Full Metal Panic! and its associated characters do not belong to me. Full Metal Panic! is copyright Shoji Gatoh.
The idea for this fic actually came from reading another piece of FMP fanfiction, specifically dave-d's excellent Truth or Dare, in which Sousuke ended up as the only guy at what was supposed to be an all girl's slumber party. The events in that story got me thinking about how FMP would be different if Sousuke were a girl. That was the seed of this story. In time, the issues at play in this fic became more complex then simply switching the gender of one character. Many changes were required, some minor, some major. Souko's history, for instance, differs from Sousuke's in that her guerrilla years were spent in Yugoslavia (which now has an FMP-esque alternate history), not Afghanistan as in the novels or Helmajistan as in the anime.
Since I am not all knowing and I sometimes need some help coming up with ideas I may occasionally ask questions of readers. Reader input has been a great help to me on this fic. I'd like to take a moment to thank people who contributed knowledge and/or ideas to this story, particularly Greydon Creed, who made a very significant contribution to the development of Souko's history. If you would like to discuss an idea or a piece of information with me, I can be contacted by private messenger or by the email address in my profile (I appreciate reviews, but the review system is of limited utility for back and forth discussions).
I do make errors on occasion due to limited knowledge but some of the changes I've made from the source material were quite deliberate. Sometimes these changes are made because of realism issues I perceived and sometimes they are simply a matter of personal preference (this is a different FMP from the canonical one –why not make a few changes?). I also have a bit of a tendency to go back and edit previous chapters in my work, although the changes tend to be minor enough that they don't require re-reading previous chapters.
Anyway, I hope you people enjoy this!
-Darthtabby, March 5, 2008Prologue
Lt. Commander Andrei Kalinin's ready room aboard the Tuatha De Danaan was –by submarine standards- exceptionally large, though by most people's standards it would have been considered small and cramped. The Lt. Commander himself –a formidable looking man with grey hair, an ex-Spetnaz soldier- was seated behind a cluttered desk, waiting. He'd summoned his subordinates several minutes before, and could hear sounds of their approach through the submarine's bulkheads.
"I said you're an exemplary officer, Major!" came the voice of Sgt. Kurz Weber. He sounded like he was in pain. That would not be unusual for the young sniper, as he had a tendency to get on the nerves of his direct superior, one Sgt. Major Melissa Mao.
Andrei sighed and composed his features, placing a few papers on his desk. He did not approve of Mao and Weber's constant feuding, but he'd long since given up trying to do anything about it.
I wonder what happened this time.
There was a knock on the ready room door.
"Come in," Andrei said in response. Almost immediately the door swung open and Mao stepped in, followed by her two subordinates. The three of them quickly formed a line and stood at attention.
"Sergeant Major Mao, Sergeant Weber, and Sergeant Sagara reporting for duty, sir!" Mao reported, saluting.
Andrei surveyed the three soldiers from left to right. A sassy looking twenty-something woman of Chinese descent, a slightly younger pretty boy sniper with blonde hair, and a tall, athletic looking Japanese girl of perhaps about sixteen or seventeen, her moderately long hair kept well out of her face by the rather utilitarian braid that ran a short ways down her back. She had a scar on one cheek, but might still have been pretty had she worn a less serious expression.
Andrei nodded to Mao.
"At ease, Sergeant Major."
He waited a moment for the group to relax, then handed Mao a clipboard.
"This is your next assignment."
Mao took the clipboard from Andrei and began to study it as Kurz crowded in, his interest piqued by the photograph attached to it.
"Hmmm… Kaname Chidori…"
The long-haired sniper slipped the photograph off the clipboard.
"Whoo. She'd going to be quite a looker in a few years."
Andrei sighed. He'd sometimes wondered how a playboy like Kurz had ever managed to become an integral part of a fireteam whose only other members were two no-nonsense female warriors. The three of them worked well together on the battlefield, but their off duty relations were somewhat less than smooth.
"That picture is four years old. She's sixteen now."
"Do you have a picture of that version?" he asked. Andrei shook his head.
"I could get one, but that's not important. What's important is the mission ahead. We believe that someone –possibly the KGB- may try to kidnap Ms. Chidori. That's why we're assigning the three of you to protect her."
He looked straight at Kurz.
"Naturally, this mission is highly secretive in nature, which means that the Japanese government is to not to know that you're guarding Ms. Chidori. Nor is Ms. Chidori herself."
The annoyed look that spread across Kurz's face let Andrei know he'd gotten his point across. Thankfully, the blonde Sergeant was quick to get back to business.
