Alternate Universe-Yukiho Hagiwara

Yukiho yawned quietly to herself. I'm not sure why I'm out for a walk when it's so early in the morning. And I'm all alone, also...it's kind of scary... she thought. Spotting a small park bench, she settled on it and folded her hands in her lap. "It's cold," she whispered to no one. "I-I wish Makoto-chan were here. She's warm."

Suddenly, Yukiho couldn't think. Her mind went completely blank and all she could do was realize how early it was and how tired she was. Yawning again, Yukiho lay down on the bench and sighed contentedly.

It's comfortable. Hard and cold, but it's surprisingly comfortable...sort of...

Slowly, Yukiho drifted into sleep.

When Yukiho awoke, she was in a strange new place. The sky was dark and the trees were all dead. Frightened, Yukiho rose shakily to her feet. Out of nowhere an alarm sounded and a group of men holding flashlights ran around the corner of an abandoned cabin in the middle of the place and straight towards her. Yukiho stood, frozen with fear, as they slowed to a stop in front of her and removed small clubs from holsters on their belts.

"What have we here?" the lead man asked, a smirk forming on his face. "Don't you know the Alpha Males rule this place? No girls allowed."

"Looks like we missed one during yesterday's slaughter, Jason," one of the other men commented.

Yukiho let out a cry of alarm. "S-slaughter...?!"

"That's right," the man called Jason hissed. "We'll just have to take care of it now, shall we?"

"Hold it."

Yukiho stayed perfectly still. Jason's hand, holding the club, was raised up in the air only inches from Yukiho's face. A new man walked up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. Yukiho turned her head enough to see that this new man was clothed in a long red cloak. His face was hidden, so that only light lilac eyes gleamed from the darkness of the shadow caused by the cloak's hood.

"I'll take her," the new man announced. "To the secret facility."

Yukiho could almost hear the smirk in his voice. She realized that the man sounded achingly familiar, but Yukiho couldn't remember any men she knew who had lilac eyes and would be in a place like this. She shivered under the man's hand as his grip tightened.

"The facility?" Jason echoed. "Ah, I got you. Sure. Make sure she gets the most advanced form of torture you have, since she avoided yesterday's slaughter."

"Sure thing," the man agreed. Quick as a snake, his other hand gripped Yukiho's left arm and the hand on her shoulder hooked around her right arm, leaving her trapped against his body. She screamed.

"Take her away," Jason ordered, stalking off into the distance. His group followed him.

"Alright, let's go."

The mysterious man began to drag Yukiho away towards a giant rock some miles away, visible only because of its massiveness. Yukiho kicked and struggled and screamed, but the man's grip only tightened on her arm. Tears spilled from her eyes and terror surrounded her every thought. Different groups of men were patrolling as Yukiho was dragged away, but when they saw the mysterious man with her, they left her alone. Yukiho struggled more and more as they approached the rock. The closer they got, the less groups of men there were, and as they drew in close enough to truly see the massiveness of the rock—it towered at least 30 yards above them—Yukiho began to kick more.

"No!" she yelled, slamming her elbow back into her captor's chest.

"Ow!" the man squeaked, their voice suddenly surprisingly feminine. "Geez, Yukiho! I save your life and this is the thanks I get? I am a girl, you know...!"

Yukiho stopped struggling and gasped. "A...girl...?"

"Yeah. Now don't ask questions, let's get inside first..."

"MAKOTO-CHAN?!" Yukiho cried. "I-is that you?!"

The "man" holding her relaxed "his" grip. "Yeah. I work up here as...how you say, an undercover agent. Since I'm so much like I guy, the others told me to rescue the girls that we could." Releasing Yukiho completely, her captor pulled off the hood, revealing a familiar, boyish face. Yukiho threw herself against the cloaked girl and buried her face in her chest.

"I'm so glad!" she sobbed. "I was so scared! I thought I was going to die..."

"It's OK, Yukiho. You're safe," Makoto soothed, placing a gentle arm around Yukiho's waist. She managed to coax the terrified girl towards a large crack in the rock, and Yukiho was surprised to see another familiar face from her place smooshed into Makoto's self.

"Hey, it's a Yukiho! Fancy meetin' ya here. Didn't think ya'd make it, to tell the truth...ah, well. 'Ey Makoto, bring 'er in!"

"Hibiki-san!" Yukiho sighed in relief. "You're here too!"

"Yep. I run this place, actually! It's a pretty darn tough job, but it's worth it. So how ya been? Ya look scared."

"She thought I was going to kill her," Makoto explained. "I guess I really do look like a guy...she thought I was a man all this time."

"W-well, I couldn't see your face," Yukiho reminded her.

Makoto laughed half-heartedly. "Yeah, I guess. It's not like I really need to hide it, though. Anyways, go on in there, OK?"

"No," Yukiho whimpered. "Not without you."

"Oh boy," Hibiki muttered. "Look, Yukiho, there's only room for one o' ya in this here openin', so ya go first and Makoto'll be right behind ya, 'kay?"

"I-I don't want to," Yukiho mumbled. Makoto sighed.

"Yukiho...you have to get off sometime..."

"I'm scared! You're warm and it's cold out here!"

"Yukiho..."

"Makoto-chan!"

"Yukiho...!"

"Makoto-chan..."

"Yukiho."

"Makoto-chan...?"

"YUKIHO! GET IN HERE, BEFORE THEY SEE YA AND YA GET US ALL KILLED!"

"Y-yes...Hibiki-san..."

Reluctantly, Yukiho detached herself from Makoto and squeezed through the opening. Makoto followed behind her.

