You're Under Arrest Fan Fiction ❯ The Siege ❯ First Timer ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

The Siege

Chapter 6: First Timer

By JagdPanther

Natsumi raced down the stairs to the cafeteria. "Hey! You two! There's wounded soldiers upstairs!" She hoped that the Navy Corpsman understood enough Japanese to know what she had just said.

The two grabbed their helmets and their medic packs and chased Natsumi up to the second floor conference room, where some one of the wounded soldiers was. One continued on upstairs to the other rooms since only one was wounded down here. A fragment from an exploding wall had torn into the soldier's leg and it was bleeding badly. Natsumi plugged the wound while the Corpsman got an elastic bandage ready. The Marines who had brought the soldier in returned to their posts at the windows in the hall. There were eight Corpsman and two Delta Force medics in all, nine were up above and one was with Natsumi.

"Okay, ma'am, when I give you the mark, remove your hands and I'll slip the bandage over. Okay?"

She nodded.


Natsumi quickly moved her hands and the Corpsman pressed the bandage over the wound.

"Hold it while I tie it off." Petty Officer, Second Class Williams made two quick knots to keep the bandage from moving around. "You're going to be okay, Private, just hold in there." He turned to Natsumi. "Thanks for getting us, ma'am. I think that is all for now. Thanks."

"Your welcome." She exited the room and began making her way down the hall. The Marines were off the floor now, watching the surroundings for any sign of the enemy. Natsumi realized that she didn't have a weapon and would need to get one. Her pistol was in her range locker in the basement. She borrowed a flashlight from a riot-control police officer covering the rear portions of the building. Down the stairs she went into the darkened hall leading to the range. Arleigh had had this area deprived of electricity to save fuel in the generators, which Natsumi could hear thrumming away in the level below her. She put her combination into her locker, opened it, and withdrew her pistol. She attached the holster around her waist, loaded the pistol, and closed the locker. "If I need use this, then we're all in pretty bad shape." On her way back upstairs, Natsumi passed the position where the Chief and Tokuno were on here.


"Yes, Chief?"

"Can you go get someone to cover for me quick? I need to go speak to Arleigh."

"I can take over for you."

"I don't want to put one of my officers at risk like this, thank you."

She smirked. "No, it's fine, Chief. What, you don't trust my ability to shoot? C'mon! I can do it."

"I don't doubt your ability, Tsujimoto. I just fear for you. Go get someone. Preferably not from Traffic."

Tokuno looked over. "Hmm. Maybe I should go tell me detectives that I don't want them getting shot, so they should get Traffic guys to take over for them."

The Chief glared at him. "Funny."

"C'mon Chief."

"Fine, fine. Here. I have to go do this now." He handed Natsumi the rifle and extra magazines of ammunition he had in his pockets over to the young female officer.

"Thanks a lot, Chief. What do you have to go do?"

"None of your business, Tsujimoto." He was obviously not in a good mood.

"I wonder what his problem is," she said as he walked off.

Tokuno shook his head. "I'm not sure. Since the last attack he's been acting a little bit weird. But I wouldn't worry about it too much."

About ten minutes passed. Several bullets whizzed between the two Japanese officers and struck the wall behind them. Beyond the service entrance, past the wall and past the road beyond it, was a grouping of about forty trees. About twenty terrorists had sneaked up on the rear of the station and were firing RPK light-machine-guns and AK-74 rifles into the building. They had begun firing from well within the cover of the shadows of the trees, but now were moving up for better shots.

A Marine down the corridor yelled "RPG!" The Russian-made anti-armor rocket zipped into the outside wall above the floor Natsumi was on. Shattered concrete rained down, but the rocket hadn't done enough damage to cause any structural failure. The gunfire shifted more to the next level up where more Marines were. That left the people on the 3rd floor, mostly police with a few Marines, clear to fire on the terrorists. Tokuno and Natsumi came up on their knees at the same instant and fired their rifles. Their combined burst struck down three terrorists, including the one reloading the RPG launcher. Other police joined in the return fire, cutting down six more terrorists. Eight of the remaining terrorists ran behind trees to take cover. The other three ran for the wall and made it without getting hit. None of the defenders could see them. A 40mm launched grenade from a soldier up a level eliminated three behind the same tree across the road.

