Tangent: 801 T.T.S. Airbats

Inspired by the series Aozora Shoujotai (created by Shimizu Toshimitsu and Tokuma Shoten, released in Japan by JVC, and released as 801 T.T.S. Airbats in North America by A.D. Vision, Inc.) and DC Comics' Tangent imprint (created by Dan Jurgens).

My thanks to James King for letting me play in his sandbox.

Copyright 1999 by Rob Kelk


So this is Iruma Air Base, thought Takuya Isurugi as his driver stopped at the front gate. It doesn't look like the kind of place you'd expect to find one of the Project's installations. That's good. The guard compared the car's plates to his list and opened the gate without asking for ID.
      A few minutes later, the car stopped in front of a rundown building with the words "801st T.T.S." painted on the door. Isurugi got out and walked toward the door, his body illuminated from behind by the setting sun. He reached the building and stood where he was for half a minute.
      Suddenly the door slid open. There was nobody on the other side. Isurugi walked in without looking, and the door slid shut behind him. "Hello," he called out as he walked down the antiseptic steel corridor. "I realize that I'm early, but my flight got a good tailwind. Aren't any of you awake yet?"
      A door halfway down the corridor opened and an attractive young woman stepped out. She was wearing what looked like a Self-Defence Force duty uniform, except that it was completely in black and had no metal anywhere on it. "Oh, hello. You must be Isurugi, from headquarters. I'm Yoko Shimorenjaku; pleased to meet you."
      "Pleased to meet you, Miss Shimorenjaku," he replied. "You're one of the advanced trainees, aren't you?" She nodded. "Can you show me to my room, please?"
      "It's right here, sir." She gestured to the door opposite the one she had come through. "Please make yourself at home."
      Isurugi turned to the door and opened it, then quickly dived into the room as he felt her breath on his neck. He pulled out a cross as he turned around. "Naughty, naughty, Shimorenjaku. You'll get a bad review if you keep that up."
      She looked sheepish as she retracted her fangs. "Sorry, sir, but you looked so tasty! I just couldn't help myself ..."
      "I've been called many different things by the people I examine, but I've never had a vampire call me 'tasty' before. I suppose I should take that as a compliment ... So, where are the other members of the 801st Transformation Training Squadron?"
      "They're still asleep," she replied. "Nobody else can handle even indirect sunlight yet, so they won't be up for another ten minutes. I'd suggest locking yourself in your room for the next half hour, Mister Isurugi, unless you want some of the new ... recruits ... to snack on your blood."
      "You have a point there," he replied. As he closed and locked his door, he thought to himself, "The children of the night. What sweet music they make!" Yeah, right ...