"S-so...where are we?" Yukiho asked.

"The 'secret facility'," Hibiki answered. "This is the place where we bring all the girls we've managed to save and all."

"The Alpha Males think it's some sort of underground torture facility," Makoto explained.

"So don't give us away," Hibiki added.

Yukiho nodded. "OK...is anyone else here?"

"No one from 765. But there are some other girls," Makoto said.

"C-can I meet them?"

"No, actually...they're all asleep."

"Oh..."

Hibiki yawned. "Yeah, and we should be joinin' 'em now. Hey Yukiho, I'll show ya your room. Makoto, go sleep. That's an order."

"Yes, Prez," Makoto said. "By the way, Yukiho, you should do as Hibiki says. She's the president of this place."

"Yes, she mentioned that before..." Yukiho muttered.

"Yup. I came up with this brilliant idea. Ain't I a genius?" Hibiki laughed. "Now go to bed, 'kay? I'll show you where your room is. Follow me."

Obediently, Yukiho followed Hibiki down further into the underground facility. They stopped at an empty room at the end of one of the long corridors, and Hibiki opened the stone door.

"Here ya go, your own little home! Ask questions if ya have to. We only ave a few more days 'fore we'll be votin', so be ready!"

"Voting on what?" Yukiho asked curiously.

"On who'll go and beat the Alpha Males for good," Hibiki announced. "We're gonna beat those suckers soon! So be prepared, alright?"

"I-I will," Yukiho lied, knowing that she could never truly be ready for the dangers that would accompany the girl who needed to defeat the men. She hoped desperately that she wouldn't be chosen.

"So then, who do ya think we should vote on to take the Alpha Dudes down?" Hibiki called over the noise of the girls assembled in the meeting chamber of the facility. Yukiho had awoken early that morning to prepare herself for the meeting. She was currently far in the back of the room with the other frightened girls who wished desperately not to be chosen. Makoto, along with some of the other stronger or more boyish girls, was up at the very front, rocking back and forth from heel to toe, hoping to be picked.

"I-I vote Makoto-chan!" Yukiho announced as loud as she could. Some of the other girls murmured agreement. The other strong girls were visibly upset. Hibiki nodded.

"Anyone else?"

"You should do it, Hibiki-dono!"

"Yes, Hibiki-dono! Our fearless leader! Please defeat the Alpha Males!"

Hibiki looked down to her "fan club", a small group of some of the weaker girls. "So looks like I might have to do the dirty work myself. Anyone else who you think should take on the Alpha Dudes?"

"Yukiho!"

Yukiho froze. What?! Who in their right minds could possibly want me to go after them? I'm weak and afraid...how can I... Her thoughts ended abruptly. Suddenly the crowd was a flurry of excitement. The quiet, frightened girls were chanting Yukiho's name, apparently convinced that among the weak, she was the strongest, and anxious to show everyone how strong a weak girl could be.

The strong girls up front were determined to be chosen or send Hibiki to do the work, since she was considered to be one of the best fighters in the whole facility.

The more flirtatious girls were dead-set on Makoto, since they believed that the handsome, boyish girl would easily be able to infiltrate the Alpha Male's hideout and wipe them all out because of her current status.

Hibiki's eyes swept over the crowd. Finally, she yelled, "UGYAA! Shut up, yo!" and waited for the girls' voices to die out. She sighed. "Well, since it's impossible to figure out who has the most votes, I'll just have to send all o' 'em in—me, Makoto, and Yukiho. I'll come up with a plan. Sound good?"

"Can I go for back-up?" one of the strong girls up front begged, standing on her toes, fists clenched. Yukiho had met her once, and in a way, the tomboy reminded her of Makoto. Yukiho remembered that her name was Tomomi.

Several of the other strong girls, including Makoto, voiced their agreement. "I think sh-she should help..." Yukiho called, trying to make her voice be heard.

Hibiki nodded. "Well, since you all seem to think that's a great idea, we'll take you along, Tomomo."

"It's Tomomi, actually..."

"I like Tomomo more. Now everyone, go prepare yourselves or somthin'. Things could get ugly, so I want ya to be prepared. Capisce?"

"Yeah!" the girls cheered. Yukiho shrunk back against the wall. Makoto was running over to her.

"Yukiho, you look scared," she commented.

"Really now?" Yukiho snapped. "Oh...I don't mean to be rude. But I'm scared, and I don't know what kind of idiot would actually vote for me. I mean, how could someone be so stupid? If that fool hadn't said anything, I wouldn't be in this position..." She trailed off. Makoto's expression had changed to one of hurt and a bit of anger.

"Geez, Yukiho, you really think I'm that dumb? I was the one who suggested your name," she said. "I thought it would be a great chance for you to improve your courage. Plus, if you stared at them with those cute, innocent little eyes for long enough, I'm pretty sure no guy would be able to hurt you anyways. But I guess it was a stupid move, huh?"

Yukiho blushed. "Oh...um, I'm sorry, Makoto-chan...I didn't realize it was you..." Yukiho paused. "Then, just...just promise me..."

"You'll get out of there alive, Yukiho," Makoto promised, squatting until she was eye-level with the terrified girl. Her eyes were serious. "I'll die if it means you'll get out alive."

"Don't!" Yukiho cried, flinging her arms around Makoto's neck. "Don't die! Please! I-I'm not worth it!"

"Sure you are," Makoto insisted, giggling. "But I'll try not to die. Promise me though, that if I do, you won't be too upset to keep fighting?"

Yukiho sniffed. "I can't promise that," she whimpered. "You're my best friend, so if you died..."