Three grenades came sailing over the wall. Two impacted against the side of the building, bounced back, and detonated harmlessly on the ground below. The third flew in through where windows once were, and clattered to a halt a few meters from Tokuno in one direction, and a few meters from another officer in the other direction. It exploded, sending shrapnel all over the hall. Tokuno had already begun to fall to the floor to avoid the blast as it detonated. A piece of shrapnel sliced through his right shoulder, causing him release the read end of the rifle. A second piece struck the rifle along the barrel and deflected, but violently forced the barrel directly into Tokuno's face. The officer on the other side of the blast got away completely unscathed, much to his surprise and delight.

Natsumi was too busy firing to have even noticed. Adrenaline was rushing through her as reloaded the rifle and kept firing. `So this is what combat is like, huh? Interesting. Come get me, pigs!' One terrorist leaned out from behind a tree and she caught him in the face with a single shot. `Yes! She scores!' Two more officers down the hall finished off the remaining terrorists in the trees.

A terrorist appeared above the edge of the wall. His two buddies were lifting him up over. What the defenders didn't know was that there were satchel charges on his back and he was intending to get close to the building, and detonate them, trying to cause a structural collapse. Natsumi flicked the rifle back to full automatic from single-shot and cut the man down. Two Marines from above lobbed grenades down at the two remaining terrorists. The Marines had cooked the grenades, or let their fuses burn a little, before throwing them. The result was two airbursts, or the grenades detonating before hitting the ground. Shrapnel rained down on the terrorists, killing them instantly.

"That was awesome!" yelled Natsumi. She turned to Tokuno to ask him if he saw her kill the terrorist with a single shot and bag the man climbing the wall, and that's when she saw him bleeding on the floor. "Detective!"

She rushed to his side and propped him up against the wall. "Are you alright? Detective, speak to me!" Tokuno eyelids flickered a bit, but for the most part he remained motionless. In her best English, she yelled at the Marines down the hall a word that every soldier fears. "Medic! Medic!"

Thankfully, one of the Corpsman was already there, tending to a Marine who had bullet take a chunk out of his arm. He prioritized the situation and decided that, even from down the hall, that the Japanese detective's wound looked more serious. "Hang in there, Marine. I have to go help that guy."

Natsumi had ripped the sleeve of Tokuno's jacket off and was pressing it against the wound as the Corpsman arrived. The Petty Officer took one look at Tokuno's shoulder and immediately got out an elastic bandage. Same as with the previous person she had attended to, Natsumi was told to hold the bandage down while the Corpsman tied it. It was an in-and-out wound, thankfully. That meant the shrapnel went in his shoulder and had enough force to leave without getting lodged in the body. Non in-and-out wounds were prone to infection far more and had a risk of moving around and causing more damage.

This Corpsman didn't know Japanese as readily or as well as the others did, so it took a few moments for him to find simple words to say to Natsumi. "Uh, take him up!" He motioned to Tokuno's feet and grabbed Tokuno's upper body. Natsumi understood well enough, so she shouldered the rifle and took up the Detective's legs. Together, the two carried him down to one of the aid stations where they set him on a table.

"Detective! Can you hear me? Are you alright?" Natsumi called into Tokuno's ear. She took note of the large, cylindrical bruise across his face. `He must have been hit in the face with something hard.' "Detective!"

The Corpsman got out some smelling salts and brought Tokuno to his senses.

"Ow, my head is killing me. And so is my shoulder. Wow, that hurts." Tokuno tried to move his right shoulder, but he couldn't do so. He cried out in pain. "Ugh! Damnit!"

Natsumi held on to his arm firmly. "Don't move it, sir."

"Ugh, I remember the grenade flying in the window and trying to duck, but I blacked out before I hit the ground." Using his left arm, he rubbed his head, and clenched his teeth down hard when he touched the massive bruise.

"It looks like you got hit in the head pretty bad, sir. You were unconscious when I got to you. You have a huge bruise along your face." She kept his hand away from the black-and-blue mark. "Rest up. I'll find someone to take your position at the wall. Don't worry."

"Thanks, Tsujimoto."