Chapter 1

The four senior members of the 801st Transformation Training Squadron were waiting for their examiner to come in to the ready room. Shimorenjaku, the only one of them who didn't seem worried, was watching the latest "Bubblegum" music video on TV. Her three comrades were discussing the matter at hand in hushed voices.
      "I've never met Takuya Isurugi. I hope he doesn't think I'm a total washout." The speaker was an attractive brunette with pale skin (even compared to the usual vampire).
      The woman to her right looked at her with a mixture of pity and contempt. "If you keep thinking you're going to be a 'washout', Haneda, you will be one. Stop wallowing in your insecurities and grow up already!"
      Haneda looked straight into her companion's eyes. "That's easy for you to say, Saginomiya. You've met Isurugi before - you know what he's like. I've never even seen the man."
      "Well, he's not bad. For a human, that is." Saginomiya had to force the word 'human' out of her mouth.
      The third woman at the table looked at her. "You know, sometimes I think you don't like people who aren't vampires."
      "I like them just fine, Mitaka, as long as they remember their place. Some of my best friends are humans, after all."
      Shimorenjaku chose to join the conversation just then. "Hey, guys, relax! He's cute, and smart enough to carry a silver cross with him when he visits a vampire base, and he has really quick reflexes. I think he's just my type!"
      "And what is your type, anyway?" asked Mitaka.
      "AB Positive!" was Shimorenjaku's reply.
      "Actually, he's A Negative," interjected Saginomiya as the others groaned. "That caused a few problems when ... But that doesn't matter anymore."
      Everyone else in the room looked straight at her. When they realized she wasn't going to say anything else, they turned their eyes to the door.
      Mitaka was the first to speak. "Where is he? Is he keeping us waiting on purpose? We don't have all night, you know!"
      "He knows that," replied Saginomiya. "This delay is part of the first test, and you just failed it."
      Suddenly the door opened and Isurugi walked in, taking a pair of headphones away from his ears. "Right as always, Sakura. Trainee Arisa Mitaka, you have to learn how to wait for your objective. Your file says that you're always the first one to rush a stronghold in training exercises, and as a result you only have a 65% success rate in your simulated missions. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't bust you back to the general trainee group."
      She looked him straight in the eyes. "Because I'm the best 'people' person in this squadron, sir. Haneda is a shrinking violet, Shimorenjaku's an airhead ..."
      "What?!? Waaaaaaaahhhhhh ..."
      "... and Saginomiya has the worst superiority complex I've ever seen. Stop crying, Yoko. You need me with the advanced squad so that we can get along with any humans you team us with."
      Isurugi thought for a moment. "I'll keep that in mind when I make my recommendations. Miyuki Haneda, just what skills do you bring to this group?"
      Haneda looked flustered. "Well, sir, I ... ummmm ... well, I'm good with most security systems and a wide assortment of weapons. Since we're supposed to be a military unit, I guess those are good skills to have. Ummmm ... Sir."
      "Of course they are, Haneda," replied Isurugi. "Your defence of your place on this team leaves something to be desired, though - Mitaka was right when she called you a 'shrinking violet'. Trainee Yoko Shimorenjaku?"
      She jumped to her feet. "Sir, I'm familiar with all of the current trends in fashion and entertainment. You need my knowledge in order for the squad to blend in with the rest of the world. I'm also so very, very cute ..."
      "Of course you are," said Isurugi as he rolled his eyes. "And now for you, Sakura Saginomiya."
      She didn't bother looking at him. "Do I really have to say it?"
      Isurugi sighed. "No, not in public. I will be watching you closely during your field examination, though."
      All four vampires stared at the human. "Field examination?" they asked in unison.
      "That's right. Get plenty of sleep today - you leave half an hour after sunset." Isurugi turned and left them alone with their curiosity.

Chapter 2

"All right, you've done pretty well so far. It's time to start the final phase of your field examination." The four senior vampires of the 801st Transformation Training Squadron looked attentively at Isurugi. "On the other side of that door, you'll find overnight bags and civilian clothing. Choose something you think looks good on you, and take enough for three days - I don't want to see any of you back here in the next seventy-two hours."
      "Um, excuse me, sir, but how are we supposed to survive exposure to daylight?"
      Isurugu looked straight at Haneda as he answered her. "That's your problem, not mine. If you pass, you graduate. If you fail, you die. It's that simple."
      Haneda raised her hand. "How much money are you giving us for this operation, sir?" She continued to herself, maybe it'll be enough for a hotel room.
      "None. Be glad you're getting the civilian clothes." He ignored Haneda's shocked expression and turned to Saginomiya and Shimorenjaku. "Do either of you have any questions?" They both shook their heads. "Then get going, and good luck." He watched them leave to get changed, then went into a side room.
      There was one other person in that room - a tall man wearing coveralls and headphones. "The subjects are selecting their clothing now, sir," he said without turning around.
      "And the tracking devices and microphones?" asked Isurugi.
      "All working perfectly, sir. By this time tomorrow night, we should know who the mole is."
      "Good work, Konishi. Make sure you don't lose any of the signals. If you do, well, the base's 'blood bank' is running a little low ..."