"I'll be fine with that. As long as you survive. Promise?"

"B-but...Makoto-chan..."

"Promise?" Makoto repeated, staring into Yukiho's eyes.

Yukiho sniffed again. "Y...yes, I promise," she said quietly. "I...thank you, Makoto-chan. Please don't die."

"I'll try."

"Promise!"

"I can't..."

"Makoto-chan!"

Makoto sighed. Slowly, Yukiho released her and slid to the floor. Makoto knelt down in front of her. "You know full well I can't make that promise," she said sadly. "But, how about this; I can promise that I won't die until you're there with me, OK? So you can say goodbye." She held out her pinky. "OK?"

Yukiho smiled ruefully and wrapped her pinky around Makoto's. "OK."

Yukiho yawned. "I-it's so early..." she murmured. "I love the morning. Don't you, Tomomi-chan?"

The red-haired girl nodded. "Yes, it's peaceful. I'm always less energetic in the morning. My life is so fast-paced, though, so it's nice to get a break," she added.

Yukiho, Tomomi, Makoto, and Hibiki were camping out a few miles away from the rock that housed the facility. Makoto was dressed in her red cloak to fend off any men who happened to spot them. She would say that she was taking them to the facility and that they were resting for the moment. Hopefully, no guards would notice that the group was heading in the opposite direction of the facility.

Tomomi and Yukiho were currently the only ones awake. Hibiki was talking in her sleep about catching fish, and Makoto occasionally cried out something like "NO! LOOK AWAY, YOU PERVERT~!" and lashed at nothing before relaxing back into sleep. Yukiho and Tomomi were watching them with interest and chatting about whatever they felt like. Yukiho had been put significantly more at-ease since the journey had started.

"They're lucky," Tomomi said suddenly. "I always wake up early. But some people can sleep in."

"I can sleep in," Yukiho commented. "B-but I didn't today..."

"They're even funny when they sleep," Tomomi laughed, gesturing to Hibiki making fishing motions and muttering about "that giant rainbow trout I caught...what a beauty she is..."

"Yes, I agree." Yukiho giggled. She gazed at Makoto's sleeping figure. The peace was momentarily disturbed by one of her loud outbursts. Yukiho giggled again. "What do you think she's dreaming about?"

"We should ask when she wakes up," Tomomi suggested. Yukiho nodded. Hibiki stirred, sat up slowly, and rubbed her eyes.

"Ugyaa, that was some dream," she murmured.

"Did you dream you were fishing, Hibiki-dono?" Tomomi asked politely.

Hibiki shook her head. "No, I dreamed I went skydivin' off o' the side of jupiter. And it had Touma's face..." She paused. "Why, was I talkin' in my sleep?"

"Yeah, and you kept making fishing motions...wow, I thought you were fishing for sure!" Tomomi exclaimed.

"Well, I went fishin' on Jupiter once in Touma's mouth, but then I got kicked off so I went skydivin' instead," Hibiki explained. "Is Makoto up?"

"No, she's still dreaming," Yukiho answered, pointing to the sleeping girl.

"No...stop it...go away...I don't want you here..." Makoto muttered.

"It seems she is," Hibiki agreed. "Well, I oughta wake 'er up..."

"No way, this is funny!" Tomomi begged.

"We gotta go take them Alpha Dudes down, Tomomo," Hibiki sighed. "I gotta get 'er up. 'Ey, Makoto...get up, girl, we gotta get movin'!"

Makoto moaned. "Stop touching me~..."

"Makoto, you're dreamin'. Get up."

"No...I just want to take a shower in peace..."

"MAKOTO! GET UP, YA FREAK!"

Makoto screamed and bolted upright. "NO! THE PERVERTS! THEY'RE EVERYWHERE~!"

Tomomi burst out laughing, her bright green eyes sparkling. Hibiki frowned and shook her head. Yukiho herself giggled slightly at her friend's random outbursts.

"What were you dreaming about?" Tomomi asked between peals of laughter.

Makoto blushed. "Um...was I talking in my sleep? I've been told I do that sometimes..."

"Yeah, and it was hilarious!"

Makoto sighed. "Well, it started out as a simple camping trip, but then Iori was there and she grew these devil horns and pushed me into the mud, so I went to take a shower in this weird crystal lake place. So then these perverts kept stalking me, and I think one of them was Producer, and so I threw my shoe at them. Even though I took my shoes off. Apparently they fell from the waterfall or something. So then-"

"Ugyaa, hurry up. We ain't got all day!" Hibiki interrupted.

"I'm getting there," Makoto snapped. "So the perverts kept staring at me and stuff, so I got all self-conscious, but they wouldn't go away. Oh yeah, and Hokuto was there too. And then suddenly they were all in Speedos, and they got in the water and started chasing me, so I swam away up the waterfall, but then Producer grabbed my foot and pulled me back down, and then I got sexually harassed. It was kinda cool, but really scary at the same time..."

"Did Hokuto rape ya?" Hibiki asked suddenly. Makoto blushed.

"N-no..." she muttered.

"Oh. I thought that would've made ya happy."

"N-no way! Besides, they're all part of the Alpha Males now..."

The smile on Yukiho's face vanished abruptly. "What did you say?" she squeaked.

Hibiki blinked. "Didn't ya know? All those dudes who used to be our friends are part of the Alpha Dudes now," she said bluntly. "They wanna kill us."

Yukiho's eyes watered. "Even...even Producer-san?"

Hibiki nodded. "Yep."

"No!" Yukiho shouted. "You...you're lying! Producer-san would never be a part of something so terrible!" She collapsed in sobs. Makoto moved to her side and placed a comforting arm around her shoulders. Yukiho buried her face in Makoto's chest and sobbed louder. It can't be! Not Producer-san!