"Not a problem, Detective." She smiled. "I'm going to go back to the line, okay? I'll get someone to fill in for you. And I'll talk with Arleigh and see if he can get you out of here on a chopper, okay?"

"You do that, officer." Tokuno forced a smirk. As she left, he sighed and leaned against the wall next to the table he was on. `Well, I'm out of the fight for a while.'

Natsumi made her way down to the cafeteria and got another officer to help hold the line. They made their way back up the hallway overlooking the rear entrance to the station. There was a small crater from the grenade and Tokuno's blood was drying on the floor. She looked out at the dead terrorists on the ground, she looked at the rifle slung over her shoulder, and then she looked at her hands, covered in Tokuno's blood. That's when it hit her. She had killed. She had seen a good friend wounded in combat. Her world came crashing down around her as she sank into the wall. The brown-haired Traffic Officer brought her knees up close to her and buried her face in her chest. For the first time in a long time, Natsumi Tsujimoto cried.




Arleigh leaned over Miyuki's shoulder, looking over another reconnaissance photo that has just been transmitted. "Bastards. They're rounding up civilians and using them as human shields for their tanks. That is terrible. I sure as hell hope those aren't the rogue JGSDF troops. Even if they are rogue, they should have some respect for their fellow countrymen. Jesus Christ, that is sick." He shook his head and bit his lip. "Miyuki, can you zoom in on this section here." He drew a small box with his finger in the upper left of the screen.


The cropped part of the picture blew up.

"Hmm. That looks like a Type-87 Self-Propelled-Anti-Aircraft unit. I can see why the recon choppers are circling the Ward and not overflying it. Damn, that brigade shouldn't have any anti-aircraft units. They should all be with Division Anti-Aircraft back at their home base." Arleigh swore and turned away. "Thanks, Miyuki."

"Not a problem. Hey, Arleigh?"


"What if they move their tanks up here and continue to use civilians as shields?"

"Well, they seem to be doing that to ward off any aerial attacks. If they use the shields, then planes won't come in and attack them."

She looked down at the ground, unable to meet his eyes. "That doesn't answer my question."

Arleigh glanced over at Surai, who had apparently overheard the question. So had Kinoshita and Arizuka, who were both staring at him. "I hope it doesn't come down to this, but if I have to, I will have to go through the civilians to get to the tanks. If a tank is using them as a shield and starts blowing this place apart, killing my men, killing these Marines, killing you police, then I will have no choice but to sacrifice them to save the people in this building, who are my responsibility right now. If there is any way of saving them, too, and destroying the enemy at the same time, I will go about it." He looked at Captain Surai again, who nodded and returned to his work. "I hope it never comes to that, but if it does, I might have no choice."

The response didn't please her, but she accepted it. She understood that Arleigh had a responsibility for the well being of his own men and everyone else in the station. "If there's any way you'll try to save them?"

"Absolutely. You have my word." Arleigh hailed the Captain next. "Cap'n, I think we should call the choppers back in. We've got wounded and I want them evacuated. Plus, with this assault group forming up I want those 25th ID boys in here and ready to fight as soon as possible."

"Already did it, Arleigh. They're on the way. Two UH-60s out of the 1st of the 25th Aviation inbound with a platoon from the 25th Division and prepared to accept casualties. ETA 15 minutes."

Just then, the Chief came into the TOC. "Arleigh, can I speak with you for a moment?" He seemed unusually agitated.

"Uh, yeah, sure. Step right over here." He led the Chief to the far corner of the room, out of earshot of Miyuki, Surai, or any of the Marines in the room. Arizuka strained to listen in and Kinoshita kept on talking with police headquarters. "What is it, sir?"

He grimaced and began to speak. "Well, there's something I have to tell you. I've been down there guarding the back entrance and that's given me plenty of time to think things through."

Arleigh chuckled and slapped the Chief on the shoulder, trying to cheer him up a bit. "Okay, that's a good start."

The Chief just averted his eyes and continued to speak, even lower. "Well, you see, okay. Here's what I have to say. Back a couple years ago, the police force was tasked with creating a plan simulating an attempted take-over of the Sumida Ward."

The Lieutenant didn't say anything. He motioned for the Chief to continue.