"So, should we stick together or split up?" Mitaka was waiting for the traffic signal to change, just like her three companions.
      "I think we'll be able to survive better if we split up," replied Saginomiya. "We won't be as obvious a target, for one thing. Good luck, you three!"
      The other three watched her as she took off down the street. "That was stupid of her," muttered Haneda. "We could have looked out for each other. We are supposed to be a team, after all."
      "Well, what did you expect?" Mitaka turned to the other two. "Sakura's never been much of a 'team player', after all. And I don't want to hear any stupid comments about our volleyball games, Yoko."
      Shimorenjaku had a serious look on her face. "No, it's about time I dropped the 'stupid' act. There are some things you have to know, but couldn't be told while anyone else could hear me. First off, we're not the only organized vampires in existance ..."
      Haneda and Mitaka looked at Shimorenjaku in amazement. This couldn't be the same girl - no, woman - who they thought was a 'piece of fluff', could it? But the signs had been there for anyone to see if they were paying attention.
      "... and that's what the situation was three years ago, when I volunteered to be 'discovered' by the 801st. I just hope my information is still up to date - if I can't find Anshak and get him to help us, it's going to be very uncomfortable in a few hours."

Isurugi looked at the speaker in amazement. Shimorenjaku was the mole? "Are you sure that's her voice?" he asked Konishi, just as the door open behind him.
      "Takuya! It's time to end this!"
      "Hello, Sakura. What kept you?" Only then did he turn to face the other 'advanced trainee'.
      "I'm only going to ask this one more time - where is Hanako?"
      Isurugi sighed. "I'm going to tell you, but only because I just discovered who the Patriarchs' mole in our organization is. My daughter is living in Tokyo, with one of her aunts."
      "She's my daughter too, damn you!"
      "I thought you didn't want anything to do with 'mere humans' anymore, Sakura."
      "There's nothing 'mere' about Hanako! I have plans for her!"
      "Which is exactly why I've kept her out of your reach, 'darling'." Isurugi's voice dripped scarcasm with his last word. Suddenly there was a pistol in his hand.
      Saginomiya laughed when she saw it. "A .22 calibre? How much damage is that going to do?"
      "Enough - I don't want the silver bullets going all the way through your body, after all."
      Nobody moved for a long moment.
      Finally, Konishi cleared his throat. "I've got a location for you, sir. They've stopped at a small apartment building in the northern suburbs."
      Isurugi smiled. "We have them. Do your 'high lord' friends want in on this kill, Sakura?"
      "How many times do I have to tell you - it's just 'High Vampires', not 'High Lord Vampires'. I'll ask Prince La'avar." And she was gone.
      Perfect, thought Isurugi. If all goes well, we can get rid of two vampire groups at the same time - then the 801st will be all the more powerful ...

Chapter 3

There weren't very many people up and about at 3:15 AM. The ones that were usually paid attention to their jobs, and didn't have much contact with anyone else up and about at that time of night. There were some very interesting exceptions to that rule, though ...
      "Celeste, are you home? If you are, please let us in! It's Yoko!" Shimorenjaku was starting to sound desperate. "I have two friends with me, and we don't have time to reach any other safehouse before sunrise!"
      Haneda tugged on Shimorenjaku's sleeve. "She's not here, Yoko. If she was, she'd have opened the door already."
      "You're right, whoever you are," came an answer from behind the three members of the 801st. "Hello, Yoko. Long time no see."
      "Celeste! Thank heavens you're here! We need a place to stay during the day, and you're the only person I could find in this city."
      "Well, come in, then," replied the Patriarch as she unlocked the door to her apartment. "You're lucky I had to come home for a few things - Saint keeps me pretty busy these days."
      "What, is he pushing some of Anshak's work onto you now?" asked the redhead with a smile.
      Celeste saddened at the question. "You haven't heard, of course. Anshak is dead." The other vampire was too shocked to say anything. "It happened two weeks ago, in a battle with the High Vampire princess. At least he took Miyu with him ..." Celeste couldn't hold back the tears any longer.
      "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have made that joke. Is Saint in charge, then?" Celeste nodded at Yoko. "Oh, good. I hate to bother you, but the three of us need a place to stay. We're being tested to see how resourceful we can be, and we don't really want to mug some drunks to raise enough money for a hotel room. Can the three of us crash here for the next three nights?"
      "Sure. The more the merrier, I always say. When did you take nourishment last?"
      Yoko looked at her two companions. "I know that Haneda and I are okay for a while." She nodded at Haneda as she said that. "We fed before leaving the base. Mitaka, when did you last feed?"
      "Almost a week ago, and I'm starting to really feel it."
      Celeste moved toward her telephone. "I'll ask one of my 'family' to come visit, then. You can stop feeding before you kill the person, can't you?"
      "Oh, sure," replied Mitaka. "We don't have a lot of volunteer blood donors in the 801st, so we've learned to keep tight hold on our appetites. Nice place you've got here, by the way."
      "Thanks," replied Celeste. She called some of her 'family', then let Saint know she would be late.

