A few days past, and Setsuna was amused at the happy attitude that three of her students had. She thought it great that they were going to be recording artists, and it was also good that it was not interfering with their studies thus far. This was the kind of thing that would help in the building of overall team unity. If they were to know that, despite their future service, they were going to be even bigger stars, they might be uncontrollable. Therefore she could not tell them. However, the ones she really loved seeing change were Ami and Usagi. Ami not only was changing in confidence, she was becoming an extrovert, and a pleasure to be around. Many more of the students were seeking her for help in their homework than had before, and she was more than happy to help. What was more was how the boys were now noticing her. She was looking attractive in her uniform as well as out of it, and it was not because of an outward appearance. Once she showed that she was indeed approachable, people wanted to be around her. Usagi was also changing. She was starting to do better. She was still a B- student, but that was far better than riding the borderline that she had for all those years. In fact, in their latest quiz, (and not a mock quiz,) she passed with a C+. It was better than what she had been doing, but instead of getting upset, she came to Setsuna and asked how to do where she had been in error, and after a little bit of adjusting, she had figured out the concept. She was then confident that when the unit test came up, she would pass with flying colors. This was turning out to be a good tenure for Setsuna. If they could now figure out all that had been going on with the Negaverse, it would be a great year.
However, things were starting to move in the Philippines and in the recording studio. In the Philippines, the terrorists were being turned into youma one by one. However, Rinn did allow them to have just enough intelligence to appreciate their change and new strengths, but not enough to where they could figure out that, collectively, they could easily defeat and destroy him. By the time he had a decent battalion of youmas, he called in those he had not converted, and divided them up into about five companies, and gave about four or five human terrorists the control of each one. It was then he called back to Sark and to Lin-Lin and told them of his continuing success. To aid him, Sark sent one of the three remaining lieutenants that he had to him, named Tor. Tor liked to wear sleeveless shirts and tights to show off his massive form, so needless to say, he was no slouch. However, even though he was huge, fast, strong, and a good fighter, he was actually very intelligent. This is why Rinn called for Tor. He needed someone who could train the youma, and those that could control them. Once he arrived, Tor asked, "Is everything organized?
"Organized as well as can be expected, my friend," Rinn said with pride.
Tor went outside with him to see them all gathered. He then said, "Still, they need a thorough test. Send one company to Manila and wreak havoc. Let's see how the locals handle things."
"There may be only one problem," said Rinn, "The United States military may take an interest, and they may try to put a stop to it."
"I hope they do get involved, comrade!" said Tor with a smile, "It would only be the best test that we could make. If they cannot stop them, then we have it made."
"It may gather more of an involvement than for which we would wish," responded Rinn, "They might send spies, their elites, something like that."
"That would be even more delightful!" said Tor, "If that were to happen, we capture them, and then turn them into youma, and then we have what we need to defeat them. Everything is going well!"
"What is the goal," inquired Rinn.
"When Princess Lin-Lin builds her armies," responded Tor, "We shall set ours loose in Japan. She will send hers to 'defeat' them, that is, feign defeat, and then she gathers the confidence of the Japanese people, she comes here, takes over, but we will have moved operations to Australia, and set them loose there. It can then be blamed on Japan, Sark gets war started, the United States gets involved, and her allies, causing her to turn on Japan, and then gaining the rage of certain other nations in the world. They come to Japan's aid, global war starts, and once they annihilate each other, we move in and take over everything. Thus, this test becomes very important!"
"Then we attack after darkness falls!" said Rinn, and set his clock for the event.
Meanwhile, at Baron Records, some interesting things were happening. There were many who had been turned away at the tryouts, and only a handful recorded. However, everyone that was not as talented as they thought was being called back, one by one, for a "second test." When they got there, they were further screened by Lin-Lin into groups that consisted of people that, if they went missing, they would not be so missed. The first was a young girl, and she was called into the studio. When she stood in the studio, she noticed what looked like a large camera above the booth glass. When she asked what it was, they told her that they needed to film her, so they could get a feel for her in video format. That way, if she did make it, and they did videos, they wanted to get an idea of her in that genre. They then told her to begin her number and to look straight into the glass. Yet, when she did, she was hit by powerful strobe light, and she was fixated on it. Once that happened the"camera" on the ceiling began to glow, and a cone of light fell on her. She was in such a daze she could not even scream. The strobe light was the last thing she would remember before she lost consciousness. Once the procedure was done, a birdlike form, (a raptor of some kind,) a little bigger than what had stood there before filled her spot. It looked in the booth, and immediately took a defensive stance, ready to pounce on anyone that approached. That was when a panel in the wall opened up and hit the youma with a tranquilizer dart. It was out in seconds, and some men came in and hauled it off to an area in the basement with several cages ready to receive the youma. In about one hour, they captured about eight teens and turned them all into youma. It was a slow process, but once they were able to set up several "recording booths," they could expedite matters, and get that army ready. They then cleaned out the studio for the actual stars that were slated to record that day.
