same way.
Why not?  It's good practice learning my Basic.

     We came through our mission pretty good, though I
can't tell you a lot more than that, due to operational
security.  Your pop decided to drop my team into a bad situ-
ation.  No sweat, though.  My team is the best.  We ended up
doing the whole job ourselves.

     I wasn't sure if I could tell you what happened next,
but then I saw it on the TV.  Something, like a giant meteor
or such, smacked into the Earth.  Well, it overflew us, and
the tidal wave and flash fires it caused did us some damage.
Your pop turns out to be the best boat driver in the
Pacific, though.  He steered the boat right through the wave
like a surfer or something.  He picked us up, and we're
steaming out to help out another boat - I can't tell you
which one, sorry.  But after that...well, we're in the best
shape in this part of the Pacific.

     I'd bet anything from yen to Nabiki's private files
that we're going to be sent out to check out the impact
site.

     Sincerely, Saotome Ranma.



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