"I'm sorry, Yukiho. It must be hard to believe. But, that's just the way it is now," Makoto said soothingly. "Try not to back off when the battle comes, OK? Please?"

Yukiho tried to speak, but she was so choked by her sobs that she could say nothing. Makoto pulled her closer and hugged her gently. Tomomi placed a hand on her shoulder. Hibiki placed her chin on Yukiho's head for a moment before retreating and gazing at the sun, slowly climbing above the horizon.

All of a sudden, the coming battle felt much more real to Yukiho.

"We're here at the hideout," Hibiki whispered. "Now, everyone be silent. Makoto will get us in."

Makoto nodded. "You guys stay here behind this tree, and I'll get rid of the guards." She ran out from behind the girls' hiding spot. Yukiho cowered into Hibiki.

This is it, she thought. I'm not ready...!

"Hey, you two!" Yukiho recognized Makoto's man-voice, the specific voice she used when dealing with the Alpha Males. "What are you doing standing around when there's a huge group of girls down south? The Commander told me to send you off. I'll guard here."

"That's funny, The Commander never said anything to us," one of the guards said warily.

"Yeah, and we didn't see anyone pass through the gates..." the other guard added.

"Because they took the back gate, you idiots! I told you they were in the south! Now go!" Makoto ordered.

"But why should The Commander tell you this stuff and not us?" the first guard questioned.

"Maybe because I'm higher in rank. And rightfully so! Get out of here!" Makoto snapped. The guards shuffled off, slightly startled by the harshness in her tone. Makoto turned back to the tree once they were gone and waved the others over.

"Not bad," Hibiki praised. "Good job o' thinkin' under pressure. Anywho, ya guys ready?"

"Yeah!" Makoto and Tomomi agreed.

"No!" Yukiho said.

Makoto hugged her quickly. "Come on, Yukiho. We have to do this, OK? Now, you go on in and stay with Hibiki. She'll keep you safe."

"I want to go with you," Yukiho said quietly.

"I know, but you can't. I have to use this disguise to get farther into the hideout and scope ahead. So you stay with Hibiki, and Tomomi will head off alone. That was the plan, right?"

"Right," Hibiki answered. "Now c'mon with me, girl! We got work to do!"

Yukiho shivered. "Y-yes ma'am," she whispered, clinging to Hibiki's arm. Hibiki gently coaxed her inside, then paused and let Makoto take the lead. The three groups branched off in different directions, always trying to keep close to Makoto. All throughout the first floor, there were no problems. But everyone, especially Yukiho, knew that the higher they went, the more dangerous things would get.

Because the third floor served only one purpose—to shelter The Commander, the cleverest and strongest member of the Alpha Males ever.

"Yukiho, can ya hear me? How's your watch, is it trackin' properly?" Hibiki's voice echoed in Yukiho's ear.

"Yes, I can hear you. It's working fine, thank you," Yukiho replied. Each member of the team had been allotted headgear so they could keep in touch and a watch equipped with a tracking device to help them keep track of the other members.

"Good," Hibiki said. "Now, we're gonna move forward just to that next hallway, 'kay? Makoto says it's clear."

"OK...have you heard from Tomomi-chan?" Yukiho asked, changing the subject. She moved forward a little bit, peeking out at her surroundings. When she saw that the coast was indeed clear and spotted Hibiki across the way waving her over, she crossed the hall quickly and advanced with Hibiki to the next hiding spot.

"Tomomo? No, I ain't been hearin' from her," Hibiki admitted. Yukiho turned a small dial on her headset, tuning in to Tomomi's head gear.

"Tomomi-chan?" she whispered into the microphone.

"Yukiho-san?" came the alarmed and frightened reply. "Yukiho-san! Help me!"

Yukiho's heart stopped beating for a moment. "W-what?"

"They found me!" Tomomi's voice cried. Hibiki flinched. Yukiho heard the voice of a man in the background, laughing and taunting the terrified Tomomi.

"W-what are they doing?"

"Help me! Oh, Yukiho-san...th-they took my-" Tomomi's voice broke off and she screamed. The man laughed. "Help me! Help me, Yukiho-san...help...someone help me!"

Tomomi's end became fuzzy. Yukiho was frozen in fear. "T-Tomomi-chan?" she whispered softly. Hibiki's eyes flittered to her watch in time to see the red dot representing Tomomi flicker out. "Tomomi-chan?" Yukiho repeated, a little louder. Tears tugged at her eyes and she moved closer to Hibiki.

Tomomi Mistumoto has been terminated, came the system voice from the watch. The tears spilled from Yukiho's eyes and she buried her face in Hibiki's shoulder. Hibiki hugged her and kept her eyes on the hallway, searching for any signs of men.

"They got Tomomi-chan." Yukiho sobbed, "and I'm so much weaker than her. I'm going to die here, Hibiki-chan!"

"We ain't gonna die, Yukiho," Hibiki hissed through gritted teeth. "We'll kill 'em before they can kill us."

"I can't!" Yukiho wailed. "I can't kill!"

"You're gonna have to learn," Hibiki said sadly. "We all had to learn. If we want to survive. We have to fight."

"Hey, guys?" Makoto's voice cut in. "Guys, I've cleared up the next three hallways. All of them are knocked out and I'm sending these last two out the window now. You can advance. Oh, and did Tomomi...was Tomomi killed?"

Yukiho sniffed. "Yes," she choked out.

There was silence. "That's...terrible."

"I'm scared!" Yukiho insisted.

