There was a certain girl on top of a very tall building. She was laying down, with her chest resting on the floor and her hands confidently holding a tool of war. The barrel of the gun was 698.5mm long, its insides were .338in in diameter and it certainly didn’t look light-weighted at all, but none of that seemed to matter to the small bird that came flying out of nowhere and landed its tiny talons around it, chirping around as if it was having the most relaxing day of its short life.
“A-ah, hey. Shoo, shoo-”
The girl, whose body was covered by a dark gray blanket, stretched her hand forward and gently sent the bird flying away. Not that she hated birds, but it would have been a problem if she needed to suddenly press the trigger and the bird was still there.
“What is wrong?”
“Orsis what is wrong?”
“Ah, no, no, it’s nothing.”
“Then please focus.”
She was not distracted; she’s a good sniper, she’s never distracted, and she knew a mere second of letting her mind waver around would be not a problem. She was a bit conflicted by something that most would find a trivial matter, but being sorted right when that show she had been waiting to watch for so long was aired did a number on her mood.
“45 minutes since IDW left, we should contact Team B.”
“Grizzly said she would call us if needed.”
“Then how would we know if someone surprised them and killed them both in just one strike? It’s not logical just to wait for them to call.”
The blue-eyed, red-haired sniper frowned just a bit, almost as if unconsciously. Her blue-haired, golden-eyed spotter put the binoculars on her face again and looked down at the city.
This was Team A, composed of Orsis T-5000, the sniper, leader of the whole echelon, and Zas M21, her spotter. By the other side of the enormous central park of the city, on top of an unknown building around 750m away, was Team B, composed of M200, the sniper and Grizzly MkV, her spotter. IDW was certainly nowhere to be seen around.
Zas took a hand to the small radio on her chest and a short beep followed.
“This is Zas M21. Is everything alright?”
There was a brief silence of around two seconds before the somewhat mature voice of a woman came from the other side of the signal.
“Ah, yes. Yes, everything’s alright. Something happened on your side? I thought I told you girls I would call you if needed.”
The red-headed sniper eyed at her spotter.
“Yes… yes, you did.”
“I just got a bit worried out of nowhere. You can forget about it.”
“Alright… either way, if you want to know, we just got a call from IDW some minutes ago.”
“Did she find anything?”
“No, not really. She was just complaining about how tired she was.”
“Where is she now?”
“See the stores block near the park? She said she found out almost every building there has a basement so she’s checking them all.”
“What would she find there?”
“Who knows? It won’t hurt just to check. We haven’t received that signal again so we still cannot pinpoint the source. Everything we are doing is wasting some time until we can get our hands on something more substantial.”
The spotter of team A cut the transmission and looked at the place of interest with her binoculars.
They were following the trace of an enemy signal. The strange part was the place it came from: a deserted town that hasn’t seen action in years. Not a battle, no enemy presence, not a sudden raise in unknown activity. None of that. Just a single, unexpected, lonely communication signal that once demodulated only revealed noise behind. But that was seemingly enough for the commander to be assigned a recon mission.
And that was how those five girls ended up there.
“For now let us keep waiting, there’s really nothing else we can do.”
But not ten seconds after the communications with Team B was cut, the distant, subtle cry of an automatic gun could be heard in the silent city.
And then, a pretty much more noticeable explosion resounds through the city. They both rush to locate the source of the noise with their respective zooming devices, and find a column of smoke being born from between two buildings in the stores block.
“Did IDW find-“
The radio cried out, not allowing Zas to continue.
“IDW here! I found it! The source of the signal! The-“
Another explosion took place, and then another one. The tall buildings trembled and the sound of collapsing concrete faintly filled the air.
“IDW?! Repeat! We could NOT hear you!”
That was the voice of Grizzly, from the other side of the park.
“IDW?! Report your status!”
Orsis and Zas looked at each other briefly. Had IDW found an enemy? Was the automatic fire hers? And where did the explosions come from? Orsis fingertip hit the side of her weapon a couple of times, anxiously, and just when Zas opened her mouth to seemingly give her an order, the radio spoke up again.
“I-I am fine, nya! I-I just-!”
Her voice sounded agitated and slightly pained, it was also quite obvious that she was running. But running from what? Until they didn’t have that precise piece of intel, they could not start moving and prepare a response plan.
Another explosion, but the radio did not go quiet this time.
“N-nya! E-enemies! I-Inside one of the basements here, I walked in and suddenly SOMETHING began moving and making weird noises, so of course I opened fire and the next thing I heard was the wall behind me blowing up! M-my arm…”
“Where are you now?”