"Well, I was part of the design team along with several other officers in higher places. Mostly we were station department heads, a few senior SWAT personnel, and so on. The plan took about a year to complete. We ran it though a very advanced computer simulation several times, changing values of response times, adverse weather conditions, failure of communications, etc. The plan was perfect. Not once was the computer, acting as the police, able to defeat the plan."

Arleigh's eyes widened and his breathing increased. He spoke in a very cold, even tone. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

The Chief looked straight down. "I thought that it would come back at me. Especially with Arizuka here, because no one, besides those who worked on it, is supposed to know about it. I thought I'd get in deep trouble. Probably arrested and sent to prison."

"Any other bright and cheery information for me at this time, sir?" Arleigh emphasized the final word in a very sarcastic tone.

"Yes, actually."

Arleigh winced and blurted out. "Go on."

"After the program and testing were completed, we spent the next two years making an updated version." The Chief was talking in a very subdued tone at this point.

"An updated version? What in the hell does that mean?"

"One that was designed not just to take down the Sumida Ward, not just Tokyo, but the major cities all over the world. It was designed to cripple the economies of the world. The plan was an economic nuclear bomb. Everything would be destroyed. There were even plans to attack cities physically, destroying world icons like the Tokyo Tower, the Sears Towers in Chicago, the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican, and many others. The plan itself is worth probably trillions of dollars. I was thinking, that maybe these terrorists found out about this and were coming to get it."

The American officer was close to pistol-whipping the Chief. "What do you mean `coming to get it'? You mean its here in the Sumida Ward?"

"Yes. There was only ever one copy made. It was fragmented and hidden all over the Sumida Ward in honor of the original program. No one piece contains the entire plan. Each piece must be collected and fit together. Even so, one piece is worth billions and can cause incredible damage."

"Chief, you better pray I don't get another infuriating piece of news within the next minute, or I will beat the crap out of the closest living object." Arleigh's mind began racing a hundred kilometers a second, trying to think of what to do. After a minute, he called to Ryker. "Ryker. Get command on the line. Tell them I want an ultra-secure line. I mean the securest we can possibly get. Once you get that done, tell them I want someone with at least November-Sierra clearance who speaks Japanese on the line to translate everything this man just told me to General Walker and his G-2 [Division Intelligence Officer]. Move it."

Arizuka looked up. "You told him about B-1, didn't you?"

Arleigh glared down at him. "Shut up. If you have nothing productive to say, then shut up. If you have sometime worthwhile to say, then say it. I have no idea what he was talking about so if you have something to add, do it. I know you heard everything he said. So, if he missed something, tell me. Right now."

He sneered at Arleigh and responded gravely. "No, I don't. I wasn't involved in the B-1 program, but I have heard of it many times. That was all news to me, too. The highest level commanders such as myself weren't involved in it. It was mostly run by Internal Affairs and Special Investigations."

"Do you have any idea why it was created? That sounds like a stupid thing to think up. What did you people get up one day and decide, `Hey! I want to destroy the Sumida Ward so lets make a plan to do it!' And when you got done, you said, `Hey! That worked pretty well! Why stop with Sumida? Let's destroy the world!' Huh? What the hell was this all about?"

Arizuka stared at the wall across the room. "It was simple. We wanted to test our defenses. We wanted to see how heavy an attack we could defend against."

"Yeah, look, the American NSA does crap like that. Not the freakin' Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department." At that point the shooting out back started. Arleigh turned back to the two men quickly. "You two don't move a goddamn muscle, I'm not finished with either of you." With that, he ran out the door and around to the back.

He felt the floor shake a bit from the RPG hit as he turned the corner. Looking down, he could see the terrorists on the ground shooting up. Bullets snapped around his head and he dove back down. He checked to make sure the grenade was still seated properly in the launcher and came back up quickly. The negative angle on the shot didn't really require the M203's special aiming sight. All he had to do was to point and shoot and gravity would do the rest. Arleigh did so, and the 203 round sailed behind a tree. The round detonated, pitching three dead terrorists around like rag dolls. Down a level, the defenders seemed to have everything pretty much well in-hand. He felt the grenade explode underneath him. `Damn, I hope no one got hit.' He continued to fire his M4A1, emptying the clip. The final four rounds connected with another terrorist below behind a tree. Before he could reload and aim at the man crossing the wall, someone below cut him down. Two Marines eliminated the final enemy soldiers with grenades. There was much rejoicing, as another battle had been fought and won. `This will be good for morale. Sort of. Some guys got injured, but I haven't lost anyone to death yet. Hopefully. I don't know about the grenade explosion downstairs yet. Oh, well, if anything like that happened I'd hear about it over the com-set by now.'