"Do you think we'll be able to handle this with just the three of us?" he asked.
"You'll have to," Andrei replied. He turned to Mao.
"We've already managed to smuggle one M-9 into Tokyo. It doesn't have much in the way of ordinance, but it should be more then adequate for dealing with the sort of threats you are likely to encounter."
Mao nodded, and Andrei continued.
"You three are to gather whatever additional equipment you'll need, then report to the hangar bay five hours from now. You'll need to obtain proper documents before then as well."
Souko, Mao's younger subordinate, looked surprised.
"Documents sir? What sort of documents?"
Andrei couldn't help but smile at the young soldier.
"Why, your transfer notification, of course. You can't enroll in Ms. Chidori's school without it."
Even Andrei felt guiltily amused by the shocked expression that suddenly appeared on Souko's face.
The meeting in Kalinin's ready room was followed by a brief burst of activity, and it was more then two hours before Mao's group reconvened. An additional fifteen minutes found Souko seated in front of a cluttered table as Mao worked with her hair.
"Well?" the Sergeant Major asked as she finished tying a red ribbon around the lower part of Souko's braid, just above the thick knot that formed the end of it. Her young subordinate picked a small hand mirror and studied herself carefully.
"It look like it could give away my position during a fight," she replied critically, "and it's too small to make an effective blindfold or bandage." Mao chuckled.
"Yes, but it does make you look cute. And that's kind of important. We're trying to make you look like an innocent little school girl, not a big, tough soldier."
The sergeant major shrugged her shoulders.
"Try thinking of this ribbon and your make up as a form of camouflage. The only real difference between this and the sort of stuff you usually wear in the field is that one is meant to blend in with terrain and the other is meant to blend in with people."
The young sergeant finished adjusting the inner thigh holster she had acquired for her Sig P228 compact pistol and pulled the skirt that was part of her new school uniform down over it. Kurz, who was setting up a camera, would have watched as she did that had Mao not been giving him a warning glare.
"Hey Souko, has anyone ever told you that you have nice legs?" he asked when it was safe for him to look again. Mao snorted.
"Stuff it, old man. She's way too young for you –as is Ms. Chidori."
Kurz looked indignant.
"I don't need to be called 'old man' by a women who's a year older then me! What would you think if I called you an old hag?"
"I'd think you were asking for trouble," Mao replied bluntly. She turned to Souko.
"Does it fit?" she asked.
"It fits almost perfectly. It's a little snug for fast draws, but it should loosen a little with use. It is a very well made accessory."
"You know Souko, most girls use the term 'accessory' to refer to earrings."
"They do? I'll have to remember that. Are dog tags also considered an accessory?"
Mao shook her head.
"Um, no. In fact, most girls don't have dog tags, so its probably best if you don't wear them. Of course, I guess you already knew that, seeing as this is a covert operation…"
The young sergeant looked at the items spread out on the table in front of her. They included CDs, magazines, a music player, and several other devices.
"What are these for?" she asked.
"These are things we figure most Japanese girls have. We gathered them from all over the ship."
"The condoms were my own addition."
Mao slapped Kurz, then snorted humorously.
"Heh. I doubt Souko even knows what those are for."
"Of course I know what they're for. I've used one before."
Mao looked shocked.
The Sergeant Major might have been joking when she suggested her subordinate didn't know what a condom was for, but that didn't mean she'd expected the young soldier to have actually used one of the things. For her part, Souko just nodded her head and explained the situation in the spectacularly –and unintentionally- deceptive manner that only she could manage.
"Yes. Sergeant Weber showed me how six months ago during Operation Shrike."
Mao was staring at Kurz before Souko had even finished speaking, her mouth hanging open in shock. The sniper started raising his hands to try to supplicate her, but the Sergeant Major exploded before he could speak
"How could you!" she demanded. "How could you do something like that?"
Weber held his hands in front of him as Mao's anger mounted.
"Melissa, it isn't what you thi –oof!"
He keeled over as Mao hit him hard in the groin.
"I can't believe you did that!" she screamed, "I can't believe you could exploit Souko like that! How dare you? I'll have you court martialed Weber! Do you hear me? I'll have you f---ing court martialed!"
Souko watched her squadmates' argument with confusion.
"Sergeant Major, what's wrong? Sergeant Weber's suggestion probably saved both our lives after we lost our water bottles."
Mao paused for a moment as she digested Souko's words. Now she was the one who looked confused.
"Lost your water bottles?" she asked questioningly.
"Yes, Sergeant Weber and I used his condoms to carry water after we lost our water bottles."
The young sergeant eyed her superior quizzically.
