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Conferences Mini-Stories Topic #146
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ly. %22He%27s a student%2C and a student he must remain. Which is why I propose that he be designated Sergeant-at-Arms to the Student Council.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22... I beg your pardon%3F%22 said President Tiefeld after a startled pause.%0D%0A%0D%0ATurning to another marked page in his copy of the Student Handbook%2C Hahashimizu adjusted his spectacles and said%2C %22According to Article Four of the Student Government%27s charter%2C such a post has always existed%2C but we%27ve never seen fit to fill it before. With the Duelists%27 Society on campus%2C I suppose that to my predecessors there seemed little need - but I think we can all agree that Sgt. Sagara is a slightly different breed of cat%2C%22 he added with a slight smile. He closed the book%2C folded his hands atop it%2C and concluded%2C %22We have a vacancy for someone with security experience%3B the sergeant needs a bit of direction%3B under this arrangement%2C both are provided. Everyone wins.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AOdo glanced at Tiefeld and Montaigne again%2C saw that they were obviously impressed with the young man%27s arguments%2C and lodged one last objection more or less for form%27s sake%3A %22Does your charter say who%27s supposed to %5Bi%5Dsupervise%5B%2Fi%5D your Sergeant-at-Arms%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Like most matters internal to the Student Government%2C it%27s left to the discretion of the executive officers%2C%22 Hayashimizu replied%2C unruffled. %22The ultimate responsibility%2C of course%2C rests with me%2C but in order to best avoid causing the sergeant any conflict of interest%2C I propose to delegate day-to-day oversight to Miss Sterling.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASo calm%2C persuasive%2C and logical were Hayashimizu%27s arguments that Kaname caught herself nodding in agreement - %5Bi%5Dyeah%2C that does make the most sense%5B%2Fi%5D - before the meaning of his words fully sank in%2C at which point she turned to him and snapped%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22%5Bi%5DWhat%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22%5B%2Ffont%5D%5B%2Fdiv%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname sighed deeply%2C rubbing a hand down her face%2C and then said%2C %22Well%2C we can%27t build this. It%27d bankrupt the Council. Jan was furious. So... wrap it up%2C put it all in a final report%2C and send it to Odo%2C with copies to Hayashimizu and President Tiefeld%27s office. I don%27t think the administration will have any interest in turning the school into an armed camp%2C but if anybody%27s going to make that decision it%27s them%2C not us%2C and then %5Bi%5Dthey%5B%2Fi%5D can pay for it.%22 She sighed again. %22OK%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke nodded. %22As you say.%22 He rezzed up his alterations to the map again and set to work%2C adding finishing touches and cleaning up the presentation.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname watched him at it for a few seconds%2C then asked wryly%2C %22Man%2C what were you like in kindergarten%3F King-of-the-Sandbox must have been an exercise in generalship with you around.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke paused for a moment%2C turned to regard her without much of any expression%2C then said%2C %22I wouldn%27t know%2C%22 and returned to work.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DWow%2C that was dumb%2C can%27t believe I did that%2C%5B%2Fi%5D Kaname grumbled to herself%2C and left him to it. It wasn%27t as though she didn%27t have work of her %5Bi%5Down%5B%2Fi%5D to be doing%2C after all.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DTuesday%2C February 9%2C 2410%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ATuesday afternoon found Kaname setting up a sort of temporary backup War Room in Hamlin Hall%27s ground-floor lounge. This was not because she%27d been turned out of the one up on the fourth floor%2C but because she%27d arrived back at the building an hour or so before dinner and couldn%27t be arsed to go up only to come back down in an hour. Instead she spread out the paperwork she had with her%2C which mainly had to do with event scheduling%2C and worked quietly at it while she waited for the metaphorical dinner bell.%0D%0A%0D%0ASo engrossed was she in this that she didn%27t notice Sosuke%2C sitting in the corner of the room %28where the sightlines were best to the windows and the archway leading out into the corridor%29%2C at all. That was fine with him%3B his tasking did not require her attention%2C only her presence. In ways%2C it was %5Bi%5Deasier%5B%2Fi%5D when she didn%27t interact with him.%0D%0A%0D%0AFive times in the last twenty minutes%2C his vigil had been interrupted not by anything Kaname did%2C but by other students passing by the room%2C noticing him%2C and coming in to speak to him. This was unusual%2C bordering on anomalous. He was normally much more successful at blending into the background%2C at least when tactical exigencies didn%27t force him to take the kind of action that automatically became something of a spectacle.%0D%0A%0D%0ANot today%2C though. Today no fewer than %5Bi%5Dseven%5B%2Fi%5D classmates had approached him while Kaname%2C oblivious%2C labored at her paperwork. He was still frowning in contemplation of the phenomenon when she reached some kind of endpoint%2C sat back in the couch%2C and gave an exasperated sigh%2C then noticed him. The look on his face must have caught her attention%2C because she abandoned whatever she%27d been %5Bi%5Dabout%5B%2Fi%5D to say and asked instead%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What%27s eating %5Bi%5Dyou%3F%5B%2Fi%5D%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke considered keeping the matter to himself%2C but as any situation in which he became involved stood a better-than-even chance of involving Kaname%2C he decided that would have been unfair. So he replied%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I%27m unsure. I think there may be some sort of conspiracy developing that involves an unsettling number of our classmates.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname gave him a more-wary-than-normal look. %22Uhhh... explain%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Since we have been sitting here%2C seven of our classmates who would not normally go out of their way to speak to me have come into this room specifically to seek me out and ask me a question. The %5Bi%5Dsame%5B%2Fi%5D question. This is beyond the bounds of reasonable coincidence. My supposition%3A They were all put up to it by the same unknown third party%2C most likely for purposes of distracting me and achieving some kind of infiltration.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Uh... huh. And what question would that be%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Whatever their purpose may be%2C it seems that it would be served by my attending the Winterfest Dance.%22 Sosuke shook his head thoughtfully. %22Most peculiar.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname%27s look shifted more toward the are-you-for-real end of the spectrum. %22These... classmates... would they happen to have been girls%3F Not that there%27s anything wrong with it if they weren%27t%21%22 she added hastily%2C her cheeks going a bit red. %22I just%2C you know%2C %5Bi%5Dseven%5B%2Fi%5D of them%2C that%27s not statistically - never mind. Anyway... %3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22They were%2C%22 Sosuke replied%2C %22though I don%27t see... %22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname dropped her forehead into her palm. %22Spirit%2C you are %5Bi%5Ddense%2C%5B%2Fi%5D%22 she said. %22They weren%27t asking you to just %5Bi%5Dgo to the dance%5B%2Fi%5D%2C they were asking you to go to the dance %5Bi%5Dwith %5Bu%5Dthem%5B%2Fu%5D%5B%2Fi%5D. You know. On a %5Bi%5Ddate%3F%5B%2Fi%5D Imbecile.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oh. This would be a purely recreational function%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Yyyyyeah%2C they usually %5Bi%5Dare%5B%2Fi%5D... %22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Then%2C in your estimation%2C it %5Bi%5Disn%27t%5B%2Fi%5D part of a distraction operation for some as-yet-unknown tactical expediency%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Uh... no. Well%2C probably not. Who were they%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke looked at Kaname intently as he listed off the names of his querents. %22Ena Saeki%2C Nao Zhang%2C Maya Mukai%2C Jessica Albrecht%2C Haruka Suzushiro%2C Mizuki Inaba%2C and Nelyna of Thessia.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Yeah%2C uh%2C I don%27t think anybody on that list is strategic conspiracy material. Except maybe Inaba. She%27s treacherous%2C%22 said Kaname with a little smile.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I%27ll make a note of that%2C%22 Sosuke deadpanned%2C and Kaname genuinely couldn%27t tell whether he was serious. Then he said%2C %22You seemed exasperated. Was the unexpected room traffic disturbing you%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Huh%3F Oh. No. Actually I didn%27t even notice that. It%27s just that I noticed I have a huge hole in Sunday%27s schedule. From lunchtime until the dance there%27s bupkis. I could double up some of the stuff from Saturday%2C weather permitting%2C but that would be kind of lame. I hate repeating myself.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke looked interested. %22How much of a time span are we talking about%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Four%2C five hours%2C%22 Kaname replied. %22Say from 12%3A30 %27til dark%2C and maybe a bit past%2C depending on what was going on. It%27d have to wrap up by five o%27clock or so either way%2C so everyone would have time to get some supper and change for the dance.%22 She spread out the papers again and surveyed them glumly. %22The ice boating is going to be all done Saturday. I suppose we could just do more snowball fights%2C but%2C I mean%2C how many snowball fights can we %5Bi%5Dhave%3F%5B%2Fi%5D We%27re not six years old any more. That kind of thing gets old.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke gave a decisive nod. %22It%27s not a problem%2C%22 he said firmly. %22Leave it to me.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname blinked. %22... Seriously%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Seriously. I%27ll take care of it.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Uh... OK%2C well%2C thanks.%22 Out in the hall%2C students started passing in small groups%2C bound for the dining common. Kaname started gathering the papers up and stuffing them back in her bookbag. %22I%27ll need to have your plans for whatever it%27s gonna be by Thursday morning%2C so I can coordinate with whoever%27s in charge of the facilities it%27ll be using.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Understood.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Can you give me a hint%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Negative.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Fine%2C be that way.