Meanwhile, at the shrine, the team was doing homework, as Michiru were walking the grounds, and Setsuna sat grading papers. Minako, Makoto, and Tom were almost done with theirs because they had gotten into the habit of doing their homework during the school day and lunch period to have time at the studio later. It was during the time at the shrine that Rei, Hotaru, (and during their walk, Michiru,) all stiffened, felt a momentary pang of pain, and then it was over. For all of them, it was the same sensation that told them youma was in the area. However, since it went as fast as it came, they paid it no mind, and filed it away. Yet, Rei felt there was something to it. Michiru, on the other hand, said that she wanted to go back to the house there, and see the new group. Once they arrived, Michiru said, "Say, I hope you three don't mind the two of us tagging along."
"We'd love it!" said Minako, "I can't wait for you to see how it all works!"
"Great, I look forward to it," said Michiru. Yet, when they stepped outside, Haruka asked, "Okay, what's with the sudden interest with their recording?"
"Call it a hunch," said Michiru, "But I have a feeling that there is something odd about Baron Records. I may be way off base, so I just want to squash some silly notions."
Haruka looked at her oddly, but she also knew when not to question things. She would just let it go and deal with whatever comes.
"Done!" said Usagi, with a confident air as she slammed the books shut. Everyone was shocked at how quick she had gotten through things. Rei then asked, "Okay, how did you do that?"
"Well, because I have been fairly steady on this, I have learned a neat trick about this," responded Usagi.
"Then lay it on us!" said Rei, wanting to hear this. She wondered if it was some kind of strange thing from her past that she used to study. Usagi said,"Very well: before we move on, I make sure I understand the principles that Iam supposed to learn, and keep it in mind with these new concepts. I just plug in what I learned and take off."
Rei just stared at her. Those were just standard study skills. She was sixteen, and she was just now discovering them? Usagi acted like this was some new and grand discovery. "Is there anything else?" asked Rei suspiciously.
"Oh, there is one more thing," Usagi said with a big smile, (all of which was being watched by Setsuna in amusement.)
Rei thought, "Okay, maybe this is her weird trick. That girl just can't do anything normal," to which Usagi said, "I take any wrong problems to Setsuna to have her show me what I did wrong, and I remember it easier."
Thunderous silence filled the room, and Rei just stared wide eyed at Usagi, her upper lip giving a twitch or two. "That's it?" said Rei incredulously.
"Yup! That's it!" said Usagi.
Rei had to go get some air. "I teach, I cajole, I plead, I repeated these things over and over and over, and she is just now getting it-ON HER OWN!"
By that point, she was isolated in the woods, and then let out a scream of frustration that caused Daimios and Phobos to flea thinking that Rei was having another fight with her grandfather or something. Five minutes later, Rei came back with a smile on her face and said, "Well, I am so glad things are getting better. Let's go to Crown's Arcade after this! I feel like some fun!"
Hotaru, who had just been quietly watching the proceedings, and knew what Rei had gone and done, thought to herself, "I think it is more like, 'I want to find the most violent shooting game and let it all out!'"
She could not help but let out a snicker, and Rei just said, "What are you laughing at?"
At the studio, the kids were greeted warmly, and they were given a list of songs-covers and originals. "This should get your feet in the door," said Jin,"Oh, who's that."
"Oh those two?" stated Minako, "That's Haruka and Michiru. They are our dear friends, and she wanted to see the process."
"Good," said Jin, "Well, if they will come into the engineer's room, they can get a close up look on how we put it together."
Once he led them to the engineer's room, he told them, "Okay, get the headsets on, and we'll get you to do the backing vocals for what you did yesterday. We had the studio people fill in some musical blanks, so just feel it out, and you'll get it. All right, beginning in 5...4...3..."
As they began, all the two heard was the backing vocals, which sounded awkward by themselves. Jin then said, "This is the beauty of how we do things now. Listen to this."
He reached over and pushed up some knobs on his side, and in that room's monitor, they could now hear the full thing.
"Now you're hearing what they're hearing, but with their backing vocals,"stated Jin, "It's not as glamorous as some people think, but the finished product is incredible. When they do it live, they will have all that on stage. With Minako on guitar, she can lead the other two in vocals. Hopefully, we can teach the other two something about playing instruments in order to give them more to do on stage. I have Tom learning the bass, and Makoto rhythm and backing runs behind Minako's lead. By the time they're ready to do their first show, they will be consummate professionals."
Once that song was done, he said, "That was great! We'll do a playback for you later. I want to get to that Rod Stewart one now and get the leads in on that, with her guitar. The only problem is that the violinist is late and..."
Michiru brightened, and said, "I play that very instrument."
Jin looked at her and said, "Do you have it with you?"
"It's in the car," she answered, "Just give me a minute or two to fetch it."
Once she came back, she was ready to go. She saw the music, but it only cued her where to come in. When Jin detected the confusion, he told her, "You don't play in the first verse, so listen to it and get the feel for it. Then, in the second verse, you come in and improvise based on that."