Arleigh returned to the TOC. On his way to the corner where the Chief and Arizuka were sitting, he passed by Surai. "I don't friggin' get it. Why are they attacking in such small groups? It makes no sense. They know we can beat back these little attacks. I mean, they sent a weaker force then they did last time! It was about twenty damn infantrymen. Why don't they attack in force?"

Surai shook his head. "Well, they will be within the next hour. That group is getting larger, according to this latest aerial recon photo. It's slowly making its way up the Ward to here. I mean really slow. We've probably got at least thirty minutes before they get here if they keep this pace."

Arleigh grimaced. "Yeah. Get a bunch of AT4s ready and set up at least two HMMWVs just outside the entrance. I want to use their .50-Cals to maximum advantage. If things get to hot, pull them back inside the wire. I don't want to lose them." He motioned in the general direction of the corner. "Did you catch any of that, Captain?"

"Yeah, I did, Rivera. I think most everyone in here who understands Japanese caught it. That is absolutely mind-boggling." The Italian-Japanese-American Marine Captain took a drink from his canteen. "You're calling this in to command, right?"

"Yeah, right now. Which reminds me, Ryker? Did you get Walker on the line?"

Ryker looked up from the radio controls. "Yes."

"Good. Captain, we've got more wounded around now. When those choppers get here, make sure every wounded body in the building is at the front entrance ready to evacuate." Surai nodded as Arleigh turned around. "Chief? Get over here. Tell them exactly what you told me." He thought for a moment. "By the way, if you're up here, who did you get to fill in for you on the perimeter?" Arleigh handed him the handset and awaited a reply.

It was obvious it was hard for him to respond to the Lieutenant. "Well, um, you see, she wouldn't take no for answer so I…"

Once the Chief got to `she,' Arleigh knew what was coming and he gritted his teeth.

"…so I let Natsumi take my place. She wouldn't say no."

Arleigh clenched his fist. "Thank you for the information, sir." He turned to leave. "Sir, one more thing. I'm not mad at you for any of this. I've just a little displeased with you. I'm furious that such plans would exist. I'm furious that Natsumi is putting her life on the line when there are plenty of Marines here to do that for her. I'm only a little displeased that you didn't bring this to my attention earlier. No hard feelings for you. If I come off that way, please forgive me."

"I'm sorry, Arleigh. Very sorry." The Chief spoke into the radio and began telling the translator at the other end about the project.

Sixty kilometers away, General Walker listened to the translator in horror. "Mother of God…"




He found her, still curled up against the wall, and still crying. `Son of a bitch, this is terrible' was all he could think at the moment. Arleigh clicked his personal com-set to transmit. "Ryker, this is your L-T. Tell the Captain that he has complete command and control for now. I have to do something very important. Anything short of nukes falling from the sky, don't bother me. I'm turning off my com-set."

Arleigh only caught part of Ryker's affirmative response as turned the volume dial down past the mark where it killed power to the small radio. He looked both ways down the hall to make sure no one was watching, and no one was. Everyone was intent on watching for enemy activity. Arleigh quietly opened the door into a room belonging to an administrative task force based out of Bokuto. He made sure no one was inside. The room was cool, surprisingly. `The air-conditioner must be on another circuit from the lights. Strange.' Arleigh exited the room, walked over to Natsumi, and knelt beside her, carefully placing his hands on her shoulders.

"Don't touch me, damnit!" she choked out over the lump in her throat.

"Natsumi, it's me. It's Arleigh. Please, calm down."

"Leave me alone." She wrestled her shoulders out of his hands, though with far less strength than she had.

"Don't make me force you."

"Go away."