%22 She finished packing up and paused%2C eyeing him thoughtfully. %22So... all these girls wanting to go to the dance with you.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Yes%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Are you going to%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Of course not%2C%22 Sosuke said flatly. %22As the event organizer%2C you%27ll have to be present in some official capacity. When you%27re out in public%2C I%27m on duty.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oh. Yeah. %27Course.%22 Kaname went a bit red again and glanced away awkwardly. Then%2C to laugh it off%2C she said%2C %22I can%27t believe you didn%27t know they were asking you for a date.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Dating is outside my occupational specialties%2C%22 Sosuke replied.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Yeah%2C well%2C so%27s a lot of stuff you ought to try%2C%22 Kaname said. %22I%27m going to be holed up in here working on Winterfest stuff for the rest of the week. You should go out one of these nights.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DWhat the hell are you %5Bu%5Dtalking%5B%2Fu%5D about%3F%5B%2Fi%5D she asked herself.%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke frowned as if only his inherent reserve was preventing him from asking the same thing. Then%2C brow still furrowed in puzzlement%2C he said%2C %22What would such a thing entail%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Well... first you ask somebody. And if they say yes%2C then you set a time and... I don%27t know. There isn%27t really much of a nightlife around %5Bi%5Dhere%2C%5B%2Fi%5D%22 said Kaname%2C facing the awkward realization%2C now that he%27d asked%2C that she really had no idea %5Bi%5Dwhat%5B%2Fi%5D one would do for a date on Jeraddo. %22Go out for dinner%2C I guess. If you really wanted to make an occasion of it%2C you%27d go someplace fancy%2C where you wouldn%27t normally go.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Hmm. This might be a worthwhile reconnaissance operation%2C%22 Sosuke mused. %22Perhaps Mr. Weeks - %22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname would%27ve choked if she%27d had a beverage%2C envisioning Sosuke going out on the town with DSM%27s one and only Carcharoid student%2C Frank %22Shark Week%22 Weeks. Shark Week not only wasn%27t human%2C he wasn%27t even from a species that had gender as humans understand it. He was only called %22he%22 because he was way too laid-back to insist on gender neutrality in a language that didn%27t really have a provision for it%2C and because he happened to have picked a masculine Standard name when emigrating with his parents from Parathrox to New Avalon some years before.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22%5Bi%5DNo%2C%5B%2Fi%5D Sosuke%2C%22 she said after taking a moment to get hold of herself again. %22A girl. Or at least another humanoid life form%2C%22 she qualified.%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke took that on board with his usual grave expression%2C then nodded and rose to his feet. %22Very well%2C%22 he said%2C and then strode to the archway %28with a startled Kaname trotting to keep up with him%29 and said to the nearest female schoolmate he recognized%2C %22Miss Tesla.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AMileva Tesla skidded to a halt%2C breaking off from her conversation with her roommate Irina Woods%2C and said%2C %22Uh... yes%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Let%27s go on a date.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AMileva blinked a couple of times%2C utterly baffled%2C then replied%2C %22Uh... OK%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname stared blankly at the two for several long seconds.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bbig%5D%5Bi%5D%22WHAAAAT%3F%21%21%21%22%5B%2Fi%5D%5B%2Fbig%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DWednesday%2C February 10%2C 2410%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%22This is ten different degrees of %5Bi%5Dwrong%5B%2Fi%5D%2C%22 Kaname grumbled%2C pacing outside the elevator doors%2C waiting with Mileva Tesla for Sosuke to arrive.%0D%0A%0D%0ABad enough that Mileva was the youngest person on her floor. %28She was %5Bi%5Dtwelve%5B%2Fi%5D%2C having been home-schooled up to this point by some of the most brilliant people in the galaxy.%29 Bad enough that she was one of the relatively few other non-Duelist students besides Sosuke who held a %5Bi%5Dweapons permit%5B%2Fi%5D from the Campus Security Service. Bad enough that she was quick-witted%2C clever%2C almost relentlessly cheerful%2C and - despite what could only be seen as a %5Bi%5Dvery%5B%2Fi%5D sheltered upbringing - outgoing. She also%2C on top of all that%2C happened to look %5Bi%5Dgreat%5B%2Fi%5D.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname wasn%27t one of those catty girls who could never bear to admit it when another girl looked good%2C and Mileva was looking very well-turned-out tonight%2C in a crisp white blouse under a peppy little Klein-blue jumper dress%2C GI black cold-weather tights%2C and smart-but-practical boots. She even had on a matching little Garibaldi hat at a rakish angle%2C which was a more than a trifle old-fashioned%2C but somehow timeless on her%2C and over her arm she carried a navy-blue wool pea-jacket. She wasn%27t ravishing - not at twelve%2C and possibly never - but with her big brown eyes%2C her perfectly straight nose%2C her short black hair%2C and her general air of fresh-scrubbed%2C clean-living wholesomeness%2C she %5Bi%5Dwas%5B%2Fi%5D completely adorable. Kaname reminded herself firmly several times%2C as they waited%2C that this was a ridiculous thing to be resenting. %28And where had she learned to put on makeup%2C growing up surrounded by Action Scientists%3F%29%0D%0A%0D%0AThe elevator dinged%2C the doors hissed open%2C and there was Sosuke. Instead of the usual DSM school uniform Kaname had grown used to seeing him in%2C he was wearing a garment she%27d never seen before - like a suit%2C but with a double-breasted%2C lapelless jacket over a white shirt with a stiff%2C upright collar. The suit was dark charcoal grey and structured so that it managed to look casual and formal at the same time%2C which was%2C Kaname dimly recalled%2C the hallmark of some Salusian fashion house or anoth -%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DEmporio Armani di Saenar%2C Salusian fashion firm established 2005 by Giorgio Armani%2C an Earthman already famous on his homeworld for - %5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DNot NOW - %5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke%2C unaware of the mild ripple he%27d just caused in the collective psyche of a species %28never mind among the students who %22just happened%22 to be loitering in the lounge%29%2C nodded cordially. %22Miss Chidori.%22 He then turned his attention to Mileva%2C and what he said next startled Kaname clean out of reflections on his fashion sense%3A%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Good evening%2C Miss Tesla. You look lovely.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AMileva blinked - clearly she hadn%27t expected him to say that either - but recovered quickly and thanked him with a slight blush%2C adding%2C %22You clean up pretty good yourself.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Where did you steal that suit%3F%22 Kaname asked before she could stop herself.%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke didn%27t seem offended%3B he merely replied%2C matter-of-factly%2C %22It%27s standard issue. When TechCom personnel are assigned to guard civilians%2C there%27s always the chance we%27ll need to blend in on a higher social level than is usually encountered in everyday life.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oh. So it%27s part of your spy gear.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Essentially%2C yes%2C%22 he said. %22Shall we%2C Miss Tesla%3F Our table at Pellucidar is reserved for 1930 hours.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Remember%2C lockout is at eleven%2C%22 Kaname said. %22That%27s 2300 to the military brain. And I %5Bi%5Ddon%27t%5B%2Fi%5D want to find out tomorrow that you messed with the security system or teleported in after hours or some such craziness%2C%22 she added sharply%2C though whether for Sosuke%27s benefit or Mileva%27s she couldn%27t have said.%0D%0A%0D%0AAs she put on her jacket%2C Mileva only giggled and replied%2C not all that reassuringly%2C %22Don%27t worry%2C Kaname... you won%27t.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22We%27ll be back in plenty of time%2C%22 Sosuke promised stolidly. %22I%27m uncomfortable about being out of fast-return range for even that long - %22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I%27m not going to be anywhere but the lounge and my room. Now go%2C before I change my mind%21%22 Kaname declared%2C gesturing to the elevator. Then she softened a little - hell%2C it was probably Tesla%27s first date%2C no need to be such a tyrant about it - and said%2C %22Have a good time.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AOnce they were gone%2C Kaname returned to the War Room%2C ensconced herself in the corner again%2C and resolutely buried herself in her work%2C determined to give the pair of them no further thought until they returned.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DThursday%2C February 11%2C 2410%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5D%22Kweh%21 It%27s morning%21 Kweh%21 Get up%21 Kweh%21 Kana-chan%2C you%27ll be late%21 Kweh%21%22%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname didn%27t think of herself as a %22morning person%22%2C and there was plenty of evidence to back up that assertion.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5D%22Kweh%21 Kweh%21 Good morning%2C Kana-chan%2C you%27ll be late%21%22%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AIt usually took two iterations of her alarm clock to even get her out of bed%2C and she couldn%27t be considered functionally ambulatory until after her morning shower. Fortunately for her%2C the woman%27s bathroom and shower on Hamlin Four was directly opposite her room%2C so she didn%27t have to worry about getting lost along the way.%0D%0A%0D%0AGetting dressed and getting packed for her morning classes was usually an automated process. Her clothes and books were laid out ahead of time%2C and quickly taken care of. At that point it was a simple matter to head out%2C board the elevator%2C and head down to the dining common on the first floor. Still ensconced in her little world%2C she barely registered that Sosuke wasn%27t present for breakfast%3B but he had to have gotten back in time%2C because Mileva%27s check-in hadn%27t triggered any red flags or alarms.%0D%0A%0D%0ATherefore%2C it was not until she had consumed breakfast and was headed out the doors of Hannibal Hamlin Hall%2C that she realized there had %5Bi%5Dbeen%5B%2Fi%5D a strange conversational undercurrent among the students in the dining hall. She tried to think of what it could be%2C but her mind had been much more preoccupied with the circumstances behind Mileva and Sosuke%27s %5Bi%5Ddate%5B%2Fi%5D...