"I know. Now quickly, move up. There should be guards returning any time now. There's a vacant room up here somewhere, so you can hide in there."

Hibiki looked at Yukiho and dislodged her from her shoulder. "Let's go, girl," she said comfortingly. "We gotta move up. C'mon..."

Makoto took a deep breath. That's the second floor, she thought. Hopefully Hibiki and Yukiho will be OK getting this far. Now, time to...

The thought was too daunting to finish. Taking another deep breath, Makoto started up the stairs to thethird floor—and The Commander.

I'd better be a pretty darn convincing boy if I'm going to make it out of this alive.

"We only have a few more hallways before we've made it to the third floor," Hibiki exclaimed gleefully. "We're close! Once we take down The Commander, we'll be able to chase the other Alpha Dudes away without any problem, eh?"

"Yes, that sounds right," Yukiho said. Her spirits had been greatly restored by having Hibiki by her side, Makoto's spoken encouragements through the microphone, and their so-far-unhindered progress. "I think I'm prepared now. But I would really like it if you could do most of the fighting for me."

Hibiki laughed. "Yeah, I will. Don't ya worry, girl."

Suddenly, masculine voices sounded behind them. Hibiki and Yukiho whirled around and spotted a group of at least six men running towards them. Hibiki growled.

"Ya keep goin'!" she demanded. "They didn't make me the leader o' the facility for nothin'! I'll fight 'em off!"

Startled into instant obedience, Yukiho turned and darted farther towards the third floor. She looked over her shoulder one more time to see Hibiki letting out a piercing battle cry and charging the men. In seconds, she had twisted one of their clubs out of their hands and was using it to attack them furiously. Filled with relief and a new courage, Yukiho ran on. I'm coming, Makoto-chan...!

"He's not here?" Makoto gasped to the empty space. "What the heck, man?! I was all pumped and everything! Now you just had to go and ruin things." She sighed. "I guess I'll just wait here."

Settling down on a large recliner, Makoto pulled the hood from her face and flicked the cloak behind her shoulders. I should be ready to throw this back on, since I chose to wear a skirt today. He'd definitely find out I was a girl if he saw that. Unless...unless he figured I just like cross-dressing.

For the first time, Makoto spotted a large mirror on the wall. She crossed the room to it and glanced at herself. She sighed.

"I really don't need that hood, do I?" she muttered. "Why can't I look more feminine? Although this outfit is awfully cute." She giggled. "I should wear to show off one day."

"Show off what?"

Makoto froze. Out of the corner of the mirror, she could spot a man who appeared in his thirties, wearing a golden cape and heavy armor. His hand was poised to grip the handle of a pale yellow club that resembled a baby rattle, but much larger and solider. Makoto swallowed.

"Nothing," she insisted, reverting to her man-voice.

"Oh, really?" The man smirked. "Are you the General from that secret facility? I don't believe we've ever met."

"Yes, that is me."

"A pleasure to meet you." The man took a few steps forward. Makoto drew her cloak back around her shoulders. "I am The Commander. Why are you in my room?"

"I was looking for you, Sir," Makoto lied, turning to face him. She gave a slight bow.

"Oh, really? You seem like a rather feminine young 'man'. If you don't mind my saying so." The Commander's smirk grew wider. Makoto forced herself not to blush. "Now then, what did you need me for, General?"

"I wanted..." Makoto trailed off. "Um...I forgot..."

The Commander stepped closer until he was only about a foot away. "Tell me...aren't you a girl?"

Makoto froze. Fear gripped her heart like icy claws. "No," she said, her voice cracking.

"Then," The Commander began, "would you mind removing your shirt for me? I want to see if you are truly muscular enough to be a general."

Makoto's legs trembled. If I give in, he won't suspect me as soon. I can buy time. But...I'm a 17-year-old girl, and he looks like a 36-year-old man! I don't want him to see me naked~! Forcing herself to obey, Makoto slowly began to pull her shirt from her shoulders. The Commander's smirk grew until it stretched across his whole face.

Yukiho better get here soon...

Yukiho hustled quickly along the hallways, twisting and turning through passages and trying to reach the black dot indicating Makoto's location. She knew that, wherever her best friend had gone, she was likely to be very near The Commander if not already with him. Suddenly, her watch flashed.

Warning. Warning. Makoto Kikuchi in serious confrontation. Warning. Warning.

Yukiho stopped running. "M-Makoto-chan?" she said quietly into her microphone. "Makoto-chan?"

There was no reply.

Suddenly scared again, Yukiho stared down at the watch. Makoto's dot was still bright. She isn't dead. Thank goodness...

The message appeared again. Yukiho stared down the hallway she was in, and then glanced back down at the watch. Hibiki was still far behind her, fighting the men. Since the watch hadn't flashed a warning, Yukiho assumed she was winning. Makoto's dot was only a few hallways away, but the urgency of her warning message, repeated more and more often, told Yukiho that she still might not make it in time to help her dear friend. Setting her mind simply on reaching Makoto in time, Yukiho raced down the hall.

Don't die, Makoto-chan! Remember your promise! I'm coming!

Makoto squeezed her eyes shut and let her shirt drop to the floor. The Commander was grinning. "So then, you are a girl," he stated.

"Maybe I'm just a firm believer in cross-dressing?" Makoto suggested, a twinkle in her eye.

The Commander's eyes flicked to her chest. Makoto blushed and crossed her arms to hide herself. "Take it off," he ordered. Makoto's face burned bright red.

"W-what?" she stammered. "Just l-let me leave, or attack me or something, but you don't have to-"

"You're a girl," The Commander interrupted, removing his baby-rattle club from his belt. "So I'm going to treat you like one."