That clicked for her, and then the kids began. After about three false starts, where Jin made some adjustments, they got things going. Soon, it was if someone was casting a magic spell, and they were all wrapped up in it. It began to affect Michiru, and she began to put out some sweet notes on the violin. Jin knew that this could be a huge single in its own right. He was looking for a song to get the public's attention, and he may have just found it. However, that was about to change. As everyone clapped, Jin said, "Okay, we're going to add what is needed tomorrow, and hopefully, tomorrow, we can have that one in the can. The next one is /I'm Sailing Away/. That one is for you, Tom. You guys will come in later."
Tom knew that song well, and the piano player came in to add his bit with Minako. Tom reached down for it, and when they began, there was no false start. As the opening of the song, which moved like a ballet, began to capture the listeners, the piano began to crescendo with the guitar into the faster part, and they took off. Once they were done, Jin flipped on the mic and said,"Congratulations: once you add the last touches, you will have just recorded your first number one!"
They started to celebrate, and then Michiru got a wild hair. She suggested, "I have something that could finish off the album."
"What is that?" asked Jin.
"I am a music teacher in their school," announced Michiru, "and there was something that I, Tom, and Minako did in class that I would like to try here."
"Well, that would be the last take for the day, but we can see if we can use it," said Jin, and they went into the Bach/Gounod Prelude in C/Ave Maria. This blew Jin away. He never expected something like that, and it demonstrated their versatility. He then said, "Well, you just recorded your B side to that single! That one is going to be left as it is! Wow! You kids are amazing! That's a wrap for today. We have you in for Friday to do some clean up work, so you have tomorrow off. Have fun!"
As they left Haruka said, "I have to admit, I wasn't bored. You guys did well."
They all thanked her, and then Michiru then said, "All the same, something was eating at me."
"What was that?" asked Minako.
"I felt like something had happened in their earlier in the day, and it just did not feel right." Michiru responded, "I'll have to chew on that."
The car went silent after that, and they just rode along, wondering what she meant by that.
As the sun set, the first company moved into position. It was in the casino district, as well as the red light area, and, as usual, it was packed. For Tor, it was the perfect place to make his test. He told the terrorists that controlled groups of youma, and said, "There it is-the decadence you so despise. Now you have the means to wreak great havoc and put an end to it! Now go!"
They moved out, spread out, and started attacking people indiscriminately. Abetter scene of chaos could not have been put together. Within five minutes, units of the U.S. Army and Marines were on the move. At the same time, Tom was at home, eating dinner with his folks. The TV was still on in the family room, tuned to AFN, when it happened. They heard, "We interrupt this important broadcast to bring you this important bulletin."
Immediately, everyone was in the family room, and they got there in time for the news desk to start the report. He began, "Right now, in Manila of the Philippines, there is a horrific scene going on. What seemed to be an ordinary terrorist attack has took on imagery of the Apocalypse itself. We switch now to hidden cameras overlooking the scene."
The image switched to the view of the areas of the attack. The voiceover then said, "As you can see, horrible monsters are causing much in the way of destruction and loss of life. However, the United States military, in conjunction with the Filipino military are moving in to put a stop to this. Here they come now."
The two armies and Marines were moving in and coordinating their attacks, managing to put down youma here and there, but after time, the tale was beginning to tell. To put them down, it would take something with higher firepower than what they possessed, and they began to pull a fighting withdrawal. Tom looked in horror, knowing that some of those men were not returning home. As that was happening, the phone rang, and his father said, "Tom, this is for you."
He picked up the receiver, and it was the Commandant. "Commodore Ravalli, Ipresume?"
"Is that the way you talk to your superior, Marine?" snapped the commodore, and Tom went to attention, "Sir, no sir!"
"Don't 'sir sandwich' me, Marine," he snapped again, "Listen, there was going to be an alert, but considering what this is, I told the Pentagon that we have a team of specialists here to handle this. They had the nerve to ask me if it was the SEALs!"
"What do you need from us?" asked Tom.
"Assemble your team, and have them meet me in this office in twenty minutes,"said Ravalli, "You'll be briefed, and then sent off. Don't worry about the school; we have our ways of handling that one!"
"I am certain you do, sir," said Tom, "Consider us already there, sir: roger, out."
His father and mother looked at him and said, "It's about that, isn't it?"
"This holds the interests of many, and the safety of that many," said Tom, "I have to go."
His father walked up to him and said, "These are strange circumstances, but Ihad long ago prepared myself for this moment the day you looked to the corps and did not look back. I knew that something like this could happen, and instead of being sad, I know that you are going to be a good man and brave."
He then put his left hand on Tom's shoulder, and shook his right hand, saying,"Do me proud, son!" and pulled him into an embrace. Once that was done, he flipped open his communicator, and sounded the alarm for all scouts to appear. He then said, "Stand back," as he then uttered, "SEMPER FI-MAKE UP!"
Once the transformation was done, he saluted his father, hugged his mother, and he said, "Fear not, justice will be done!" and he was out the door. As the couple stood there, arm and arm, she began to tear up. He then told his wife,"Honey, he can take care of himself. The only regret is that I cannot be there with him!"