%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DSpirit%2C you%27re %5Bu%5Dobsessing%5B%2Fu%5D%2C Sterling%2C%5B%2Fi%5D she chided herself. %5Bi%5DIf they had a good time%2C more power to them. It%27s not my business to pry. ... Never mind they%27re %5Bu%5Dboth%5B%2Fu%5D my responsibility%2C and Sosuke has no clue what%27s really involved in a date%2C %5Bu%5Dand%5B%2Fu%5D Mileva%27s technically %5Bu%5Dunderage%5B%2Fu%5D. Spirit of Light%2C what was I thinking%3F%3F%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname was so lodged in her dudgeon as she walked that she didn%27t notice Lindsey Willows approaching until she was beside the taller teen and poking her in the side.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname jerked%2C startled. %22Huh%3F Wha%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I said %27Hi%2C Kaname%21%27 Jeez%2C you%27re out of it today.%22 Lindsey peered at Kaname thoughtfully. %22You feeling all right%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname grunted. %22Had a late evening%2C%22 she stated by way of explanation. %22Still booting up.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22All right%2C%22 Lindsey conceded. She then continued%2C %22I take it Sosuke and Mileva%27s date went OK%2C because otherwise there would%27ve been at least two thermonuclear explosions last night and we%27d be due one this morning.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I wouldn%27t know%2C%22 Kaname grumbled%2C looking away. %22%5Bi%5DI%27m%5B%2Fi%5D the one under surveillance. Besides%2C what am I%2C the cruise director%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5D%22Maybe they%27re up on the %5Bu%5Dlido deck%5B%2Fu%5D%21%22%5B%2Fi%5D she mentally continued. %5Bi%5DWhy do people keep bringing that up%3F%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ALindsey blinked. %22Cripes%2C Kaname. No need to bite my head off.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname seemed to return to herself then%3B she shook her head to clear the mental static and looked back at her friend. %22Sorry%2C sorry. I%27ve just got a lot on my mind%2C that%27s all.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Mm-hmm. So I see.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I%27m just waiting for the other shoe to drop%2C%22 Kaname explained as they turned a corner to start walking along the north Commons path. %22Sosuke %5Bi%5Dstill%5B%2Fi%5D hasn%27t delivered on -- what the %5Bi%5Dhell%5B%2Fi%5D is %5Bi%5Dthat%5B%2Fi%5D%3F%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname came to an immediate halt%2C staring across the snow-covered Common. The gently rolling terrain%2C cut by the deep blue line of the Little Neverwinter and crisscrossed by student paths%2C was a long-familiar sight.%0D%0A%0D%0AThe two thick%2C blocky structures that were now %5Bi%5Dpresent%5B%2Fi%5D at either end of the Common%3F Those were new.%0D%0A%0D%0ALindsey blinked. %22... that%27s a pretty big %27shoe%27.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASlowly%2C as if in a dream%2C Kaname stepped out onto the Common. Her mind continued to try and parse what she was seeing. At first glance%2C they looked like nothing less than block-built %5Bi%5Dmilitary bunkers%5B%2Fi%5D%2C and indeed there was a definite air of brutal unsophistication to them.%0D%0A%0D%0AGetting closer%2C however%2C revealed interesting variations in the design%2C that made the structures more than just bunkers. They seemed to be circular in shape%2C with slightly sloped outside edges. A ramp in one curved wall led up to the upper surface%3B Kaname supposed there would be a matching ramp on the opposite side. Up on top there were large%2C bulky barriers regularly spaced%2C like crenelations on an ancient fort%2C to serve as cover for whoever was on the roof.%0D%0A%0D%0AClimbing up the ramp was not difficult%3B the material it was made of looked to be akin to rather dirty snow%2C but it definitely supported her weight and Lindsey%27s. Now on the roof%2C she could see that the change in altitude gave a nice view of the Common and the matching structure on the opposite side in front of Main Administration. And if that wasn%27t high enough%2C there was even a %5Bi%5Dsniper tower%5B%2Fi%5D on one %22corner%22 of the structure for better observation capability.%0D%0A%0D%0AAn opening in the roof revealed an inner space%2C and it looked like it wouldn%27t be too dangerous to jump in if need be. Presumably there would be exits from the room inside. Scattered here and there%2C both up above and down below%2C were Dumpster-like metal bins%2C painted blue and evidently empty. Bright dots of color in the distance showed that the opposite fort was similarly equipped%2C but the bins over there were red.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Good morning%2C Miss Chidori%2C%22 said Sosuke with an air of satisfaction. He stood at the base of the sniper tower%2C looking off toward the opposite fort through a pair of collapsible binoculars%2C apparently pleased with what he saw. Not far away%2C Mileva Tesla was speaking into a handy-talky%2C evidently directing unseen activities within one of the two structures.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What is this%3F%22 Kaname asked%2C mystified. %22What did you %5Bi%5Ddo%3F%5B%2Fi%5D%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke lowered his binoculars%2C turned to face her%2C and replied%2C %22As you requested%2C Miss Tesla and I have solved the afternoon recreation gap.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22This thing is the snow fort from %5Bi%5Dhell%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke nodded. %22That was the basic idea%2C yes.%22 He gestured toward the opposite fort. %22If our calculations are correct%2C combining the innocent childhood pleasures of snowball fighting with the small-unit tactics and teamwork of a basic capture-the-flag exercise should yield a %5Bi%5Dmost%5B%2Fi%5D satisfactory afternoon%27s entertainment for the more physically inclined and competitive students.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AAppearing to digest that%2C Kaname sat down on one of the lower crenelations%2C then sprang up again in surprise. %22What the - this isn%27t %5Bi%5Dsnow%2C%5B%2Fi%5D it%27s rock-hard%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22It%27s a composite material called pykrete. It was developed on Earth in the mid-twentieth century.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ALindsey rapped experimentally on the smooth surface with a knuckle%2C then asked%2C %22What%27s it made of%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Ice reinforced with sawdust. It%27s an economical and quick building material in sub-freezing conditions%2C and surprisingly resilient.%22 Sosuke gestured to the front of the fort%2C which sloped sharply down to the Common like the face of a dam. %22This glacis would easily withstand up to 80mm mortar fire.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22How are we going to get RID of these things after Sanity Week ends%3F Jackhammers%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Not a problem. Miss Tesla and I have it all worked out.%22 Crouching%2C Sosuke picked up a bulky object that had lain at his feet%2C concealed by the battlement at the base of the tower%2C and hefted it into view. Mileva wheeled over another%2C very similar object%2C this one mounted on a small cart. They were strange-looking things%2C part industrial tool%2C part weapon%2C with heavy-duty controls and a curious cowling at the front on which some jaunty soul had painted fighter-plane-style shark teeth.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname said nothing.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Salusian-issue M7057%2FDefoliant Projector%2C for progressive meltdown%2C%22 Mileva explained. %22We start at the top%2C work our way down%2C job done. Should take about half an hour.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22You%27re going to melt it with flamethrowers%3F%21 What about the sawdust%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22... Sawdust is flammable%2C Miss Chidori%2C%22 Sosuke pointed out as if reluctant to believe she wasn%27t aware of so basic a fact.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22%5Bsmall%5Dspiritiamnot%5Bi%5Dhaving%5B%2Fi%5Dthisconversation%2C%5B%2Fsmall%5D%22 Kaname muttered through her teeth%2C and then%2C out loud%2C %22Lindsey%3F Take me away from here before I do something Sosuke will regret.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22You didn%27t ask%2C%22 Lindsey observed cheerfully as they left the fort%2C %22but %5Bi%5DI%5B%2Fi%5D think this is gonna be %5Bi%5Dbitchin%27%5B%2Fi%5D.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DFriday%2C February 12%2C 2410%0D%0A00%3A43 hrs%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname didn%27t really mind that the final push on the prep work for Winterfest had kept her in her corner bunker in the common room past midnight. She was getting a lot done%2C and starting to form real confidence that everything was%2C in fact%2C going to be ready in time. Besides%2C it was nice and quiet with everyone else on the floor in bed.%0D%0A%0D%0AAlmost everyone else.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Rory%2C%22 she said flatly%2C without looking up from her work. %22In here. Now.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AThere was a pause%3B then Rory Williams entered the room from the hallway%2C looking a bit sheepish. %22Uh... hey%2C Kaname%2C%22 he said with feigned bonhomie. %22Still hard at it%2C I see.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname held up a hand for him to wait and be quiet%2C used the other to finish filling in a form%2C then put her pen down%2C got up%2C and regarded him with an expression that was not so much annoyance as resignation.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Rory... %22 she said%2C then sighed. %22You have to stop sneaking in here after curfew every night. I mean%2C you%27re good at it%2C props for that%2C but my ass could end up in the sling with yours if you get caught.%22 She put her hands on her hips. %22It%27s very dashing and romantic%2C I%27m sure%2C but can you honestly not live without your girlfriend for a whole eight hours a day%3F Seriously. I know you%27re not a frosh%2C you%27re only on my floor because the housing numbers were weird this year%2C but I can only cut you so much slack for that. You keep this up and I%27m going to have to go to Dean Montaigne eventually.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ARory raised a hand and opened his mouth to reply several times%2C each time frowning at himself and pacing away a few steps before returning to try it again. Finally he stopped%2C looked her straight in the eye%2C and said%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22All right%2C look%2C I%27ll level with you. Amy and me%3F%22 Kaname raised an eyebrow%2C wondering where this was heading%2C but in none of the scenarios she envisioned in the second or so before he went on did she come anywhere close to predicting what he actually said next%3A %22We%27re time travelers. We%27re not really 15%2C we%27ve been together for something like 20 human lifetimes at this point. Sometimes... sometimes we get separated. When that %5Bi%5Dhasn%27t%5B%2Fi%5D happened%2C we prefer to keep it that way as much as possible.