Isurugi and Konishi were busy planning their attack. "Sir, I've been able to get command of two infantry squads. Is that enough?"
      "It should be," replied Isurugi as he hung up the phone. "My contact in NASA says they'll have one of their test satellites in the right place at 04:18 hours local time. I've arranged for a test use then."
      Konishi looked at his superior officer in awe. Somehow, he had managed to get control of one of those satellites. Even if it was just for a few minutes, their opposition would be very surprised. Assuming they survived, of course.
      "All right, Konishi, get those infantrymen in position. We're wasting time here ..."

"Hey, Sarge, do these orders make any sense to you?"
      "What's to make sense of, Hansen? The brass have gotta know what they're doing. We just do what we're told and let the officers worry about what makes sense."
      "Yeah, I guess so. It seems weird to be assaulting a terrorist group in the middle of the night, though."
      "They won't be expecting us at 4 AM, buddy. Chill, chill."
      "You've really go to work on your slang, you know that, Sarge?" The rest of the squad laughed. Hansen was still pensive. Why aren't we allowed to use our starlight scopes for a night op?

There was a knock at Celeste's door. She rose to answer it, and let an attractive young woman in. "Thanks for coming over, Jill. I should introduce you - Jill, this is Yoko Shimorenjaku, an old friend of mine, and Miyuki Haneda and Arisa Mitaka, friends of Yoko's. Arisa is the one I told you about. Everyone, this is Jill Goldman, our contact in the NSA, a member of my 'family', and one of my closest friends."
      "Pleased to meet you," said Jill as she removed her jacket. "Those are all Japanese names, aren't they? What brings you to this side of the Pacific?"
      "We're on a field examination," replied Mitaka as she walked over to Jill. "Our examiner wanted to see how well we'd cope with living in a strange city for three days with no money. I'm just glad Yoko knew Celeste - if she didn't, probably none of us would be reporting back to Isurugi."
      "Isurugi? Takuya Isurugi?" asked Jill in surprise.
      "You know him?" Haneda asked in equal surprise.
      "He requisitioned some tracking beacons from me yesterday!" Jill started looking at Mitaka's clothing, then pulled what looked like a button off the sleeve. "And here's one of them. Shit."
      Yoko looked devestated. "We just lead him right to you, Celeste. I'm sorry!"
      "Don't be sorry," said Mitaka, "be worried! What do we do next?"
      Just then, the infantry arrived.

Chapter 4

Sakura Saginomiya didn't know what was happening to her teammates, and she didn't really care. She finally had a lead on where her daughter was hiding, and that was the most important thing in her life. Using Isurugi's authority to book a night flight to Japan was the easy part - finding Hanako would be harder. While Sakura only had one sister, Isurugi had three, and she wasn't sure where all of them lived. But the important thing was she had a place to look. "Soon, Hana-chan, soon we'll be together."
      "What was that, ma'am?" asked the stewardess.
      Saginomiya was in a good mood, so she decided to answer the flight attendant. "I'm just thinking about my daughter. I haven't seen her for five years, and I'm finally able to visit her."
      "That's wonderful! Is there a special occasion you're marking, or is this a surprise visit?"
      "Actually, it's both. No dinner, thank you, but I will have another mineral water, please."