IDW had barely the time to run away, apparently, so she just couldn’t keep up long strings of conversation even if she wanted.
“T-the park! I’m going to drive them to the park!”
“Them? How many enemies are behind you, IDW?”
“I-I could see two, but I can’t be sure!”
“Any more details? What kind of units are they?”
The only thing they knew for sure, thanks to the info gathered through the demodulation of the previously recalled signal, was that it came from a Sangvis device, other than that, everything is unknown.
“T-two... three! There are three! I just saw another one turn around the corner- n-nya-!!”
As it was usual now, an explosion interrupted their conversation, except this time the avid red-haired sniper spoke before her spotter.
Looking through the x8 sights of her long rifle, she pointed with her slender finger a certain shop without any distinguishable characteristics, which made it difficult for Zas to locate it. A mere second afterwards, a piece of the front wall of the shop felled down to the ground. It was not clear from their perspective, but such behavior was proof that the building was trembling. Bit by bit and rather sooner than later, the whole thing began crumbling down.
Orsis was too focused observing the development while Zas, once again, through radio, let Team B know about the place of interest.
At the very last moment, the dual front doors of the shop, which seemed to be something electronics-related, spread open in a burst as a blonde girl with some peculiar ears jumped out.
The poor catgirl was all beaten up. Her hair was undone and it looked wild, there were scratches all over her clothes and her left arm, down from the elbow, was just not there anymore. Despite this, she looked fierce, glaring behind her as she ran.
“Head to the park, IDW!”
As if it was obvious right from the start, the girl didn’t reply and just kept running. Her ears twitched once and she raised the automatic gun she carried on her right hand, aiming at whatever that was inside the building.
As she screamed in anger, she pulled the trigger.
“H-here they come!”
The snipers from both teams were more than just ready to neutralize any threat coming from the shop. Just then, when the whole frame of the edification was going to pieces, said threat allowed the sunlight to illuminate its metallic armor.
The four girls who hadn’t seen their foe yet gasped at unison when the falling chunks of civilization simply broke against those terrifying legs. Unfazed it walked out, following the running IDW followed by a companion that looked exactly like itself.
Grizzly was the first one to speak through the radio.
“Manticores! I can see two of them! Zas, can you confirm!?”
“I do! Two Manticores came from the shop! IDW you have to-!”
“N-nya! I know what to do!”
Having found their prey, one of the threatening Manticores aimed its cannon at the blonde girl, yet this had already tossed her weapon aside and the only thing in her remaining hand was a jamming smoke grenade. She pinned it with her fang and threw it at the chaser’s feet before picking her flag gun up and running away again.
The smoke coming from the device used by IDW looked like nothing special, but it’s effects were useful: negating the effectiveness of the electronic artifacts nearby, just enough time for her to run into safety. The downside: those precious seconds when the targets would be vulnerable could not be fully taken advantage of, since the dark cloud surrounded them.
T-5000 used the radio.
“M200! You surely remember the first Manticore’s position!”
A soft voice replied, while the owner of such tone gazed at the screen of her ballistic calculator.
“I am only waiting for your order.”
They both shoot at the same time, but not just two bullets were fired. Orsis T-5000 and M200 both showered the presumed target exact location with pieces of lead. They both emptied their magazines, reloaded and waited. Their confidence was amazing. There was nothing that could help them know if the bullets were actually hitting the target, or if the target was still even there, yet that didn’t stop them. Now it was just a matter of time, all they could do was waiting for the smoke to vanish.
Zas stretched her neck upwards and the wind made the edges of her hair dance; her delicate fingers were holding the binoculars.
And after half a minute of silence, the scene became clear.
The Manticore that appeared second was ‘looking’ straight into the park, as if trying to locate the cat girl that had already vanished from its sight. The first Manticore was a broken mess. It was not ‘dead’ yet, for it still twitched and tried to lift its cannon, but the internal mechanisms in charge of its motion had already been busted to pieces by the ruthless fire of two sniper rifles from somewhere unknown for the poor machine. Not only it had holes everywhere, but most of its wiring was easily seen electric sparks were covering its surface. Despite this much damage, the war machine tried to lift its cannon one last time…
But it was forcefully brought down by a projectile that the small-framed sniper of Team B fired upon it. Seconds afterwards, after twitching a couple of times more, the lights on the Manticore began fading off. Slowly, until it also stopped moving and remained there motionless.