Removing almost all his gear and stowing it in the room, Arleigh moved to drag Natsumi on her butt into the room. She didn't resist at all. Arleigh closed and locked the door behind him. He sat on the floor next to the girl he cared most for in the world. He'd never seen her like this before, ever. She was an emotional wreck. "Please don't cry. Talk to me, Natsumi. Please."

Immediately she launched herself into him and began crying even more.

Arleigh winced and held her tight, stroking her beautiful brunette hair. He rested his cheek on top of her head. "Talk to me, Natsumi. What's wrong?" He asked that question knowing damn well what the answer was. Tears formed at the corner of his own eyes, just seeing how she was reacting to the situation, but he was able to stop them as quickly as they had started. He knew if he was going to help her, he couldn't be pained at the same time.

Natsumi used every ounce of strength she had left to lessen her crying to a point where she could form a response. "Arleigh… I… I… I killed someone. It hurts so bad to know that. I can't believe it. I just can't believe that I killed someone."

He continued to hold her tight. "Talking about it is the only way the pain will go away."

"It'll only make it worse. I don't want to talk about it."

"Natsumi, don't argue with me about this. Think about who you're talking to right now."

She paused for a minute before speaking again. "Arleigh, I'm scared. I mean, I just saw combat for the first time. That was tiny compared to what we're going to face later. And look how I've just broken down. The Chief asked me to go find someone to fill in for him, and I was blindly enthusiastic to do it myself. I sat there, I held that rifle, and I knew if I had to, I'd do my job and shoot it. But that's the first time that I've even shot a weapon at a living being. And I killed them! And I was happy about it! I was rejoicing at the deaths of other people. I look back at what happened just minutes ago and I can't believe how heartless I was. That makes it hurt even more. Then a good friend got hurt in the fight, and I was so intent on killing people that I didn't even notice. I didn't even notice, Arleigh. Someone I've known for years could have died right there next to me. And the only reason I even noticed was because I turned to him and celebrating my shooting. I'm so terrible"

He raised an eyebrow and thought as she said that. "Natsumi, who got hurt?"

She sniffled a little and croaked. "Tokuno. He got hit by a grenade blast. He'll be all right."

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry. I didn't even know."

"No, that's okay."

"Natsumi, listen to me. You are not heartless and you are not terrible. I respect you so much because you are the exact opposite. You have a great heart. You care about others so incredibly much that it's impossible for me to define in words. Natsumi, you did what you had to do. It was your duty to protect yourself and the people in this station from the very real danger that those jerks presented. The situation required you to field a weapon and it required you to return fire, possibly killing them in the process. You did well, Natsumi, you did well."

"But I still killed someone and I'll never forgive myself for that. And what hurts me even more is that I might be presented with the same situation before this is all over. I don't think I can bring myself to do it again, Arleigh. I'll have to make a choice between fighting and not and I'm not sure if I trust myself to fight again. Its too painful, to know that I've ended someone's life. I'm a police officer, dedicated to saving lives and I ended one so easily and I goddamn celebrated it." The tears were coming back. Rivers formed on her cheeks.

"Yes, that's right. You may have to do it again. And I trust you to make the decision you think is right. No one, not even I, will force you to make that decision against your will. Yes, you are a police officer, dedicated to saving lives. As strange as it seems, believe it or not, you were saving lives by killing those terrorists. You ended their lives before they could end the lives of anyone in this station or outside. Maybe after they were done here they would've gone off and raped and killed some young girl, or killed a father trying to protect his family. Officer Natsumi Tsujimoto, if I were your commanding officer, I'd be awarding you, not denouncing you."

Natsumi shifted around and lifted her head so she could look directly into Arleigh's pale blue eyes. "You said that I should think of who I was talking to, earlier. What did you mean by that, really?"

Arleigh looked up at the ceiling and contemplated his response. "What I meant was that if you didn't want to talk, maybe you should reconsider, remembering what my occupation is. I'm a combat soldier, and I know full well what you're going through right now. I can help better than anyone else you know, because I've been in combat. I know what it's like when you pull the trigger and your first target lands on the ground, dead." He grabbed a tissue off the table to his left and dabbed her eyes dry.

