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First Strike Capabilities

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The first time Homura set foot on the grounds of JGSDF Camp Mitakihara, she had no idea what she was doing.

It was a crazy idea in the first place, the product of spending too much time on dubious web forums filled with anonymous posters who seemed to know a disturbing amount about weapons of all kinds, from the most realistic-looking airsoft pistols to the exact specs on the sniper rifles issued to the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces in any given situation. The forums had been able to provide her with links to the information she'd used to create her homemade bombs, and had given her a sense of what to look for the first time she'd tried to find some sort of handgun to fight off the familiars that got too close, but it wasn't always easy to separate the workable ideas from the complete nonsense. It wasn't until the early hours of one very long night -- when she'd woken up screaming from a dream in which she'd watched Kaname-san's throat being ripped out by a witch made of surgeon's scalpels and bloody bandages -- that she logged onto one of the more active forums and typed the first thing that came into her still-reeling mind:

>how would you break into a JGSDF base?

No room for subtlety there. It wasn't surprising that most of the initial responses were less than helpful.

>>lol thats fuckd up
>>easy just roundhouse kick teh guards
>>weed gets you in everywhere

Still, the idea wouldn't let her go. In the persona she'd adopted for posting on this particular forum, she'd framed herself as a budding author of light novels who wanted to write something with lots of gun battles, and so that was the tactic she took. Her hands were a little more steady on the keys when she replied.

>gotta idea for a big showdown fight scene on a base
>like Camp Mitakihara, maybe?
>but want it to not be lame

It took a little longer for the stream of trolling replies to let up a little, but once the other posters started discussing it amongst themselves rather than replying to her, she sat back and read the comments as they came in. More than a few others, it seemed, had put quite a bit of thought into the idea of raiding the military for weapons at some point.

>>grab a Howa 89 or two and youre golden
>>Howa is shit, JGSDF is shit, HK46 or gtfo
>>make it a USFJ base and you get some real shit to party with

Once the idea of infiltrating U.S. bases came into play, Homura almost couldn't keep up with the replies. New, unfamiliar English terms popped up -- PX and CAC and MP -- along with seemingly endless, unhelpful details about barracks and officers' clubs and supply sergeants. It was a lot to absorb all at once. But sleep wouldn't be coming to her again tonight, and Kaname-san would be sure to walk with her to the nurse's office if she felt unwell in class in the morning.

After two long nights of careful posting in other forums, trying to gather as much information as she could about what to expect once she was inside the JGSDF installation, she was as ready as she would ever be. Walpurgisnacht would be coming in less than six days, and she wasn't entirely sure that the shaky alliance she had built this time around with Sakura Kyoko and Tomoe Mami would hold. Their combined attack hadn't been enough to defeat the massive witch last time. Not only had it destroyed most of the city center, but it had broken free from the ribbon-and-chain restraints they had tried to deploy, and with a shriek of doomed laughter it had sent an overturned oil tanker truck tumbling through the air to explode on contact with the shelter where much of their district -- the Kaname family included -- had evacuated to ride out the storms.

That wasn't going to happen again.

What she needed was more firepower.

* * * *

Camp Mitakihara was well on the outskirts of the city, close to the end of the central train line, in a scrubby, overgrown area surrounded by railyards and warehouses. Heavy metal rolling shutters covered most of the empty storefronts; only a neon sign here and there indicated the few that were occupied and open. Not far from the main gate was a rundown little cafe, and Homura slipped into a seat there and picked at a plate of watery curry with some sad bits of potato and carrot floating in it as she watched people leaving the installation in ones and twos, in cars or on foot. As the sun went down and the streetlights flickered on, doubts were starting to creep into her mind.

What if she couldn't find the weapons? What if her shield's magic failed her, and someone caught her? How would she explain her presence on the garrison, without proper identification or a reason for being there? True, she had the handgun and rifle that she'd stolen from the yazuka hideout, as well as a couple of her homemade pipe bombs stashed away in the depths of her shield...but she'd only ever used them against witches and familiars. Could she bring herself to take a shot at an innocent person? What would happen if she missed -- or worse, if she didn't miss?

All of these thoughts made her stomach twist up in knots. Before her courage could fail her, she pushed her plate aside, and stumbled up to the register to pay for the meal she had barely touched.

Ducking outside, Homura slipped around the corner into an alleyway and transformed. The rush of magic washing over her helped to clear her head a little. Her pulse quickened with anticipation as she reached for her shield and drew on her power, sending the magical sands gliding through their narrow channels.

The world froze around her.

It was now or never.

In the long days that Homura had spent in a hospital bed, the thought of running anywhere for any length of time had seemed like an impossible dream, no more likely to happen than the thought that she might someday sprout wings and take flight. But now her steps were swift and light as she advanced toward the gate, where a lowered barrier pole and two guards were stationed to restrict access and screen all visitors. Gritting her teeth, she picked up her pace. Moments later, the barrier and the guards, caught out of time, were behind her, and the open expanse of Camp Mitakihara lay before her.

The forums had helped supply her with a general map of the area, so she had at least a vague sense of where to go. That one group of three-story buildings over there were offices. The little low boxy one next to it was the health clinic. Further off in the distance, clusters of lights showed at the windows of what probably were barracks: the lights shone cold and steady in the frozen moment, nothing warm or welcoming about them.

Ammunition dump, that was what one of the forum posters had called it. It would be far away from any other building, set back at a safe distance in case something happened to the collection of highly explosive materials inside. Only a few of the buildings on Camp Mitakihara fit that description, and Homura's heels clacked briskly on the pavement as she made her way out to the furthest, loneliest-looking one. An orange-tinted light reflected off a metal sign, reading DANGER --

No danger warned about on a sign was greater than the danger that awaited all of them in a few days' time.

Homura slipped her hand into her shield's storage space. Her fingertips brushed the grip of the heavy handgun -- Desert Eagle Mark XIX, the forums had so helpfully informed her -- that had become an all-too-familiar weight against her palm. Just in case, she'd have it ready.

This time, she'd be prepared.

* * * *

The first time Homura set foot on the grounds of JGSDF Camp Mitakihara, she had no idea what she was doing.

The second time, she came with a list.

The Howa 89 assault rifle.
The MP7, with extended magazines and armour-piercing cartridges.
The M249 with the collapsible stock.
As many M26 and M84 grenades as she could pack away, even if those would only be good against familiars.

Anything. Everything. She'd steal the service weapons out of soldiers' holsters if she had to. Take the guns right off their bodies and vanish into the night.

And if Camp Mitakihara didn't have what she wanted, she wouldn't stop there. The nearest U.S. Forces Japan installation would give her what she needed. Mortars. Anti-personnel explosives. Anti-tank rounds. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Maybe a surface-to-air missile would be enough to silence Walpurgisnacht's laughter and strike her out of the sky.

Maybe two. Maybe ten.

Whatever she needed to finish the job, she'd take it -- and never look back.