"Forget it," Makoto snapped, bending to pick up her shirt.

The Commander's club lashed out and caught her under the chin. Makoto stumbled back, startled and hurt.

"Do as I say and there will be no consequences," he growled. "Disobey and your head will be the first thing to go." He grinned evilly. "Followed by your friends."

"Yukiho...!" Makoto gasped.

"You understand, then?" The Commander chuckled. "Your resistance has cost you already. Don't make it cost you more."

Standing slowly and shakily, Makoto reached around to her back, her eyes beginning to water. Quickly she wiped them, then returned to fumbling at the fastening of her bra with her fingers. The Commander watched her, his club gripped tightly in his hand.

Warning. Warning. Makoto Kikuchi in serious confrontation. Warning. Warning. Code Red. Warning.

The message was getting more and more urgent until it covered the screen of Yukiho's watch. Fear tugged at her every move, making her run faster. She had taken a wrong turn since she could no longer see her map and was now desperately trying to get to Makoto. Hibiki's voice had told her that the tan, Okinawan girl had defeated her adversaries and was now focused on finding the others.

"Makoto-chan! Are you there?" Yukiho cried into her headset for the hundredth time.

"Yukiho..." The voice sounded broken and sad. "Yukiho...don't come after me..."

Yukiho froze. "Makoto-chan? Where are you?"

"Please...stay away," was the half-whispered reply.

"Why?" Yukiho demanded. "Where are you? Are you hurt? Makoto-chan...!"

"Just...stay away." Yukiho was sure she could hear tears in the voice.

"Makoto-chan? Are you crying?" she asked softly. "What's going on? Tell me where you are, please!"

"I'm with The Commander."

It was all Makoto had to say. The strength left Yukiho's body and she fell to her knees.

"What is he doing to you?" Yukiho wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.

"Please don't come after me," was all Makoto said in reply. Her voice was soft and cracking all over the place. A small sob sounded from her end. The Commander's voice followed soon after:

"Now, what about that skirt?"

"What is he doing?" Yukiho shouted. "Makoto-chan! I'm coming...!"

"Don't!" Makoto snapped.

Yukiho let out a cry. "Please let me help!"

"Stay away, Yukiho!" There was an angry grunt, a loud, pained scream...then Makoto's end went fuzzy. Shaken by sobs, Yukiho glanced down at her watch to see that the same message was still in place. When it didn't change, Yukiho assumed that Makoto was still alive. Despite the strong girl's repeated warnings, Yukiho rose to her feet and started down the hallway again. She had to find her friend, whether it meant she would be killed or not. Courage raged within her, and suddenly, the fear left her body.

"Are you happy now, 'Sir'?" Makoto hissed, resisting the urge to cross her arms across her chest. "Now let me get out of here."

"I'm not done yet," The Commander half-purred. "I told you that your resistance had cost you. What I forgot to mention was that I wasn't done charging you."

"You told me that you would leave me alone if I did what you said!" Makoto snapped.

"I said no such thing," The Commander stated calmly. He raised his arm holding the club. "Now be a good girl and don't fight back. If you do, it will make things worse for your friend. She seemed awfully concerned for you...are you close?"

"You leave Yukiho out of this!" Makoto demanded. If she shows up after all she'll be in danger. I guess I'd better...I guess I should just let him attack me. Hopefully Hibiki will find me and get over here...but I hope Yukiho will stay away. She's not strong enough and it would make things worse if she were here.

The Commander raised the club higher. Makoto took a deep breath and raised her chin, a dignified expression on her face.

"Hurt me if you want," she muttered. "But I won't let you touch Yukiho."

The Commander's grin widened. "Good girl," he whispered. He brought the club slamming down—straight into Makoto's bare breast. She let out an anguished cry of pain and fell to her knees, clutching at her chest and gritting her teeth. The Commander knelt in front of her, lifting her chin.

"Now do you see how foolish you were for coming here?" he murmured. "I like you. It's a shame you have to die. I'll make it as painful as I can...so don't worry."

Silently, Makoto wished she had asked Yukiho to come after her after all. The Commander raised his club again. Her eyes squeezed shut.

Someone...!

Yukiho stood staring up the stairs to the closed door of The Commander's room. As she started up the stairs, an agonized cry rang throughout the castle, filled with the most anguish Yukiho had ever heard. She paused. "I-it couldn't have been...Makoto-chan, right?" she whispered to herself. Please, please don't let her be dead...

While she was standing on the stairs, debating whether or not to go in, another pain-filled cry erupted from the doorway, followed by choked sobs. Yukiho's courage flared anew within her.

They better not be hurting my Makoto-chan!

More cries sounded in rapid succession. Sometimes Yukiho could hear the thump of the weapon. Other times it was drowned out by the pure sounds of intense pain. Tears beginning to form in her own eyes and a sense of the need for revenge filling her soul, Yukiho finished her ascent up the stairs and pushed open the door.

The sight that met her eyes almost made Yukiho want to turn back around. There was Makoto, slumped half-dead against the far wall, blood gushing from wounds all over her body. Barely past the scarlet liquid, Yukiho could see that she was naked. Crouched over her was a man in heavy armor and a golden cloak. In his right hand he held Makoto's wrist, and in his left hand a pale yellow club was raised in the air, with a narrow handle and a wide, somewhat-edged top. The pain filling Makoto's half-closed eyes made Yukiho want to cry, but she forced herself to be brave. The boyish girl's face grew brighter when Yukiho entered the room.