Natsumi recoiled a little at his touch. "How did you deal with it your first time? There's no way it can be any way like this. You're a guy who volunteered for service in your country's military, knowing full well there might come a time when you'd have to kill someone. Didn't you prepare yourself for it so it wouldn't, you know, affect you so much? I'm a person who joined the police to protect others. I never thought I'd see something like this. I wasn't prepared at all. And, I mean, you're obviously over it. I remember when you worked here. You headed advanced training for SWAT personnel, and you went out on a few missions. You had to kill some perpetrators, so I've seen you kill. You never missed a beat. Plus, you're a guy. And isn't that like natural instinct for men or something? I know I'm being weak right now and that's not like me, but this is something I was never ever prepared for."

"Natsumi, don't insult me like that and do not dare put yourself down"

That confused her greatly. "What?"

"I said don't insult me and don't insult yourself."

"But…" Her heart sank even deeper. She thought she had angered him.

He lightly punched his head and smiled. "Sorry, that was a harsh. You see, the truth is, you never get over it. Ever. I know that doesn't help you, but I want to prepare you. You never get over the first kill." Arleigh took a deep breath and continued. "I come from a long line of soldiers. Rivera's have fought in every American conflict since the Spanish-American War in the late 1800s. The stories of my long-dead relatives from those wars long ago were passed to my grandfather, who passed them with his stories to my father, who passed those stories along with his stories to me, and now I pass them on to you. When you take that first life in combat, it haunts you forever. It will always remind you of what you had to do, and it makes sure you never forget that on the other end of your rifle is a human being. I have never forgotten the slightest detail of when I first killed. It was August 4th three years ago. My Company was the first unit deployed to meet the Russian threat in the Malden Islands. We landed about 5:20 AM on the beaches of Everon. I moved my platoon up into position to attack and capture the small village of Morton. Just as I was about to kick off my attack, I noticed a small Russian patrol heading up towards where I had one of my squads. My first three shots all struck the first man in the patrol, then I dropped another guy, and the guys behind me finished the rest. After the battle was over, I had about six kills to my name. I was happy, even celebratory, just like you were. I had survived my first combat mission. And you know what I did that night?"

Natsumi shook her head no.

"I sat on the beach, drinking and crying my eyes out."

She was genuinely stunned. It was impossible for her to imagine the big, strong American Special-Operations soldier crying at all. "You did?"

"Yes. I kid you not." There was still a little bit of doubt in her eyes, he saw. "I couldn't believe that I had ended people's lives, either. But I knew that I'd have to do it again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, all the way until the conflict was over. And then I was assigned here. My first strike mission with my team, I knew I'd have to do it again. I knew the same thing before each mission. When I set out to rescue you, I knew I'd have to kill again. When I realized they were going to attack here, I knew I'd have to kill again. Just now was the first time I fired my weapon all day, and my first shot was a grenade that killed three guys. Every time I pull that trigger, I know that the round might kill someone. To be honest with you, nothing ever prepares you for the first kill. Nothing at all."

"That August night, I knew that the same thing would happen again sooner or later. But I wasn't as lucky as you are. I didn't have anyone to go to. I couldn't breakdown in front of my guys. They looked up to me. They were my responsibility. I couldn't set that kind of example for them. So I had to bottle it up until I had time alone, and that night, I drank beer until I was just about drunk, and I fell asleep crying on the beach. Thankfully no one saw me, but that's another story. You're lucky. You have me to come to, someone who knows first-hand what you're going through. Natsumi, I care about you. And it pains me so much to see you like this. I can't make this hole in your heart go away, because in all honesty, it never does. But what I learned that night I now pass on to you. There may and probably will come a time that you are faced with the same situation. It will come to where you have a choice between killing someone, thus saving the lives of others, or not killing, and leaving those you care about to fend for themselves, hoping that they have the skills and means to survive to see tomorrow. I pass on to you that you must realize the good you are doing, and build up the courage to do it again, if you have to. I know I will have to fire upon people again in the very near future, and I am prepared to do it, because I have a responsibility to do it. The lives of my fellow Deltas depend on my emotional courage to pull the trigger. The lives of those Marines depend on it. The lives of the police held up here depend on it. The lives of the civilians downstairs depend on it. And, most importantly, the life of the one woman I'd want to spend the rest of my own life with, depends on my ability to aim at some dirtbag terrorist, pull that trigger, and send them straight to Hell." Arleigh quickly realized that his last statement could have been worded differently, and winced. `Crap. This is not the damn time to say something like that, you friggin' moron,' he thought.