%22 He shrugged. %22So.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname looked back at his perfectly earnest face for a couple of seconds%2C her own expression completely blank%3B then%2C finally%2C she couldn%27t hold back the laughter any longer and giggled her way back into her chair.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Awright%2C points for creativity. You%27re off the hook this time%2C but do me a favor and %5Bi%5Dtry%5B%2Fi%5D to get back here by 11 most nights%2C huh%3F%22 She shook her head%2C picked up her pen%2C and moved on to the next form. %22Good night%2C Rory.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AWith a slight smile on his face%2C Rory sketched a salute. %22Ma%27m%2C%22 he said%2C and turned to go.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22And shave properly in the morning%21%22 she called after him. %22This is school%2C not a music video.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Yes%2C ma%27m%2C%22 he replied%2C followed by the sound of his room door opening and closing again.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5D16%3A57 hrs%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AThe assembled students milled about in the Student Union%27s Grand Ballroom%2C waiting for somebody to come and explain what was up with the two structures that had appeared on the Common the previous day. A schoolwide email had been issued%2C stating that explanations would be forthcoming for anybody who wanted to hear them%3B but in order to hear them%2C they%27d have to come to the ballroom at a certain time in the afternoon%2C and this was nearly that time.%0D%0A%0D%0AThey didn%27t have to wait long. At 5 PM%2C Kaname Sterling stepped out onto the ballroom%27s small stage%2C came to a halt behind the podium that was there%2C and composed herself.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Hello%21%22 she declared%2C her voice amplified to reach the far corners of the great room. %22May I have your attention please%3F%22 The murmuring tapered off as everyone turned to face the stage. %22Ah%2C good. Well.%22 She smiled cheerfully. %22Thank you all for coming. You all know why we%27re here. Sanity Week is upon us%2C and we%27re going to kick it off in style with the fourth annual Winterfest%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname waited for the cheers this remark roused to subside%2C then went on%2C %22Now%2C for those of you who%27ve done this before%2C you can relax - we%27ve got all the stuff you know and love from last year%27s Winterfest coming up. Ice boating%2C lake hockey%2C the cross-country ski race%2C it%27s all in there. Full details are available in the schedule packets you should all have found in your mailboxes this morning.%22 She held up an example of the colorful publication in question%2C in case anyone hadn%27t grasped what they were. %22However%2C this year%2C we%27re also going to try something new. You may have noticed%2C%22 she added dryly%2C %22the ice structures that have been erected out on the Common%3F Well%2C it%27s not some kind of weird avant-garde art installation. That%27s the venue for an experimental new Winterfest event%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AShe took one hand off the lectern and gestured grandly to her right%2C where a simplified%2C idealized%2C slightly cartoonish holo of the two ice bunkers and the no-man%27s-land in between them appeared. %22We call it... Snow Gulch.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A %22Attending School Duty%22%0D%0AToshihiko Sahashi%0D%0A%5Bi%5DFull Metal Panic Original Soundtrack 2%5B%2Fi%5D %282002%29%2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AAfter giving her audience a few seconds to take in the holo%2C Kaname stepped from behind the lectern and paced in front of it%2C explaining as she did so%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Semi-organized snowball fights are a Winterfest tradition%2C but Snow Gulch is a snowball fight with a difference. You will divide into two teams%2C codenamed Red and Blue%3B preliminary selections to be made now%2C final rosters must be posted by dinnertime tomorrow. Professor Moore will be faculty supervisor for Red%2C Professor MacGregor for Blue%2C but internal organization of those teams - chains of command %28if any%29%2C areas of responsibility%2C and so forth - are entirely up to you.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22At one PM on Sunday%2C the teams will report to their obvious rallying points and the game will begin.%22 The holo switched from an isometric perspective to the view from the blimp%2C enabling Kaname to point out various blinking waypoints. %22This will be a simple capture-the-flag exercise%2C with which many of you are no doubt familiar from all that online gaming you do when you%27re supposed to be studying.%22 That got a mild%2C vaguely guilty laugh%2C as Kaname pointed out the flashing red and blue triangles in the centers of the two forts.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22On the off chance that anyone doesn%27t know how this works%2C each team will have an obvious and accessible token in a central location%2C%22 she said. %22You are not allowed to remove your own token from its designated area. The object of the game is to enter the opposing team%27s fortification%2C seize their token%2C and convey it back to your own fort %5Bi%5Dwithout%5B%2Fi%5D losing your own token.%22 To illustrate this point%2C the red triangle left its place in the red fort%2C moved across the battlefield%2C and took up a position next to the blue triangle. %22When one team has both tokens in their central holding area%2C the other team will have two minutes to remove one or both from that area. If they do not succeed in doing so%2C the team holding both tokens is awarded a point%2C the round ends%2C the tokens will be reset%2C and a new round begun.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AReally getting into the general-on-the-stage thing now%2C Kaname turned and paced back toward the lectern%2C her hands folded behind her back. %22We%27ll start with a couple of rounds with small test teams%2C just to make sure the system works and there are no unforeseen glitches with the scoring. If all goes well%2C all-hands battles will follow. Play will continue until three rounds with the full teams are complete%2C or until dark%2C whichever comes first. At the end of that time%2C the team with the most points is the winner. In the event of a tie because we ran out of time%2C the referees may make a decision based on creativity%2C team spirit%2C casualty rates%2C or other factors%2C or we might put it to a vote. Sportsmanship is expected.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AHaving gone up and down a couple of times%2C Kaname arrived in front of the middle of the holo again%2C turned to face the audience fully%2C and said%2C %22And that brings me to the most important rule%3A Your %5Bi%5Donly%5B%2Fi%5D weapon - and I cannot possibly stress this enough - %5Bi%5Dwill be %5Bu%5Dsnow%5B%2Fu%5D%5B%2Fi%5D. That%27s it. No other means of attack will be permitted. You can be as creative as you want about how you employ it%2C but the %5Bi%5Donly%5B%2Fi%5D thing I want to see hitting people out there is %5Bi%5Dsnow%5B%2Fi%5D%2C and %5Bi%5Dnot%5B%2Fi%5D snow packed so tightly it%27s basically ice. And a bit of light wrestling is OK in close combat%2C but no brawling%21 I know some of you people can get pretty competitive - %22 %28that drew another laugh%29 %22 - but this isn%27t actually a war%2C so control yourselves. It%27s supposed to be fun. If anybody gets hurt%2C we %5Bi%5Dwon%27t%5B%2Fi%5D be doing this again.%22 She held her firm gaze on them for a few seconds%2C letting that sink in%2C then smiled to break the tension. %22Any questions%3F%22 She nodded to the owner of the first hand up. %22Yes. Frank.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What about equipment%3F%22 Frank Weeks asked. %22You said we could be creative%2C does that mean we%27re allowed to %5Bi%5Dmake%5B%2Fi%5D things%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Well spotted%2C yes%2C%22 said Kaname. %22You %5Bi%5Dare%5B%2Fi%5D allowed to build devices that throw snow%2C if you think of any. Just a couple of things. They either have to be fixed in position%2C in which case%2C go nuts%2C or they have to be small and light enough that one or two people%2C no more%2C can carry and operate them. And you have to be able to make them out of stuff that%27s readily available on campus in the next day. Anything you build has to be vetted by the referees by the team selection deadline tomorrow.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What about a trebuchet%3F%22 someone asked.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname laughed. %22Sure%2C if you can build one by six o%27clock tomorrow night%2C%22 she said.%0D%0A%0D%0AThere were a few other questions%2C mainly procedural%3B then she turned them loose to set up their teams%2C and the gathering dissolved into what looked from a distance like chattering chaos as the students began to discuss the matter animatedly among themselves.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname smiled with satisfaction as she watched the mass of students break up into smaller clusters%2C as teams were formed and battle lines drawn. Everyone seemed excited%2C which she took as a good sign%2C and she found herself looking forward to this crazy idea coming to fruition more than she might have expected she would before delivering the briefing.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Not bad%2C not bad at all%2C%22 Lindsey commented as Kaname dismounted from the stage to land on the ballroom floor. %22Our most famous alumna couldn%27t have done it better herself.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22You know%2C Lins%2C I think you may be right. This %5Bi%5Dis%5B%2Fi%5D gonna be %5Bi%5D%27bitchin%27%5B%2Fi%5D%2C%22 Kaname said with a wink. %22And I should %5Bi%5Dhope%5B%2Fi%5D so%2C I%27ve had plenty of practice.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AThe two went out into the room%2C half-listening to snippets of various groups%27 negotiations as they began to form coalitions and build up into what would become the two armies. Sosuke%2C who had hovered off to the side during the briefing%2C joined them.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Mileva%27s idea appears to be a popular one%2C%22 he said%2C sounding gratified. %22I look forward to seeing it in practice.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Will you be playing%3F%22 Lindsey wondered.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Negative%2C Miss Willows. My experience in these matters would give me an unfair advantage.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oh%2C pff%2C%22 said Kaname. %22It%27s an organized snowball fight%2C not the Battle of Debney Ridge. I bet some of these kids are %5Bi%5Dway%5B%2Fi%5D better at it than you are.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22That sounds challenge-like to me%2C%22 Lindsey observed.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I suppose I could moderate my participation%2C%22 Sosuke allowed after a moment%27s consideration. %22It %5Bi%5Dwould%5B%2Fi%5D be a useful opportunity to observe the other students%27 performance in a simulated crisis.