"What did you think I meant?"
Mao grimaced.'Well, um…"
A faint look of comprehension spread across Souko's face.
"Oh. You mean the other use for condoms."
Mao actually blushed at that.
"Yeah… the other one…"
A very long, very awkward silence followed, one which was finally broken by a polite cough from Kurz.
"I believe you owe me an apology," he informed Mao. The Sergeant Major sighed as she realised her subordinate was right.
"Yeah, I suppose I do. Sorry, Weber. I guess I jumped to conclusions there."
"It's quiet all right."
The grin became a leer as the volume of his voice dropped to a whisper.
"Especially if you kiss it to make it better."
This time Mao's kick for the groin obviously wasn't meant to be serious. If it had been she wouldn't have given Kurz a chance to get away.
The Tuatha De Danaan surfaced near the Japanese Coast late in the evening, when the darkness was able to hide its massive form from sight. In the assault submarine's hangar bay, preparations were made for the departure of one of the big craft's MH-60 Knighthawk multirole helicopters.
High up on one of the walkways that rimmed the huge room, two girls watched as maintenance teams scurried about among the fleet of helicopters and S/VTOL fighters that made up the De Danaan's formidable air wing. One of these girls was Souko, who was once again dressed in her usual SRT uniform. The other was the De Danaan's Captain, the similarly aged Teletha 'Tessa' Testarossa, who was fidgeting with her braid of platinum-blonde hair.
"Do you think you'll be alright?" Tessa asked as the Stormhawk was rolled across the hangar bay floor toward an elevator. Souko nodded.
"I'll have to be alert for enemies, but the mission environment itself is supposed to be relatively safe. It is probably much less dangerous then the regions most of my missions take place in."
Tessa chuckled at Souko's words. It was odd what sort of things made her worry about the other girl's well being. She could send Souko into the middle of a raging warzone without too much concern, but sending her to a high school in Japan –a very peaceful country– made her nervous.
I can't help but think she'll have trouble with this assignment. I don't think she'll be able to fit in.
"That's not really what I'm worried about."
"Then what are you worried about, Captain?" Souko asked.
Tessa was at a loss for words.
"I'm worried… I'm worried that… well, I'm worried that the people at that high school may hurt you."
"You really think so? I would not have considered the people at the high school to be much of a threat, but if you believe they are, then I will treat them accordingly."
Tessa shook her head quickly. She knew what Souko probably meant by "treat them accordingly."
"No, no!" she blushed, "I didn't mean that. Forget I said anything."
There was silence for a few moments before Tessa spoke up again.
"Do you remember all that seemingly useless stuff I've talked to you about when we've been off duty together?"
Despite the fact that they had almost nothing in common, Tessa spent a considerable amount of time talking to Souko. The other girl was, after all, the only person her age on the ship, and also one of the few females. That made her friendship invaluable, no matter how odd she was.
I'm going to miss her, Tessa thought, thinking about how long Souko might be gone. The mission to guard Kaname Chidori had no set end date. She might be gone for weeks. Maybe even months. Probably not years, but one never knew with this sort of thing.
I wish I could tell her what this was all about, Tessa thought, thinking of why Souko had been assigned to guard Kaname. Unfortunately, she wasn't authorised to do that. Her only condolence was that Souko would probably understand. She knew the importance of keeping classified information secret.
Still, it seems wrong to ask someone to do something without telling them why.
Souko looked at Tessa.
"That so called 'small talk'? A little. What about it?"
Tessa blinked as she attempted to clear her head.
"Try to remember as much of it as possible. You may find it useful when communicating with civilians."
"All right. I'll try to do that."
Tessa nodded in return.
She fiddled with her braid.
I hope you don't have too many problems, Souko. I know Kalinin thinks this will be a good experience for you, but I feel like I'm sending a lamb into the middle of a pack of wolves.
One of Souko's bags caught her eye
Although perhaps I should think of it as being the other way around, she though wryly, thinking of what that bag might contain. On the hangar deck below, Mao turned to look up at the pair.
"Hey Souko, can you give us a hand with loading some of this gear?"
The young soldier picked up her bags and turned to Tessa.
"Goodbye, Souko," the De Danaan's Captain said softly. Souko raised her hand in a formal salute.
She turned and walked towards one of the staircases that led down to the deck where her squadmates were waiting. It only took a few minutes to load the gear aboard the helicopter. It was not long before the elevator the Knighthawk was sitting on began to rise towards the flight deck, where the chopper would be hidden from sight. Tessa watched until it disappeared, then –after sighing and fiddling with her braid- she left the hangar bay.