Natsumi's gaze shifted down and she sank back into his body, gripping his shirt tight. "Thank you." Her crying had completely stopped. The hole in her heart slowly began to heal with Arleigh's words. One of the reasons why she admired him so much was because he had such a strong will and dedication to protecting those that he cared about. Natsumi knew that Arleigh could have easily left her sitting there, but here he was, holding her, caring for her, helping her. Out of all the things he said, the last statement had helped the most. At that moment she knew that he shared the same feelings for her that she had repressed since the day the two had met, years ago. And this moment was not all that unlike then, either.

It had been late December. Miyuki and herself had stumbled across some drugs after chasing down a traffic violator. Investigations took a rather peculiar interest in the case. One day the pair found out that a new detective would be tagging along with them on their patrol route for observation purposes of the area where they had come across the stash. The detective was Arleigh, recently arrived from an "exchange" program with the Los Angeles Police Department. The three talked the entire time while on patrol, and Natsumi had instantly developed an interest in Arleigh's background. Temperatures dropped well below freezing, yet the American remained completely oblivious to the cold, wearing shorts and T-shirt. She observed his ability to block out adverse conditions. They stopped to help get a car out of the snow, and Arleigh waved off Natsumi's offer of help and easily helped the motorist jar the car loose. She observed his physical strength. Finally, near the end of the patrol, they stopped to break up a fight that had broken out on the street. As Natsumi attempted to subdue one of the men, the man pulled a gun on her and almost killed her. Arleigh rushed the man and came very close to getting himself shot, but was able to knock him unconscious. In an instant, he was by her side making sure she was all right.

Now he was once again with her, holding her, comforting her. "Thank you," she said.

Arleigh tried to rush his last statement out of her mind. "Natsumi, I know you're a stronger-willed person than this. Stronger than I could ever dream of being. Now, there are people out there who need your help. Are you ready to return to your duty? I don't want to rush you, but there is a battle to be fought and won."

She turned her head to meet his gaze. "Can we just stay like this for a few more minutes? Your warmth makes me feel good."

Arleigh gulped as he looked down into her pretty eyes. "Um, yeah, I guess. I told the guys not to bother me for a little while."

Time passed. Natsumi's upper-body shifted up and down rhythmically with Arleigh's breathing. She wished that they could be like this together forever. Well, almost. `It would be better if we were in a bed together from away from combat, but this will do for now,' she thought.

It had been about twenty minutes since Arleigh had found the other Natsumi, the Natsumi who had emotionally lost herself. But now she felt better. Arleigh had soothed her and allowed her the chance to understand what she had done and its importance. She knew that when the time came, which would probably be very shortly, that she would be able to fire again. Better yet, he had inadvertently told her exactly what she had wanted to hear for a long time. That he loved her. For as outspoken as she was, she had never been able to tell him herself. Something in the back of her mind always told her that Arleigh cared about everyone equally and that he could never actually choose her above everyone else. Her conscious and heart didn't die when she killed those terrorists, those voices of dissent in her head had died.

"Arleigh, I'm a police officer, and I've got a city to protect from these bastards. Let's go." She jumped up, pulled Arleigh to his feet and promptly hugged him tightly. "Thank you for helping me. I should've come to you to begin with. I'm sorry I made you worry." She released him and headed towards the door. "Come on, Lieutenant."

Arleigh smiled broadly. His friend was back to normal. Well, more so, the woman he loved was back to normal. Arleigh wondered if she felt the same way. `There's time and place for that later, moron. Move your ass. World War III could've been fought outside that door and you wouldn't have noticed, idiot, because you were too damn busy cuddling with her!' Arleigh mentally kicked himself, but held his jubilant appearance as he donned all his gear.

Natsumi unlocked the door, stepped out, and grabbed her rifle from right where she had left it earlier. "Thanks again."

Arleigh bid her farewell and made his way back to the TOC, a little spring in his step.