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22There%2C you see%3F You can even turn fun time into work%2C%22 said Kaname. %22Also%2C hang on%2C she%27s %5Bi%5DMileva%5B%2Fi%5D now%3F What happened to Miss Tesla%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke glanced at her%2C then replied with a perfectly straight face%2C %22She asked me to call her Mileva. It%27s only polite to comply.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What%2C so all I have to do is tell you to stop calling me Miss Chidori%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Negative. The situation is very different. You%27re not a girl%2C you%27re my assignment.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname sighed. %22Get out of here before I hurt you.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke nodded. %22Affirmative. Excuse me while I make preparations.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AAs he was turning to go%2C the three passed the very girl they%27d just been talking about%2C standing with her roommate Irina. They%27d have gone on by%2C except that Kaname happened to catch the word %5Bi%5DPanzer%5B%2Fi%5D in their conversation.%0D%0A%0D%0ALooking over her shoulder at the two youngsters%2C Kaname proclaimed%2C %22... NO TANKS%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AIrina looked crestfallen. %22Aw%2C but Mileva and I were hoping...%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22No. Just... no.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22The school%27s Panzer 26 would be inappropriate for the terrain and environment%2C anyway%2C%22 Sosuke observed helpfully. %22You would be much better served with a Napoleon-class microtank. Their turrets can be easily swapped out - %22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname glared at Sosuke. %22DON%27T ENCOURAGE THEM%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I thought encouraging the younger students to push their limits was part of an upperclassman%27s responsibility%2C%22 Sosuke protested mildly%2C and Lindsey burst out laughing at the look on Kaname%27s face as she realized he%27d just played back something she%27d said.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22%5Bi%5DGo%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22 Kaname commanded%2C pointing imperiously in a randomly chosen direction. Sosuke%2C with the faintest hint of a smile%2C saluted and took himself off to do something out of her way for a while. Irina and Mileva departed in another direction%2C revising their plans as they went.%0D%0A%0D%0AMizuki Inaba drifted out of the crowd%2C arriving just as the other three left%2C and inquired cheerfully%2C %22Trouble with Electra Girl and Bomb Boy%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0ARolling her eyes%2C Kaname sighed. %22That kid%27s a bad influence.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Who%3F Sagara or Tesla%3F%22 Mizuki asked.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname flatly replied%2C %22Yes.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ALindsey considered this for a moment%2C then opined%2C %22He encourages her to think bigger%2C she encourages him to think non-linearly. That%27s a terrifying kind of feedback loop. I think we need to separate them for the galaxy%27s protection.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DSaturday%2C February 13%2C 2410%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ASaturday morning opened bright and clear%2C a beautiful opening to 2410%27s Winterfest.%0D%0A%0D%0ADay One ran like clockwork%2C a testament to Kaname%27s meticulous planning and the hard work of her delegates %28who had taken to calling themselves %22General Sterling%27s colonels%22%29. The daylight hours were full to bursting with wintry fun. For the more sedate and artistic%2C there was ice skating on Lake Jeradar. For the slightly hardier%2C several old-timey lake hockey games were waged nearby%2C with the rink defined by hay bales %28where had Professor May gotten hold of %5Bi%5Dbaled hay%5B%2Fi%5D in %5Bi%5DFebruary%3F%5B%2Fi%5D%29 and the players learning first-hand how good they had it%2C playing their regular games in state-of-the-art Walsh Arena. For the %5Bi%5Dreally%5B%2Fi%5D hardy%2C and the speed demons%2C there were the iceboat races over on Crowe Reservoir.%0D%0A%0D%0AUp on Castle Hill%2C the younger members of the Duelists%27 Society cheerfully proctored the use of their clubhouse%27s perch - the only clear high ground on the campus proper - for sledding. Inside the Castle itself%2C the senior Duelists welcomed anyone who cared to stop by for some hot cocoa%2C perhaps a baked good%2C and a spot of good-natured interpersonal violence. They were having their Alumni Day that day too%2C so a number of the club%27s alumni - wryly nicknamed the Elder Gods by some of the youngsters - were on hand as well.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname spent the morning feeling like she was pretty much everywhere at once%2C and more than once she thought what she really needed was an International Police Lens. That way she wouldn%27t be at the mercy of Student Activities%27 slightly battered handy-talkies%2C which had an annoying habit of automatically seeking to the same frequency that was used by the drive-thru at the Port Jeradar KFC if you weren%27t careful. Several times that day she found herself trying to reach the Crowe Dam team and finding herself taking somebody%27s order for a party bucket.%0D%0A%0D%0AOf course%2C that would only have helped her get in touch with a bare handful of people on Jeraddo%2C and most of them were over at the Xavier Institute%2C so she still wouldn%27t have been able to communicate with the two lake venues without the use of Student Activities%27 also-slightly-battered van. Things calmed down a little bit after lunch%2C since operations at the reservoir were wrapped up by then %28without casualties%2C amazingly enough%2C unless you counted Professor Hammond%27s pride%29%2C leaving only the skating%2C the freestyle snowball fighting on the practice field%2C and the action up on Castle Hill.%0D%0A%0D%0AWith her most trustworthy colonels in full charge at the lake and on the field and the radios more or less behaving%2C Kaname felt - barely - clear to spend most of the afternoon at the Castle. This was mostly in her role as Hamlin 4%27s Resident Advisor%2C since a number of her charges were attending the open house%2C but also partly as %5Bi%5DWinterfestf%C3%BChrerin%5B%2Fi%5D %28as Professor Kesselring had dubbed her upon stumbling across her command post in the Hamlin 4 common room%29. She had to deal with the band%2C after all%2C and they were all up there. Or at least that was the excuse.%0D%0A%0D%0ADinner in the Hamlin Commons was more boisterous than usual%2C everyone red-faced and genial%2C talking that little bit more loudly as people who have been outdoors all day tend to do. The fact that it was fully dark outside by suppertime at this time of year was usually a bit of a downer%2C but tonight the darkness outside the windows%2C broken by the frosty glow of the campus streetlamps and the lights in the windows of other buildings%2C seemed almost homey when viewed from the brightly lit%2C happily communal dining hall.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22It%27s going really well%2C%22 Lindsey remarked%2C her own voice raised to be heard over the cheerful din.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22So far%2C so good%2C%22 Kaname replied.%0D%0A%0D%0AEveryone raced through dinner at an unseemly pace%2C in anticipation of what came afterward. Kaname had the sense that she was leading a parade%2C or perhaps an unusually chipper protest march%2C as the Res Group West students streamed out onto the Common%2C past the frozen fortifications of Fort Sagara %28the red one opposite had%2C inevitably%2C been called Fort Tesla%29%2C and met up with the smaller contingent from Res Group East in the center of the snowy expanse.%0D%0A%0D%0AHere loomed the Fire Pile%2C several tons of wood and other combustible material%2C intricately stacked and interlocked by students under the supervision of Professors Hammond and Mikelewski of the civil engineering and physics departments%2C respectively. Maya Ibuki%2C the chemistry department%27s beloved Science Ninja%2C had provided a massive quantity of some highly classified accelerant%2C dousing the stack with a contraption that looked like the kind of thing an airport would use to foam the runway%2C and it had been soaking in all day. She guaranteed that%2C exposed to a temperature above a very specific threshold%2C the whole heap would be fully involved within moments.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bdiv style%3D%22background-color%3A%23dcdcdc%3B padding%3A5%22%5D%5Bfont color%3D%22black%22%5DHearing the target temperature%2C Sosuke perked up slightly and remarked%2C %22A phased plasma rifle in the 40-kilowatt range would achieve that temperature easily.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22%5Bi%5DNo%2C%5B%2Fi%5D Sosuke%2C you cannot use a %5Bi%5Dplasma rifle%5B%2Fi%5D to light the bonfire%2C%22 Kaname told him. %22Spirit%2C where would you even %5Bi%5Dget%5B%2Fi%5D one of those%3F Don%27t answer that.%22%5B%2Ffont%5D%5B%2Fdiv%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Are we ready%3F%22 Kaname asked the night in general. A roar like that of the crowd at a sporting event was her response. She turned to Sosuke. %22Sergeant-at-Arms%2C do your duty.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke nodded. Having vetoed the plasma rifle plan%2C she was expecting him to haul out a firelighter or a road flare at this point%2C but instead%2C he turned and marched %5Bi%5Daway%5B%2Fi%5D from the Pile%2C the crowd of students parting to let him pass%2C until he stood about forty yards away. Then he reached into his coat and pulled out a pistol-shaped object that glinted brass-golden in the glow of the streetlights. This he proceeded%2C with a sort of ceremonious precision%2C to break open like an old-fashioned shotgun%2C so that he could slide a fat plastic shell into its breech and snap it shut. As he thumbed back the hammer and raised it%2C aiming into the air above everyone%27s head%2C Kaname could see that the device%27s muzzle was belled like a trumpet%2C and in that instant she recognized it. She%27d seen something just like it in a movie once.%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke pulled the trigger%2C and with a sharp PHUT the antique Very pistol in his hand spat a brilliant red signal flare into the air. It traveled in a hissing parabolic arc%2C plunked down squarely on top of the Pile%2C and easily ignited Professor Ibuki%27s secret accelerant. Fire cascaded down the sides of the stack%2C racing through the cracks and seams in the timbers%2C and within moments - just as promised - the whole thing was ablaze%2C flooding the center of the Common with heat and merry orange light. The student body and assembled faculty broke into spontaneous applause and cheers.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oooooo. %5Bi%5DClassy%5B%2Fi%5D%2C%22 Lindsey murmured.%0D%0A%0D%0AAs Sosuke returned to her side%2C tucking his flare gun back into his coat%2C Kaname smiled and told him%2C %22OK%2C I admit it%2C that was cool.