"Yukiho," she said softly, her voice broken and quiet. "Yukiho. You came. I-" She broke off and coughed violently, splattering blood on the ground. "I thought I was going to have...to have to die without you."

Yukiho's eyes blurred and finally the tears she'd been holding in spilled from her cheeks, but her courage had been increased tenfold at seeing the horrors that had befallen her best friend. She glared angrily at the man crouched over Makoto.

"You!" she almost hissed, surprised at the fury welling up within her. "You're the one who hurt her like this! How could you?!"

The man faced her. "So you're the precious friend. You showed up after all, I see," he commented. "I am The Commander. And you are...?"

"I'm the girl who used to be a coward," Yukiho began, "but now I'm going to be the girl who defeats you once and for all!" Where did all this courage and rage come from? I'm a little bit scared of myself. I'm pretty cool, aren't I...?

The Commander laughed and stood. "Defeat me? That's funny," he said. "I'll have to just let your friend bleed out over there. Looks like I'll have to kill you first."

The next minutes happened in slow motion. The man lunged at Yukiho, his club raised. Yukiho suddenly froze, her moment of courage gone when faced with such a dangerous person, and a man no less. The next moment, Makoto had flung herself, with great effort, into the man, and knocked him to his face. His bloody club flew out of his hands. Instinctually, Yukiho headed after it. Angrily The Commander turned on Makoto and began to simply dig his nails into her skin and tear away as much flesh as he could. Makoto cried out in pain.

"No! Get off of her!" Yukiho yelled, running over to the man. Blindly, she swung the club at him with all her strength and managed to bash his skull in. Again and again she slammed the club against The Commander's body. He turned and growled at her, managing to yank a knife from his belt and slice a cut down Yukiho's arm. Grunting with the effort, Makoto heaved his arm back towards her and forced the knife into his own leg, while Yukiho recovered. When she could move her arm again, Yukiho began bashing at The Commander again. The Commander slammed his knife into Makoto's chest in an effort to make Yukiho sadder, but the move only fueled her rage. Finally, after what seemed like forever, The Commander let out a loud cry and crumpled to the ground.

"You think you've won, don't you?" he growled, sitting back up for a moment, his body shaking. "But you haven't won. Even if I die...you will not win! Because there are more of us! There are more..." He collapsed again. His head bled and bled, and after a moment, Yukiho realized he was dead. She let out a breath of relief. The world returned to normal speed. Yukiho turned her attention to the bloody and naked Makoto.

"Makoto-chan?" she whispered, bending beside her friend. "Are you...s-still alive? Makoto-chan?"

"I'm alive," Makoto croaked. "Injured, embarrassed...but alive."

"I'm so sorry!" Yukiho wailed, throwing herself on Makoto.

"Ow..."

"Sorry again!"

"Sorry...s-sorry for what?" Makoto asked, coughing. "You saved me. Thank you."

"I put you in danger by coming here...I should have listened..." Yukiho cut off and started to cry. "Please don't die!"
Makoto smiled weakly and placed her hand on Yukiho's cheek. "Yukiho, you were great today. You were very brave. I'm proud of you. But..." She broke off. Yukiho clutched her hand. "But I was dead before you even got here, Yukiho. I kept my promise, I held off until you arrived. However, I can't go any farther."

"Please don't die!" Yukiho repeated. "Please! I don't want to lose you!"

"Yukiho..."

"Makoto-chan!"

"Yukiho...!"

"Makoto-chan..."

"Yukiho."

"Makoto-chan...?"

"FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD, GIRL, JUST SAY WHATCHA WANNA SAY!" Hibiki's voice erupted. The Okinawan girl came running into the room. "Sorry I was late, I got stuck in a rut. Now what the heck happened here?"

"Hibiki-chan!" Yukiho cried. "Makoto-chan...she's dying!"

"What?!" Hibiki rushed to the two's side. "She's naked too! Where the heck are your clothes?"

"I took them off..."
"Why in the world-"

"He made me! You guys took t-too long!" Makoto coughed again. Her face scrunched up in pain.

Hibiki looked down at her sadly. "Well, we almost made it out alive..."

"Don't talk like that! We can fix her, right?" Yukiho demanded.

Hibiki examined Makoto's wound. "Yeowch, he got your chest, huh? I think this is about as unfixable as I've ever seen, yo. Sorry 'bout that."

"Please try," Yukiho begged. Hibiki shook her head.

"It's pointless. I can't waste what little medicine we've got on a lost cause. I'm sorry," she said firmly. Yukiho sniffed. "And by the way, what happened to him?" She gestured to the crumpled figure of The Commander.

"Yukiho killed him," Makoto announced proudly. Her voice was becoming extremely hoarse, and the only thing keeping her hand on Yukiho's face was Yukiho's own hand.

"So she did, did she?" Hibiki nodded approvingly. "I knew ya could do it, girl! What'd we tell ya? Good job!"

"But she's still dying..." Yukiho muttered. "I thought we would all survive! I wanted us all to live! But then the Alpha Males got Tomomi-chan...and now The Commander attacked Makoto-chan like this...what do I do?"

"I'll tell you what you do," Makoto hissed. "You go out there and beat the others. No mercy. Got it?"

"But-"

"No buts! Please, just do it for me." Makoto's eyes were pleading.

Yukiho nodded. "Yes...I'll do it. As your last request, Makoto-chan...I'll fulfill it! I'll defeat them!"

Makoto smiled. "Thank you, Yukiho. Thank you." Her eyes closed. "I love you, OK? Don't forget that. Thank you..."