“Target 1 is not moving.”
Said Grizzly now focusing her sight on the second target.
“We are engaging on the second one. Where is IDW?”
Those were Orsis’ words. And by her side Zas gazed towards the park.
“I see her. She’s already by the other park of the green area. She looks fine, even if damaged.”
“What is it?”
“Please look at the shop the Manticores came from. The debris are…”
Zas followed the direction and clicked her tongue .
“The debris are shaking, aren’t they?”
“IDW mentioned a third one. It must be trying to find the way out.”
“What are we going to do, leader?”
“For now we’ll get the second one before it finds us, then we’ll find a way to take the third one out and kill it too.”
“M200, get ready.”
But before she could even think about placing his index finger on the trigger, all the rubbish accumulated in the entrance of the electronics shop was blown away in a violent detonation. The four of them covered their faces with their forearms to prevent any small pieces of concrete to damage their optical modules, except Zas who was already using her binoculars.
The whole place trembled, and even the second Manticore stumbled due the force of the explosion.
“It’s the third one! But how…”
“Do not engage with that one!”
The voice of IDW took over the communications again.
“I-it’s more dangerous! The weapon! It’s not the same as the other ones!”
Zas had already visually confirmed this, since the last Sangvis robot was already crawling to the outside.
Mumbled Orsis when she noticed the noticeably heavier cannon the third target had assembled on its lower part.
“What is it….? Grizzly, do you have better visuals?”
“I have. I think it’s a heat cannon or something like that.”
“How has the second one not find us yet?”
“I don’t know… could it have its sensors damaged?”
“But it followed IDW all the way out.”
And the catgirl, now from a safe location, intervened.
“It only fired at me once I was right in front of it. I think it only has its basic optical sensors active.”
“So it lacks any kind of tracking. It will never find us that way…”
“Orsis! The third one!”
Upon hearing M200’s voice, the red-headed straightened up a bit and gazed at the mentioned unit.
“It’s aiming at your position! Its tracking systems might still be active!”
Orsis took her eye off of the optical sight of her gun, and less than half a second afterwards she felt the hand of Zas grabbing her shoulder quite strongly.
“We have to get out of here! It’s charging up! M200, fire!”
It was not supposed to work like that, but M200 was not going to reject such a logical order even if it wasn’t T-5000 who gave it. However, it didn’t come in time, for when M200 pulled the trigger, the cannon of the third Manticore had already loaded up and fired at Team A.
But as quickly as Zas pulled from Orsis, the Manticore’s attack was way faster. Thankfully, not as precise, since the hit landed around four meters below them, destroying and burning everything in a one meter radius. The floor below their feet tumbled down, the gray blanket just fled out of their sight and they bounced against the scorched concrete.
Despite the roughness of the situation, none of them ever let go of their weapons.
“Let’s move, if it has tracking devices it will surely fire at us again!”
A gunshot was heard. Presumably, M200 had started firing at their attacker. But they were in no position to help with their fire too, and so could only run. Having previously memorized the building, they quickly found the stairs and began running down them as the gunfire from M200 and the heated discharges from the cannon filled the area. The building trembled and dust fell down from the ceiling every time the Manticore fired.
“M200 are you not done with it?!”
“It is quite resistant, but I’m doing what I can. Are you both okay?”
“We are going down the stairs, please take it out hastily!”
No matter how much Zas insisted on M200, she was already doing all she could in order to kill the enemy. And she was in fact succeeding, the Manticore’s armor was breaking down with every bullet that impacted on it, and every time it took it a little bit more of time to get ready to fire. But it was not done yet. And so, it fired again.
Team A’s building trembled a bit too much. Too much. The girls didn’t stop, they were not that far from the bottom floor anyway, but they couldn’t have expected the whole thing to come down so quickly. The infrastructure was already too damaged, so the last attack provoked the structure to be defeated by its own weight, and collapse violently to the center of mass.
“Oh shi- Orsis! Zas! You copy?!”
Grizzly could only yell at the radio as she saw the site the Team A choose as their nest falling apart. There was no response, no one replied. Not Orsis, not Zas.
M200 fired the last shot, and the Manticore with the heat cannon fell dead to the ground.
Orsis woke up. How long was she out? Maybe not more than a minute. She stood up and looked around, and then at her own body.
Minimal damage. Just a few scratches here and there, her weapon was by her side, unharmed too. And- oh… oh, there was in fact a problem. Was her left eye ruined? As soon as she tried to focus on a certain part of herself, the visual from such eye began twitching and… puff, it was gone.