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AHe nodded cordially. %22Thank you%2C Miss Chidori.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5DSunday%2C February 14%2C 2410%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ASunday morning opened grey and overcast%2C a suitable air of tension permeating the air%2C heralding the conflicts to come. Although the morning was still allocated for sledding and ice skating%2C the majority of students who were involved in Winterfest activites were already directing their attentions towards preparations for that afternoon%27s entertainment.%0D%0A%0D%0ABy the time lunch rolled around%2C those students who had chosen to participate in the grand experiment had gathered at the steps of the Student Union facing the Commons. Those who hadn%27t chosen to participate%2C yet were still interested in the proceedings%2C had begun to gather in small groups along the edges of the Commons.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A Klaus Badelt%0D%0A%22Blood Ritual%22 %28begin at 01%3A10%29%0D%0A%5Bi%5DPirates of the Caribbean%3A Curse of the Black Pearl%5B%2Fi%5D %282003%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AIn front of Fort Tesla%2C Professor Charles Moore had dressed for the occasion in a battle-dress uniform he appeared to have borrowed from the 20th-Century Earth faction of the Institute%27s Society for Creative Anachronism chapter%2C the bright red beret on his head displaying his team affiliation plainly. With his hands folded behind his back%2C he paced up and down before his troops%2C surveying them with flinty eyes. Many of the freshmen from Kaname%27s floor were here%2C keyed up and ready to play. A few wore sports equipment%2C mainly hockey helmets and a few cricket shinguards. Rory Williams%2C though not a freshman%2C had joined his floormates%2C toting a tall%2C curved%2C gaily painted red-and-gold shield he%27d appropriated from the Theatre Department props room %28a leftover from the previous fall%27s Shakespeare-on-the-Common production of %5Bi%5DJulius Caesar%5B%2Fi%5D%29.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Now I want you all to remember something%2C%22 he said%2C his voice deliberately pitched in a lower%2C raspier register than his students were used to. %22General Sterling told you on Friday that this was a game. But this is %5Bi%5Dnot%5B%2Fi%5D a game%21 This is %5Bi%5Dwar%21%5B%2Fi%5D And nobody ever won a war with guts alone%21%22 He rounded on them. %22Wars are won with %5Bi%5Dbrains%21%5B%2Fi%5D And %5Bi%5Dtools%21%5B%2Fi%5D Mr. Weeks%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Here%21%22 Shark Week declared.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Is your invention ready%3F%22 Moore demanded.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Affirmative%2C sir%21%22 Weeks replied%2C brandishing what looked like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a firehose.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22All right. Everybody use your heads%2C think tactically%2C and don%27t let those Blue - %22 He hesitated fractionally. %22 - bozos taunt you into losing your cool%21 We%27re gonna %5Bi%5Dwin%5B%2Fi%5D this thing by fighting %5Bi%5Dsmarter%5B%2Fi%5D%2C not harder%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AMeanwhile%2C at Fort Sagara%2C Professor William MacGregor had adopted an entirely different persona. As a proud son of New Caledonia%2C he was decked out in the full Highland regalia%2C as if he%27d just arrived from the Battle of Culloden. Most of the Duelists who were taking part were on his side%2C as well as a handful of the alumni who%27d come to campus for the festival. Down in front%2C Amy Pond - probably the only person in the B%27hava%27el system who was more Scottish than MacGregor%2C being from the genuine and original Inverness - had taken his theme fully on board%2C sporting not only slightly ragged Clan MacIntosh tartan but vivid blue war paint. Nobody else had gone quite that far%2C but they all looked cheerfully up for a scrap.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22I%27ll bet ye ennathin%27%2C%22 MacGregor bellowed%2C his burr even broader than usual%2C %22Old Nancy Moore is over there righ%27 noow tellin%27 his kids tha%27 this is a %5Bi%5Dwar%5B%2Fi%5D%2C an%27 ye win a %5Bi%5Dwar%5B%2Fi%5D wi%27 %5Bi%5Dsmarts%5B%2Fi%5D. Bu%27 we all knoow tha%27 isna so%21 Ye win a war by bein%27 %5Bi%5Dharder%5B%2Fi%5D than the other fella%21 By nae bein%27 %5Bi%5Dafraid%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22 He brandished his round Scots targe. %22By knoowin%27 tha%27 they may take our %5Bi%5Dlives%5B%2Fi%5D%2C but %5Bi%5Dnever%5B%2Fi%5D our honor%21 %5Bi%5DNow go ou%27 there an%27 show %27em wha%27 for%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22%0D%0A%0D%0AAfter the faculty-advisor pep talks%2C the first couple of rounds were almost anticlimactic. Fought with small squads%2C skirmish-style%2C they were only intended to test the mechanics and make sure the timing of the game actually worked. The referee panel %28two deans%2C Odo%2C and President Tiefeld%29 carried out a few rules adjustments on the fly%2C tweaking the precise workings of the game based on the results of these rounds%2C and by one-thirty%2C everything was in place for the all-hands showdowns to begin.%0D%0A%0D%0ABlue took the first round%2C but messily%2C with heavy losses. Red took the second%2C but it was a laborious process%2C featuring a number of gambits that were canny and well-thought-out%2C but lacked something in spectator appeal. For the third and final%2C tie-breaking round%2C the referees ruled that the faculty captains were far too invested in the thing and ordered them off the field%2C to be replaced with player captains selected by popular demand.%0D%0A%0D%0ATo no one%27s great surprise%2C the Duelist-heavy Blues immediately dragooned their emerita VP%2C the most senior member of the Interscholastic Duelists%27 Federation participating in the game. To no one else%27s great surprise%2C the Hamlin 4th-dominated Reds responded by naming their beloved RA.%0D%0A%0D%0AStepping to the center of the pitch for the kickoff to Round Three%2C Kaname grinned and inquired%2C %22You ready for this%2C Utena%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0AUtena Tenjou responded with a trademark grin of her own and replied%2C %22Let%27s give %27em a show.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Oh it is %5Bi%5Don%5B%2Fi%5D%2C%22 Lindsey Willows cried happily from the Blue side as the 30-second warning horn sounded. The two captains shook hands ceremoniously%2C parted and walked back to their lines.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22What%27s the plan%2C Miss Chidori%3F%22 Sosuke inquired as Kaname entered the Red command post.%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname grinned. %22That%27s your department%2C Sergeant-at-Arms.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke looked a little taken aback for a moment%2C then smiled slightly and gestured for the others to gather around. When they had%2C he indicated points on the big tactical map and began rapping out instructions%3A %22Kazama. Holstein. Kruger. Proceed to point delta-four and await Miss Chidori%27s signal. Avoid engagement until that time if at all possible. Yumemiya%2C W%C3%A1ng%2C Williams%2C I need you right here. Woods%2C Hallard%2C Senoh%2C echelon left. Mukai%2C Inaba%2C Zak%2C echelon right. Everyone else%2C stay here%2C defense formation C%2C but be prepared to move out. Miss Chidori%2C you%27re with me.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AOutside%2C the %22commence game%22 siren wailed. Kaname%27s grin widened%3B she clapped the sergeant on one shoulder%2C grabbed a snowball out of the nearest bin%2C and said%2C %22Right%2C then. Let%27s get it on%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A Dropkick Murphys%0D%0A%22Hang %27Em High%22%0D%0A%5Bi%5DGoing Out in Style%5B%2Fi%5D %282011%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0ARed%27s assault force burst out of Fort Sagara with a suddenness and cohesion that took Blue somewhat by surprise - they were clearly expecting a few opening minutes of probing attacks and feints%2C not a frontal assault - but they were ready to defend themselves. The main force encountered heavy resistance almost from the start%2C first in the form of plunging fire from the Fort Tesla battlements%2C then - as they drew nearer - direct fire from the front-line defenders. Trainee Invader Zak was the first to get it%2C falling with a despairing cry of %22I have %5Bi%5Dfailed%5B%2Fi%5D you%2C my Not-Quite-As-Tallest%21%22 as they crossed the centerline of no-man%27s-land. On the left flank%2C Irina Woods was next to go%2C although - with a mighty effort - she dispatched her roommate even as she fell.%0D%0A%0D%0AWhen they reached the outer perimeter of the Blue side itself%2C Sosuke put the next phase of his plan into action%2C relaying instructions through Kaname and her handy-talky. On the far side%2C having crept into position all but unnoticed amid the fury of the frontal attack%2C Shinji Kazama%27s sapper team began scaling the rear of the fort%2C stealthily eliminating the handful of Blues chafing at their rearguard assignments. Once they were in position%2C Kaname - at a tense nod from Sosuke - ordered the breaching phase to commence.%0D%0A%0D%0AArika%2C Nina%2C and Rory broke away from the main force and ran for the Unionside front corner of the opposing team%27s fort%2C Sosuke and Kaname a bit to their right%2C the rest of the formation trailing a few paces and maintaining volley fire over their heads. To the left%2C in the most exposed position on the wedge%2C Rory hustled along next to the two girls%2C keeping them covered with his giant shield. Arika glanced at her roommate%2C asked quickly with a grin%2C %22The one-two%3F%22 and received a curt nod in reply.%0D%0A%0D%0ANina and Rory sprinted ahead to the base of the fort%2C using an inside corner of the walls for cover from two sides while Rory hunkered down and grounded his shield to cover the third. Arika took a moment longer to accept snowballs from her teammates%2C handed to her while on the run. Then%2C without breaking stride%2C her arms full of snowballs%2C she ran straight for Nina%2C who had crouched down and laced her hands together.%0D%0A%0D%0AAs soon as Arika%27s foot was in Nina%27s improvised sling%2C Nina bent her entire body back and raised her arms%2C launching Arika into the air with a mighty %22HUP%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0ANow airborne%2C Arika easily soared over the upper ramparts of the base%2C taking the few students stationed up top by surprise. Skillfully thrown snowballs pasted two in the face%2C and the remainder were dumped%2C claymore-style%2C on three more before she landed among their fallen forms. With the top now distracted%2C Arika called out to her compatriots%2C %22The top%27s clear%21 GO GO GO%21%22 As Sosuke%2C Kaname%2C and the rest of the assault force scaled the glacis%2C Arika rushed to the nearest snow bin to resupply for the inevitable counterattack.