"There's the building, men. Our objective is the ground floor apartment in the northwest corner." Sergeant Phillips was going over the orders one last time. "Remember, no heavy weapons, and if you don't recognize it, leave it alone. We only want the people in that apartment, not the rest of the complex." What he didn't say was Why aren't the MPs here? This is a job for police, not front line troops.
      The trucks stopped and troops started covering every way out of the building. Two specialists pointed a spotlight at the windows. When they finished, Phillips turned it on and shouted (in his best drill-sergeant voice) at Celeste's apartment. "You inside! We've surrounded the building! Come out in one minute, or we're coming in!"
      Celeste scribbled a note on the back of a newspaper and handed it to Jill. "We'll distract them - go downstairs to the laundry room and stay there!" Jill nodded and left with the paper. Only then did Celeste open her window. "We're coming out! Don't shoot!"
      The other three vampires looked at her in surprise. "Umm, you're kidding, right?" asked Haneda. "The odds are all in their favor."
      "Really?" Celeste didn't bother looking at Haneda. "How many of them have fought vampires before? Are garlic and silver bullets standard issue for the army?" Haneda had the grace to blush. Celeste opened her patio door. "Let's get out there." The four of them stepped into the line of fire.
      "Nice to see you can be reasonable, ladies," commented Sergeant Phillips. "Where's the bomb?"
      Celeste looked at him. "What are you talking about?"
      "We have orders to take you into custody and disarm a bomb you have in that apartment. I've seen surveillance photos of the device. Now where is it?"
      "I don't have any weapons, sir. I'm a doctor - I save lives." Celeste was beginning to get angry.
      Shimorenjaku was already angry. "You idiot! Anyone with a computer can make fake photos nowadays! Somebody's been lying to you!"
      Phillips hesitated for a moment, then his expression hardened. "You don't mind if I send somebody in to check, do you?"
      Celeste sighed. "Should I bother asking to see your warrant?"
      While this conversation was going on, Mitaka had been looking at the opposition. Even considering the advantages a vampire has over a normal human, she didn't like the odds. She was just glad that the confrontation wasn't taking place in the daytime ...

"Time, sir." Konishi turned to Isurugi. "Do you want to call NASA, or shall I?"
      Isurugi waved the phone away. "Relax. The program is already in the satellite - it'll re-orient without either of us having to do a thing."
      "Whatever you say, sir. I still think push-button warfare isn't very honourable."
      "Honourable or not, it kills people as dead as they get. Never forget that, Konishi."

It may have been because she was looking around, or it may have been because she was the farthest to the left. Either way, Mitaka was the first to notice the sky wasn't as dark as it was a moment ago. Her skin was starting to tingle, too ... She looked to her left, and saw a shaft of light from the heavens. "What the hell?"
      Everybody looked at Mitaka, then turned to see what she saw. Shimorenjaku recognized it first. "Dear God, somebody's pointing an orbital reflector at us! That's sunlight!"
      The infantrymen were puzzled - why were these girls afraid of a little light? They had been standing in front of a searchlight for a few minutes, and that was brighter than the light coming from orbit. They stopped wondering when they saw their opponents turn and start running back inside - were they up to something? Phillips shouted "Stop or we open fire!" They didn't stop. "Fire!"
      A rain of lead assaulted the four vampires. Normally, they wouldn't have cared, but the sunlight was starting to burn them, so the bullets slowed them down. A round went through Mitaka's ankle and she stumbled.
      "Arisa!" Haneda turned back to help her friend run.
      Mitaka shook her off. "Save yourself, Miyuki, and avenge me ..." With the last of her strength, Mitaka pushed Haneda into Celeste's apartment. Then the Sun took her.

One of La'avar's agents stood on a nearby rooftop and watched Mitaka die. This was bad - very bad. If the humans could do this whenever they wanted, the night would not be safe for his kind. The High Vampires would have to make sure this satellite was destroyed, and no more sent up to replace it. But how?

Celeste, Haneda and Shimorenjaku didn't stop until they were safely in the complex's basement laundry room.
      "Why did she push me away? I could have saved her!"
      Celeste grabbed Haneda's shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "She made her choice, Miyuki. You can't second-guess her. Nobody can. Now pull yourself together - we're not out of this yet!" It wasn't her best bit of psychiatry, but it would have to do for now.
      "Where's Mitaka? Did they take her prisoner?" Jill whispered to Shimorenjaku.
      "No. She was Given to the Sun."
      Jill was horrified. "My God ... At 4 AM? How?"
      "Some bastard took control of one of NASA's experimental orbital mirrors." Haneda's voice had an edge of steel. "And I'll bet I know who."
      Shimorenjaku was puzzled. "Who?"
      "Put it together yourself, Yoko - it had to be someone with government connections who knew there were vampires in the area!"
      "Someone who knew where to aim the light, because he put tracers on you," added Jill. "The tracers that are still on you, I might point out."
      "Isurugi." Shimorenjaku seemed calm, but there was a fire in her eyes. "That bastard. Celeste, where can I get some new clothes?"
      "I have a load of laundry in the dryer at the end of the row. None of my clothes will fit you very well, though ..."
      "All I need is a skirt and blouse and underwear, and maybe a belt. You too, Miyuki ..."
      Haneda looked surprised, then nodded her head. The two of them changed clothes while Jill used her celphone to make a few calls. "What are you doing?" Celeste asked her friend.
      "Calling in a few favours. I won't have any friends left at NASA or in City Hall, but I can make sure those orbital reflectors never get pointed at you again."