Zas was nowhere to be seen. All Orsis could see was something that looked like a basement. It would have been completely dark, if not because of the hole in the ceiling that allowed the sunlight to sneak in. The sniper rested her back against the wall after picking up her gun and sighed.
“… those are…”
Curtains. Everywhere the eye could see. The walls, the floor, the debris, the pillars that once functioned as supports for the building. There were also a lot of sewing machines, so it probably was a textile factory, that would explain the curtains too. They were in all colors. Green, blue, yellow, purple. She unconsciously looked for a red one, but there wasn’t one.
She didn’t have too much time to think about it, since the radio yelled out just a sentence before it died. It was Grizzly’s voice.
“The second Manticore is running to the building!”
The sniper was all alone, and her eyes opened wide when she saw the spider-like machine jump down to the basement.
. . .
The Griffin’s dolls suspicions were right. The Manticore could only ‘see’ and ‘hear’, everything else it once had had already died long ago. So the robot’s only way to identify a threat was to see it and compare it to the images in its database.
The Manticore dived into the basement and it remained steady. Once could compare it as when a person tries to have their eyes used to the darkness. When it felt ready, it slowly began turning in its place. It saw a completely destroyed place, where the only things that remained entire were… some curtains. There were a lot, a lot of long and wide curtains, but also short and narrow ones. There was a blue curtain, a green curtain, a purple curtain… and a red curtain.
The Manticore ‘looked’ at them all, but found nothing. Maybe it was moment to jump out of the place, there was nothing relevant there. The Manticore turned around to face the hole in the ceiling, and that was its last motion.
A curtain moved.
A curtain, that wasn’t a curtain.
If only the robot had a tracking device, or some better optical modules, it could have noticed the cat locked in the room.
From behind the red ‘curtain’, a slender forearm stretched and quickly pulled the whole thing up. What laid behind the curtain was a disgusted T-Doll, who had used her own long, red, beautiful hair to simulate a piece of cloth and deceive the machine.
As her hair flied up in the air like the tail of a peacock, she raised her intimidating rifle to her hip and grabbed it with both her hands. At this distance, she did not need to properly aim.
She looked mad, and her blue eyes blazed like electric fire, locking on the Sangvis’ core intently.
And she fired. Not once, not twice. She dumped her whole mag with enviable effectiveness, always striking in the same place. The damage induced was indeed so precise, it managed to tear the Manticore in half. It didn’t even looked like the Manticore had time to ‘die’, it simply died, it simply stopped moving forever.
When it was done, she dropped the gun and let her body fall down, sitting on the floor, not being able to look at the robot because of the absurd amount of dust, powder, smoke and particles in the air.
What happened afterwards?
She sighed, looking up at the ceiling.
“… -sis… -sis! Orsis!”
Oh, there was Zas. Looking down from the hole in the ceiling, yelling without even a scratch on her pretty face.
Orsis T-5000 closed her eyes, and willfully shut herself down.
“And so, thanks to the way I, Grizzly MkV, wrote the report, we were given two full free weeks.”
“It is evident there were many irregularities in our deployment, but taking advantage of it to denounce a mistreatment…”
“Are you happy with your free time or not, Zas?”
“I am, but-”
“Oh you worry too much!”
The cat intervened.
“It was their fault for not deploying a second recon echelon for us, wasn’t it?”
“No it wasn’t and-!”
The silent gray-haired sniper smiled and spoke up.
“How does your new arm feel, IDW?”
“Oh? It is okay. It was no big deal, and it is refreshing to get new parts, too!”
M200 chuckled and Zas sighed, only for Grizzly to laugh.
“Hm? And where’s our leader? Wasn’t she the first one to be repaired?”
“Orsis, she is…”
Zas began speaking… but quickly quieted down. She didn’t know how to put it, she didn’t know how to make her sniper not to look too weird.
“She… she had something to wat- something else to do…”
The three other girls tilted their heads, questioning.
As for Orsis, she was in her room. With the lights out and getting used to her new eye, yes, but also with a serious look, gazing at the TV. Her commander complied. If she couldn’t be there to watch her show, the least her commander could do for her was to record it and-
“Oh! There it is!”
She smiled at the TV.
When the commander walked in, she was already too into the show to notice the commander’s entrance.
But that was something the commander already expected, and so Orsis didn’t even initially realize when the commander sat by her side, with a bowl of popcorn, and quietly watched along her.
One way or another, she ended up winning this time.
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