%0D%0A%0D%0AWhen it came%2C it was massive and furious%2C all hands on the Blue team rallying to defend the nerve center of their citadel. Had it been anything more serious than a snowball fight%2C the carnage would have beggared description%2C because - with the hour growing late - everyone sensed that this was %5Bi%5Dit%5B%2Fi%5D. Seeing that Blue hadn%27t had time to mount a strike of their own%2C Kaname called out most of the reserves she and Sosuke had left behind. The final confrontation%2C the climactic battle of this epic afternoon%2C was at hand.%0D%0A%0D%0AAmid the melee%2C a hundred little dramas played out individually. In lonely corners of the battlefield%2C friends%2C roommates%2C even brothers and sisters were pitted against each other in this final%2C feral%2C merciless phase of the Snow Wars%2C often with endings that were straight out of Greek tragedy. As everyone had known from the start was inevitable%2C Amy and Rory exterminated each other all but simultaneously%2C Rory abandoning his shield upright to protect Kaname%27s left flank and then fearlessly meeting his lover%27s banzai charge with one of his own. Off to the right%2C Nina and Arika perished in a withering crossfire set up by Lindsey and Boba Fett before the former fell to Shark Week%27s snow bazooka and Tom Palmer - having traitorously agreed to switch teams for balance%27s sake after Round Two - picked off the latter with a surgically applied snow slider. Onager fire from the upper battlement swept away much of the Red afterguard before Shinji%27s sappers%2C striking from behind%2C could silence the weapon and most of its crew.%0D%0A%0D%0ASpying the pink streamer of Utena%27s hair as she jumped down from the doomed onager%27s platform with black-clad Corwin Ravenhair alongside her%2C Sosuke turned to Kaname and said%2C %22Miss Tenjou%27s all yours%2C Miss Chidori. I%27ll deal with Ravenhair.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname nodded and went to the left as Sosuke broke right%2C loading up his non-throwing arm as he went - and so%2C as everyone had %5Bi%5Dalso%5B%2Fi%5D known would be inevitable%2C it came down to a snipers%27 duel between team captains. While their bodyguards were busy annihilating each other with massed fire%2C Utena Tenjou and Kaname Sterling pitted their pitching arms against each other across the circular gallery overlooking the flag room - a distance%2C entirely by design%2C of exactly 60.5 feet. In many ways this was a classic confrontation%3A lefty versus righty%2C power versus finesse%2C Utena%27s crushingly direct four-seam fastball against Kaname%27s trademark viciously late-breaking cutter.%0D%0A%0D%0AWhile the combatants dug themselves out of the deep spots%2C brushed themselves off%2C laughed uproariously%2C and in a couple of cases got in a little surreptitious making out under cover of snowdrifts before emerging%2C the final score had to be determined with a %5Bi%5Dframe count%5B%2Fi%5D of video footage from Chie Hallard%27s handycam. This showed that%2C though both teams had suffered 100%25 losses in that final assault%2C and therefore%2C strictly speaking%2C %5Bi%5Dno one%5B%2Fi%5D had won Round Three%2C Red%27s captain had %22lived%22 exactly 0.027 seconds longer than Blue%27s. Therefore%2C based on the overall scores%2C Red were the afternoon%27s ultimate winners - though all agreed that%2C in the final analysis%2C they%27d %5Bi%5Dall%5B%2Fi%5D won because %5Bi%5Ddamn%5B%2Fi%5D%2C we are %5Bi%5Dso%5B%2Fi%5D doing this again next year.%0D%0A%0D%0AHearing the verdict at the scorer%27s table%2C Utena finished wiping snow out of her eyes%2C turned to Kaname%2C and offered her hand again with a smile%2C remarking%2C %22You%27ve got a hell of a breaking ball there. Good game%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Thanks%2C%22 said Kaname%2C shaking it. %22Are you guys staying for the dance%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Wouldn%27t miss it.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bb%5D19%3A00 hrs%5B%2Fb%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AHaving combed the snow out of their hair%2C changed clothes%2C and grabbed a quick dinner%2C the students reconvened in the Grand Ballroom. This was an altogether less%2C well%2C %5Bi%5Dformal%5B%2Fi%5D affair than the Spring Formal. There was no chamberlain at the Winterfest Dance%2C no announcement queue%2C no photo line%2C not even the standard tacit expectation that the attendees would come as couples %28though most still did%29. In keeping with the Winterfest%2FSanity Week theme%2C it was more like a big%2C school-sanctioned party%3A Come as you are and be prepared to get down.%0D%0A%0D%0AThe ballroom was configured in a modified concert auditorium setup. Up on the stage%2C the briefing equipment from Kaname%27s introductory speech on Friday had been removed%2C the curtain closed%2C and the risers%2C amps%2C and stacks of a rock band erected on the apron %28along with the Union%27s upright piano%29%2C but down in the main room%2C the floor was as devoid as ever of seating%2C apart from the benches along the room%27s long walls.%0D%0A%0D%0APrecisely on the dot of seven%2C the band took the stage%2C six figures unmistakable to anyone at all familiar with the school%27s history. A slim%2C dusky girl with wiry grey hair%2C her golden eyes glittering in the stage lights%3B a dark-eyed%2C auburn-haired young woman in a black tank top printed with an industrial safety sign %28DANGER%3A THIS MACHINE ROCKS AUTOMATICALLY%29%3B the massive black-clad form of a Hoffmanite%3B a slender%2C blue-haired young man in a ruffly shirt and leather jeans%3B a bespectacled brunette in what looked to be a white marching-band jacket and cargo pants%3B and a tiger. Wearing sunglasses.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Ladies and gentlebeings%21%22 Moose MacEchearn boomed%2C not requiring amplification to reach the farthest corners of the ballroom with his stentorian voice. %22Welcome to the fourth annual Winterfest Dance%21 %5Bi%5DWe%5B%2Fi%5D - are the Art of Noise%21%22%0D%0A%0D%0AAnd with no more buildup than that%2C they were off%2C laying down the intro of the song they%27d chosen as this year%27s regular opener.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A Boston%0D%0A%22Peace of Mind%22%0D%0A%5Bi%5DBoston%5B%2Fi%5D %281976%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname watched from the sidelines as her classmates danced and mingled%2C enjoying the music in the moment. Despite Kate%27s concerns that the Art of Noise was more accustomed to playing %5Bi%5Dconcerts%5B%2Fi%5D%2C where the audience might occasionally get up and boogie in the aisles in reaction to one song or another%2C and not an actual full-on %5Bi%5Ddance%5B%2Fi%5D%2C the band acquitted itself admirably. The people around her were gettin%27 down and feelin%27 the sound%2C as the saying went. Kaname half-suspected that Kate had been protesting more as a matter of form than an actual legitimate complaint%2C anyway. If her expression was anything to go by%2C Kate was experiencing no doubt about the gig now%2C as she stepped to the center mic and hit the chorus harmony with Azalynn and Miki on either side of her.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DI understand about indecision%0D%0ABut I don%27t care if I get behind%0D%0APeople livin%27 in competition%0D%0AAll I want is to have my peace of mind%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DBesides%2C didn%27t they play the music for Anthy and Utena%27s wedding reception%3F From all reports%2C that was spectacular%2C%5B%2Fi%5D Kaname reflected to herself with a grin. %5Bi%5DHutchins%2C thou dost protest too much.%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AOne of the things the students In the Know were waiting for during the first set of the Winterfest Dance slash Concert was the guest stars. For some time now the Art of Noise had been known within their fan base for abruptly producing the most unexpected guests during their shows%2C usually without any advance promotion whatever. The Superconducting Supercolliders%2C Minmay and the Marauders%2C Sheryl Nome%3B you just never knew who might suddenly take the stage alongside Kate and the gang during an Art of Noise performance.%0D%0A%0D%0AThe first set ended without one%2C though%2C as most of the band left the stage while Kaitlyn stayed behind her bank of keyboards. All the lights went down apart from the one on her as%2C without comment%2C she busied herself making some config changes to the stack of gear that stood to her right. This was also part of the Art%27s standard operating procedure. After a few moments of this she squared herself behind the array%2C touched a key%2C and a spine-chilling electric sound planed down to a simple but driving bassline that hammered from the speakers%3A the signature undercurrent of the most distinctive television music in the galaxy%2C the theme from %5Bi%5DProfessor Enigma%5B%2Fi%5D.%0D%0A%0D%0AShe played a very minimalist version of it at first%2C twice through the main theme with the soaring bridge section in between%2C held the last note of the outro for a moment... and then started again%2C this time with a %5Bi%5Dmuch%5B%2Fi%5D bigger sound.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A BBC National Orchestra of Wales w%2F Ben Foster%0D%0A%22%5Bi%5DDoctor Who%5B%2Fi%5D Series 4 Closing Credits%22%0D%0A%5Bi%5DDoctor Who Series 4%3A Original Television Soundtrack%5B%2Fi%5D %282009%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AThis arrangement was new%2C not precisely any of the many versions that had graced the show%27s opening titles since its debut in the mid-20th century%2C with the kind of lush instrumentation that suggested it was meant to be played with a full orchestra%27s backing. Sharp-eared fans%2C and there were more than a few in this audience%2C caught some of the distinctive sounds of the %5Bi%5Dvery first%5B%2Fi%5D arrangement%2C circa 1963%2C layered into the soundscape. Others remarked to themselves %28it being largely impossible at this point to remark to anyone else%29 that her synthesizer array was doing a %5Bi%5Dreally%5B%2Fi%5D good job of simulating the sound of an orchestra behind her.%0D%0A%0D%0AUntil the lights came back up in the middle of the reiterated bridge and they saw that she %5Bi%5Dhad%5B%2Fi%5D an orchestra behind her%2C along with the rest of the Art of Noise. The Art were known for creeping back during the blackout%2C but to bring an entire concert orchestra with them was taking the stunt to something of a new level.%0D%0A%0D%0AThey finished the theme with a variant on the traditional thundering crescendo. As it was fading%2C before anyone in the audience recovered enough to start applauding%2C a woman nobody recognized emerged into the light a short distance from Kaitlyn. About Kate%27s age and serious-looking%2C with dark hair pulled back in a rather severe French braid%2C she was dressed in a kind of Victorian adventuress costume%2C if %22adventuress%22 in Victorian times had implied two-fisted tomboy action and not unsuitable romantic decisions%3A white high-collared shirt%2C blue waistcoat with watch chain%2C sharply creased turnup trousers and sturdy shoes. She stepped up to the center mic %28vacant since Kate was behind the keyboards%29 and said%2C in a quiet but intense%2C portentous voice%2C%0D%0A%0D%0A%22No one would have believed%2C in the last years of the nineteenth century%2C that human affairs were being watched by intelligences which inhabited the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinized%2C as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even %5Bi%5Dconsidered%5B%2Fi%5D the possibility of life on other planets. And yet%2C across the gulf of space%2C minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded the Earth with envious eyes... and slowly and surely they drew their plans against us.