Her chest stopped rising and falling. She said nothing else. Her eyes were frozen shut. Yukiho let out a grief-filled cry. Hibiki almost howled in her rage and sadness. As a last deed before they left the room, Yukiho and Hibiki hoisted Makoto into The Commander's bed and pulled the covers over her exposed body. Yukiho leaned down and kissed her cheek. Gently, Hibiki placed and hand around her shoulder and lead her out of the room.

"Ya did a good job, Yukiho," she said softly. "I'm proud o' ya."

"Thank you," Yukiho replied quietly.

Slowly, the two made their way into the rooms housing the other major generals of the Alpha Males. Together they managed to kill or scare away all of them. In every battle, Yukiho wielded the pale yellow, bloody club that had belonged to The Commander, which helped prove that he had died to the other generals. The lesser Alpha Males were simply forced into submission under their new rulers. Producer was discovered among the lesser Alpha Males and, after some begging and crying, remembered his past as a good friend of the girls' and agreed to help keep the Alpha Males under control. Hokuto was also found and, when he heard the news of Makoto's death and Yukiho and Hibiki had spoken with him enough to convince him to be on their side, he quickly ascended to the third floor to sit with Makoto and whisper to her, even though he knew it was already too late (Yukiho was only slightly concerned that anyone would use her death to an advantage to see what a naked girl looked like. She felt fairly certain that no one, not even Hokuto, would be heartless enough to do such a thing.)

After a few more minutes of walking, Yukiho and Hibiki stumbled across Tomomi's curly-haired body lying motionless against a wall on the second floor, bleeding through a wound on her no-longer-beating heart. Yukiho saw that whoever had attacked her had stolen her shirt. Why are these men all perverts? Slowly, they carried her upstairs and laid her in The Commander's bed beside Makoto. Then they left the hideout, clutching each other's hand, knowing that if the Alpha Males were ever to rise again, they would be ready.

When they reached the facility again, there were many girl outside waiting. One of them was a quiet girl named Shizune, who Yukiho remembered was Tomomi's younger sister. She tried to explain the news of her sibling's in a gentle way and had almost succeeded when Hibiki blurted it out in the bluntest way possible and Shizune burst into tears. Yukiho sat with her for the rest of the day, comforting her, and in turn received much praise and comfort from Shizune.

At the end of the day, Yukiho settled down to sleep. Hibiki was in a small makeshift sleeping bag on the floor in her room to be there for moral support if Yukiho couldn't make it through the night.

Since the moment she had beaten The Commander, the courage and spirit hadn't left Yukiho's body. Pride swelled in her chest as she thought about the things she had accomplished for the good of the world. For the first time since she'd arrived, Yukiho was glad she was there. She drifted into sleep and dreamt of her own brave deeds.

Epilogue

When Yukiho awoke, she was no longer in her bed in the facility. She felt someone's arm beneath her arms and under her knees. Someone was carrying her. The sun in her eyes prevented her from seeing who. For a moment she thought it might have been one of the Alpha Males, so she struggled against their hold.

"Ow, Yukiho," the person holding her complained. "Stop hurting me. I'm just taking you back to the agency, it's not like I'm kidnapping you..."

Yukiho blinked against the glare of the sun's rays. She lifted a hand to block the fierce light and caught a better view of her "kidnapper". She gasped.

"M-Makoto-chan!" she cried, flinging her arms around her "kidnapper's" neck.

"Um, yeah, it's me," her "kidnapper" answered. "See, you went out on a walk, and then when you didn't come back I got worried. So I came out to look for you and found you asleep on that bench, and now I'm taking you to the agency."

"I thought you were dead!" Yukiho gasped.

Makoto laughed. "Dead? Yeah, Yukiho. I died while I was carrying you back because your skin is poison." She laughed again. "Why did you think I was dead?"

"Because...b-because The Commander attacked you," Yukiho whimpered. "A-and he made you take off your clothes, and then he killed you...so I killed him back...um..." Suddenly it dawned on her. "Was I just...dreaming?" Her arms dropped from Makoto's neck and she fell limp in her arms.

"I guess...I mean, I am still alive," Makoto pointed out. "Now, we're almost back..."

"But it all felt so real!" Yukiho protested. "How could it have been a dream?"

Makoto shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about, Yukiho. Look, the agency is here. Let's go inside…"

"Hibiki was there…and you were there! And then you died…"

Makoto placed Yukiho down on the ground. "I died? Ah man, your subconscious killed me!"

"I'm sorry," Yukiho giggled. Suddenly, it hit her. Yukiho's courage still hadn't left her. She could still feel the strength flooding through her. "Um…Makoto-chan?"

"Yeah?"

Yukiho smiled. She hugged Makoto and kissed her cheek. "I love you, Makoto-chan. You're my best friend. You know that, right?"

Makoto smiled. "Yeah, I do."

"Well, I just wanted you to know that you won't have to worry about me anymore. I'm a lot stronger now, and I can take care of myself. In the dream, I…" Yukiho trailed off. "Makoto-chan?"

"I'm listening."

"Well, in the dream I had to kill some men. It was very scary. I was terrified. But I did it, and so now I'm not afraid anymore! I'm a lot more courageous. So you won't have to worry about me," Yukiho promised. She giggled. "Actually, I might be the one protecting you from now on."

"Like that would ever happen," Makoto scoffed, giggling. "Now come on inside. Hibiki made us some Okinawan food."

"Yay! I have to thank her for saving my life!"

"She will be very confused if you do that…"

"I know."

Slowly, laughing, the two friends strolled inside and ate Hibiki's delicious food. Yukiho knew that her promise to Makoto would be kept.

Her courage would not leave her any time soon.