The sunlight was gone, but the soldiers were still in shock. A pretty young woman had melted away at the sun's touch. Or did she boil away, or maybe shrivel up and collapse? Nobody was quite sure what they had seen. Private Hansen made the sign of the Cross and started reciting a 'Hail Mary'. Sergeant Phillips was busy losing his last meal. The other soldiers weren't handling the situation nearly as well.
      Phillips finally mastered his reflexes, and came to a decision. "Let's get the hell out of here, men."

Four women left the apartment complex and got into a car, but not before one of them took some dust from a pile outside and put it into a vial. She turned to the driver. "Let's get the hell out of here, Jill."
      "Of course, Miyuki." Jill took the vamipres home.

Chapter 5

The truck carrying the soldiers was crossing the last bridge before reaching the base. Suddenly, a light came on on the bridge, spotlighting a man wearing an opera cape. He walked toward the truck.
      The truck's driver, still nervous after seeing a vampire turn to dust less than an hour before, panicked and swerved to avoid the man. The truck went off the side of the bridge and dropped to a rather messy fate.
      The spotlight was turned off. "You were right, Konishi," said the light's operator. "I didn't really expect that to work, you know."
      "Not everyone knows as much about vampires as we do, sir," replied Konishi as he removed the cape.
      Isurugi nodded. "That's the last of the loose ends, except for that Goldman woman in the NSA. Any ideas on what to do with her?"
      Konishi rubbed the back of his head. "Um, Sir, she was in the apartment with the Partiarch and our advanced trainees. There's not much we can do about her."
      "Right, I had forgotten about that. By the way, do you know what happened to Sakura? I seem to have lost track of her ..."

La'avar and Saint were talking by telephone. (It was still too soon for them to even think of meeting face-to-face.)
      "You have the connections in NASA. We have the computer expertise, thanks to that hacker who joined us last month. Together, we can make this work."
      "I still think you're picking the wrong target."
      "What does it matter if a few humans live or die?"
      "You won't listen to my reasons, so I'll appeal to your pragmatism: One of those humans is the one who can stop this from happening again."
      "That human, or his replacement."
      "If you kill him, the other humans will hunt you down and kill you."
      "You think too much of their ability. But I can be gracious." That last sentence was said with the barest hint of sarcasm. "Very well, we'll move the target point, but only by a few dozen yards - he must see it with his own eyes."
      "Agreed." Both men hung up at the same time.

Isurugi was in a position he least wanted to occupy - on the phone to his commanding officer, listening to him yell. "You idiot!!!!! You assured me this operation would result in at least one uncontrolled group of vampires being eliminated! But that didn't happen, did it????? Noooooooooo, your 'sure-fire plan' didn't hurt them at all!!!!! Worse yet, it killed one of our best assets, and you've lost track of the rest!!!!! Just what do you have to say for yourself?"
      "I'm sorry, sir."
      "And I suppose that makes everything all right, doesn't it? You're sorry. Well, 'sorry' doesn't cut it, mister! Get back to Iruma and start training the next batch of vampires. And if you can't do that properly, you can JOIN them!!!!!" The line went dead.
      Isurugi broke into a cold sweat. He knew that there was no way to tell whether a vampire's victim would become another vampire. Sure, there were theories, but none of them had been tested ... The commander had just threatened him with death, and they both knew it. He turned to Konishi. "Pack everything. We're going back to Japan."