%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A Jeff Wayne %5Bi%5Det al.%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%22The Eve of the War%22%0D%0A%5Bi%5DJeff Wayne%27s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds%3A The New Generation%5B%2Fi%5D %282012%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AEven in a student body as eclectic as DSM%27s%2C there were relatively few young people who had heard of the 1970s rock opera version of %5Bi%5DThe War of the Worlds%5B%2Fi%5D%2C but after the Art of Noise%27s performance of its first song%2C quite a number made mental notes to track it down%2C even if it %5Bi%5Dhad%5B%2Fi%5D been a bit difficult to dance to - and to find out who the woman was who was doing the narration and the vocals.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5D%22The chances of anything coming from Mars%0D%0AAre a million to one%2C%22 he said%0D%0A%22The chances of anything coming from Mars%0D%0AAre a million to one%22%0D%0ABut still they come...%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%28The first time that refrain appeared%2C the school%27s one Martian student got a big laugh from those near her by shrugging with a %27well%2C hey%2C what%27re you gonna do%27 expression on her face.%29%0D%0A%0D%0AAt the song%27s end%2C the woman in the Victorian waistcoat broke her character%27s serious mien with a dazzling great smile and declared%2C %22Ladies and gentlemen%2C all the way from Westminster Prime%2C give it up for %5Bi%5Dthe BBC %C3%86thereophonic Orchestra%21%5B%2Fi%5D%22 While they cheered%2C she raked her fingers through her hair%2C shaking it out of the braid and down around her shoulders%2C and suddenly at least a handful of people in the audience realized who she was. She wasn%27t %5Bi%5Dgalactically%5B%2Fi%5D famous%2C certainly not to the standard established by other Art of Noise guest stars over the years%2C but she%27d enjoyed a certain amount of success in the Crown Colonies%2C which were well-represented in DSM%27s student population.%0D%0A%0D%0ATrue%2C when last %5Bi%5Dthey%27d%5B%2Fi%5D seen her%2C she was appearing in the music video for the one song of hers that had charted off her homeworld%2C and in that she was blonde and dressed like a skater grrl%2C not a brunette in Victorian Gentleman drag - but no one who had ever seen Rose Tyler smile like that could ever really be said to forget it.%0D%0A%0D%0AWhen the lights went out on the orchestra%2C Rose and the Art played that one song - a bit poppy by Art of Noise standards in its original incarnation%2C but they rocked it up nicely%2C reinforcing some people%27s suspicions that it had been intended to be harder-edged when originally written. Then she joined them for the Art%27s signature %22welcome guest artists%21%22 number%2C %22I Think I Like It%22%2C after which she thanked them and Kate and left the stage. Only once she was gone did it occur to many students that she hadn%27t actually mentioned who she was%2C leaving it for the people who knew to explain to the people who didn%27t.%0D%0A%0D%0ANaturally%2C when the lights came up again behind the band%2C the orchestra was gone%2C and the Art went on with their second set as if nothing unusual had happened. They looked like they could%27ve gone all night%2C but even the Winterfest Dance eventually had a curfew%2C and as the time came up toward 10 PM%2C they started to wind things up. Kate reiterated the names of her bandmates as%2C one by one%2C they dropped out of the long windout of %22Sultans of Swing%22 - a practice she referred to as %22outroduction%22 - and left the stage%2C until finally she was once more alone. She finished %22Sultans%22 alone%2C racked her Stratocaster%2C and went back to the keyboards. For a second it looked like she was just going to start shutting things off%2C thank everyone for coming%2C and go%2C but then a thoughtful look crossed her face and she switched her keyboard-stack mic back on.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22So%2C listen%2C%22 she said. %22I%27ve been gone for a while - does the school still have that rule about public displays of affection%3F%22%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DYes%2C%5B%2Fi%5D the crowd replied%2C a trifle ruefully.%0D%0A%0D%0AKate considered that for a second%2C then said%2C %22Hm. Well... sorry in advance%2C then%2C%22 and began to play a slow%2C deliberate%2C faintly haunting melody in a synthetic organ voice.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bcenter%5D%2F%2A Procol Harum%0D%0A%22A Whiter Shade of Pale%22%0D%0A%5Bi%5DProcol Harum%5B%2Fi%5D %281967%29 %2A%2F%5B%2Fcenter%5D%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DNow that%27s just mean%2C%5B%2Fi%5D thought Kaname wryly. She leaned against the upright of the archway leading out to the Student Union%27s main lobby%2C her eyes seeking out various couples and little groups as they danced or just hung out to this last song. Slow numbers at dances and school policies on PDA had always and forever been in opposition%2C and Kaname was pleased to see that both sides of the eternal divide were doing what they could to maintain d%C3%A9tente tonight%3A the students by not pushing the line %5Bi%5Dtoo%5B%2Fi%5D far%2C their chaperones by not toeing it too strictly. %28Indeed%2C the only really %5Bi%5Ddiligent%5B%2Fi%5D chaperoning going on right now%2C she noticed with a suppressed giggle%2C appeared to be Professor Steinberg struggling to keep Professor Sugiura off Professor Hammond%2C and that had been going on more or less all night.%29%0D%0A%0D%0AThere%27d been a lot of mixing and matching over the course of the evening%2C naturally%2C but for this last number%2C it seemed like all the school%27s %22canonical%22 couples were out on the floor. Natsuki and Shizuru%2C playing it cool%2C as though they could%27ve just happened to be dancing with anyone%2C like that was fooling anybody. Chie and Aoi - strange to see them moving so slowly under any circumstances. Amy and Rory might%27ve been the only people out there%2C so collected and smooth she could almost %5Bi%5Dbelieve%5B%2Fi%5D they%27d done this a thousand times. Shark Week and Nelyna%2C hey%2C why not. Steve Dukat and Nita Daran%2C ditto. Kazuya and Akane%2C no surprises there. Mizuki and - hang on%2C Mizuki and Boba Fett%2C really%3F Well%2C OK%2C he%27s a lot better than the %5Bi%5Dlast%5B%2Fi%5D jerkweed she dated.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5DAnd so it was later%0D%0AAs the miller told his tale%0D%0AThat her face at first just ghostly%0D%0ATurned a whiter shade of pale...%5B%2Fi%5D%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname smiled to herself. Yeah%2C see%2C %5Bi%5Dthis%5B%2Fi%5D was why she got involved in things like this. Not for power or for glory%2C but for the satisfaction of seeing her friends having a good time and knowing that she had a hand in making it come to pass.%0D%0A%0D%0AShe suddenly detected a presence at her side%3B turning%2C she saw Sosuke Sagara%2C a flute of mineral water in each hand. He presented one to her%2C keeping the other for himself.%0D%0A%0D%0A%22Thanks%2C%22 she said. %22You know%2C Mileva %5Bi%5Ddid%5B%2Fi%5D have a great idea. You guys really came through for me. That was the perfect way to cap off the festival and set everything up for the dance.%22 She grinned. %22People%27ll be talking about this year%27s fest for %5Bi%5Dyears%5B%2Fi%5D.%22%0D%0A%0D%0ASosuke inclined his head. %22Then I must conclude that Operation WINTERFEST is a success%2C Miss Chidori.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AKaname gave Sosuke a cockeyed grin%2C as she lifted her glass of water and tapped it against Sosuke%27s. %22I%27ll drink to that.%22%0D%0A%0D%0AAnd so they did.%0D%0A%0D%0A%5Bi%5D%22DSM Panic%21 Mission 5%3A Operation WINTERFEST%22 %28a Symphony of the Sword Mini-Story%29 by Philip Jeremy Moyer and Benjamin D. Hutchins%0D%0ASpecial to the Eyrie Productions Discussion Forum%0D%0A%C2%A9 2013 Eyrie Productions%2C Unlimited%5B%2Fi%5D. ""
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   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Verbena Jun-10-13 1
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Croaker Jun-10-13 6
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST mdg1 Jun-10-13 7
              RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST pjmoyermoderator Jun-10-13 8
              RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-10-13 9
                  RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Mercutio Jun-11-13 18
                      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-11-13 20
                          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Verbena Jun-11-13 21
                          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST mdg1 Jun-11-13 22
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Meagen Jun-10-13 2
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST BobSchroeck Jun-10-13 3
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-10-13 4
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST BobSchroeck Jun-10-13 5
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST MuninsFire Jun-10-13 10
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Polychrome Jun-10-13 11
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-13-13 31
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST SneakyPete Jun-16-13 39
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST JeanneHedge Jun-10-13 12
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Mercutio Jun-11-13 13
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-11-13 15
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Mercutio Jun-11-13 17
              RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-11-13 19
                  RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-14-13 37
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST twipper Jun-11-13 14
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-11-13 16
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST trboturtle2 Jun-11-13 23
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-11-13 24
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST BZArcher Jun-11-13 25
   RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Peter Eng Jun-12-13 26
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Bushido Jun-12-13 27
          RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST The Traitor Jun-12-13 28
      RE: (SoS) DSM Panic Mission 5: Operation WINTERFEST Gryphonadmin Jun-12-13 29
   G's DSMP5 Notes Gryphonadmin Jun-13-13 30
      RE: G's DSMP5 Notes Star Ranger4 Jun-13-13 32
      RE: G's DSMP5 Notes starless Jun-14-13 33
      RE: G's DSMP5 Notes Blackbird Jun-14-13 34
          RE: G's DSMP5 Notes Gryphonadmin Jun-14-13 35
      RE: G's DSMP5 Notes Peter Eng Jun-14-13 36
   PJM's DSMP5 Notes pjmoyermoderator Jun-16-13 38
      RE: PJM's DSMP5 Notes mdg1 Jun-17-13 40
          RE: PJM's DSMP5 Notes BobSchroeck Jun-17-13 41

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