Celeste, Yoko and Miyuki didn't get a very good sleep that day. Things weren't about to get any better. "Celeste, I need your advice."
      "What's wrong, Jill?"
      "Saint called me directly. I thought he was looking for you, but it was me he wanted to talk to. He wants me to put a computer virus into NASA's satellite control system."
      "What sort of virus?" asked Yoko.
      "I don't know."
      Miyuki cleared her throat. "Well, where did it come from?"
      "That's what has me worried. Saint said that he got it from La'avar."
      Yoko and Celeste gasped. Miyuki looked puzzled. "Who's La'avar?"
      Celeste turned to Miyuki. "Remember we talked about the High Vampires last night?" Miyuki nodded. "He's their Prince." Miyuki shuddered.
      "So, what should I do? Saint seems to trust La'avar in this, God only knows why, but I wouldn't trust the High Vampires any farther than I could throw them. What do you think, Celeste?"
      The Patriarch thought for a moment. "I'll tell you after I talk to Saint. Can I borrow your phone?"
      Fifteen minutes later, Jill was uploading the virus to NASA's systems.

"Our top story tonight: Both of NASA's experimental orbital reflectors malfunctioned in a rather spectacular manner this evening. We take you live to the White House Rose Garden, where firefighters are still trying to put out the blaze started by concentrated reflected sunlight. Can you hear me, Sam?"
      "Yes, hello. I've just come out of a press conference with the Speaker of the House. He's informed us that the President considers NASA's experiment to be a dangerous failure, and he's ordering them to dismantle both of their orbital mirrors as soon as possible. Meanwhile, both the Air Force and the Navy have their aerobatics squadrons in the air. They're using a special kind of smoke called 'spindle oil' to try to dampen down the reflected light. It would be a quite impressive sight, if it weren't for the fact that the White House is in danger of burning down below them ..."

"So what are we going to do with you, Shimorenjaku? You can't go back to Japan now - they know you're one of us."
      "Just give me a corner to sleep in and a few drops of blood every now and then, sir - I'll get by."
      "No, you deserve better. Why don't you take off for a few months and travel around the country with Celeste's friend? What was her name?"
      "Jill Goldman? Can she get away from the NSA on such short notice?"
      "She has to. They might trace the virus back to her."
      Yoko smiled at Saint. "And you want me to be her bodyguard. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

Miyuki Haneda was finally home. It had been a long flight, but she didn't even notice. It was too bad she had to return alone. She couldn't really disagree with Yoko, though - she had been away from her fellow Patriarchs for so long, she had no real idea what was going on any more. It would only take one of them to fulfill Mitaka's dying wish, and Miyuki was glad to carry her teammate's burden. You and Saginomiya were always trying to get me to act on my own, Arisa. It's too bad you had to die so I could get the courage to follow your advice ...
      She palmed the door lock to the 801st's barracks. The door opened to reveal Isurugi waiting on the other side. "Haneda! You made it back! Congratulations - you're the only one to pass the test. But why didn't you come back to the hotel, the way I expected you to?"
      "Because I didn't want you to kill me the way you killed Mitaka, you son of a bitch." Miyuki drew her pistol and shot all in one motion. As Isurugi fell bleeding, she fired again, hitting him between the eyes. "The first round was for Arisa. The second round was for everyone else you killed to get your own way." She dropped her gun and raised her hands as the 801st's MPs surrounded her. "Now they can rest in peace."


Sakura was growing tired. She had already tracked down her own sister and one of Isurugi's, and neither of them had any idea where Hanako was.
      Her thoughts flashed back to a conversation she had had with one of the other High Vampires. He had wondered whether there was some genetic similarity between everyone who had become a vampire ... Ever since that day, Sakura had hoped he was right. Her daughter shared half her genetic structure, after all.
      She was finally at the third apartment. If the loud J-pop coming from behind the door was any sign, she might be in the right place. Heart in her throat, she rang the doorbell.
      "Yes, who is it?" The door opened to reveal a teenage girl. "Mother? Mother!!! Daddy told me you were dead!"
      "Hello, Hanako." Sakura hugged her daughter. "It's good to see you again."
      "You too, mother. Where have you been? Ummm, you can let go of me now."
      "Not just yet - there's something I have to do first." Sakura's fangs gleamed in the moonlight ...

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