“Anya, cover lightning girl. Druidess, take Svarog to safety. Carmilla, give her some of that energy. I’ll deal with the goth.” Behemoth called.
Alena chased after Carmilla, but her fist went through her. That was when Behemoth punched her. She punched back, forcing Behemoth back several steps.
“That kind of strength and you use weapons?” Behemoth asked. She took a swing at Alena who hurriedly dodged beneath it and punched Behemoth several times in the gut.
Sirvanna waited until Anya was close before hurling lightning at her. She wanted to illuminate the room as little as possible, after all. Anya stood calmly, allowing herself to be hit. Her body didn’t move.
Steel floor boards floated around Sirvanna, trying to box her in. She hurriedly avoided them and fired another bolt of lightning. This time she watched Anya’s face for the brief seconds it was illuminated. She was smirking.
Anya laughed. “This energy is incredible. I feel completely recharged!” The ceiling split open. The metal dome peeled back and turned to liquid. Anya brought it down, directed at Sirvanna. The daylight flooded in.
Alena was mid-punch when it happened. Behemoth didn’t even flinch. “That was much weaker,” she observed. Could your power be fueled by the darkness?” She shrugged. “How limited.” She grabbed Alena with one arm and gave her a fairly light punch. Alena hit the floor.
Behemoth grabbed her with one arm and Ines with the other. She moved the two into the corner before going back for Yuni and Katelyn. She finished with Alexa.
Sirvanna used bolts of lightning to halt the liquefied metal. She moved close to Anya and punched. A sheet of steel blocked her fist.
“She’s the last one!” Behemoth’s voice called.
Several sheets of metal floated around Anya, forming a protective barrier.
Sirvanna allowed herself a glance around. Her team was down, piled gently into one corner. Svarog seemed to be getting treatment from Carmilla. Druidess and Behemoth were talking and Anya was standing there, making no offensive moves.
A computerised voice blared. “Intruders approaching from sector A. Intruders approaching from sector A.”
“Darn,” Behemoth said. “The robots failed. Looks like we don’t have time to finish them. Let’s retreat.” She picked up Svarog and the Omega Theta Sigma team began marching away.
“Wait!” Sirvanna cried. She moved to stop them. A large sheet of metal pinned her to the ground. By the time she had crawled out of it, they were gone. She was moving towards her team when the rest of the soldiers arrived.
“Poppycock!” Colonel Trask exclaimed.
“Sir?” Sirvanna asked.
“I said it’s nonsense,” Trask stated. “Our specialists went through the entire base. Conducted tests for every kind of bug imaginable. Your battle destroyed all of the computer’s data, save for some minor files but they checked what little was left and there’s been nothing. So they wouldn’t have let us just have the base. It’s too important for their western operations.”
“With all due respect, Sir,” Sirvanna said. “The enemy had us completely outmatched. They could have easily killed us and yet they chose not to. I have to believe that they have something to gain.”
“You over-estimate them,” Trask said. “They toyed with you for their own twisted amusement and didn’t have time to finish the fight without being caught by our soldiers.” He fiddled with some paperwork on his desk. “Still, your team did admirably. You’ll all get some well-deserved time off to recover. That will be all Miss Bowman.”
Sirvanna had walked several feet when she ran into Ines. Her hand had been put in a splint.
“They let us win, you know,” Ines said.
“I agree,” Sirvanna said. “But they’ve had specialists go through the entire base. They didn’t find anything. What do they gain?”
“Maybe there’s something about the base we don’t know,” Ines said. “Maybe it isn’t as important as we think? Maybe their tech is better than ours?”
“But most of the tech was destroyed,” Sirvanna said. “They could only salvage a few files and it still doesn’t explain why they let us live.”
“That,” Ines said, pointing dramatically with her good hand, “is the big question.” She vanished for several seconds and returned carrying a bright red rose, which she tossed to Sirvanna. “You win the prize.”
Sirvanna turned the rose around in her hands a bit. “Do you have any ideas?”
Ines shook her head. “None. It could always be a sense of kinship, but I doubt it. Still, I have a feeling we’ll have some valuable information when we find out.”
Sirvanna and Ines went to meet with the others. Sirvanna barely paid attention as they walked. There were so many unanswered questions. She had no doubt that the enemy was gaining something from everything they had done. But what?
When they reached the others they found Alena sitting on the sofa.Katelyn was sitting beside her. Her face was bandaged and she seemed a little shaky. Alexa was leaning against the wall. She had several small bandages. Yuni hadn’t arrived yet.
Sirvanna went to grab a vase. Katelyn gestured and Ines’s shirt tugged in her direction. Ines was there in an instant. “What’s up, trying to undress me in front of all these people?”
“Like that’d bother you,” Katelyn said. “Actually, I was wondering where she got the rose.” She nodded at Sirvanna.
Ines shrugged. “How would I know?”
“Jenny!” Zhao cried. She leaped up at Behemoth, who stepped away from her.
“Calm down,” Jenny said. “I’ll have a little time to talk to you later. Right now we have a report to give.”
“Who hit Jenny?” Zhao asked, staring at Jenny’s black eye. “Zhao will beat them up for you!”
“It’s not a big deal,” Jenny said. “I already beat her. Don’t do anything unnecessary.”
“Zhao!” Druidess called. “I brought you a souvenir.”
“Zhao will look at Christina’s souvenir later,” Zhao said “but Zhao has to avenge Jenny’s injury first.”
“That’s rich,” Svarog said. “Look, half-pint, it was the brown-haired girl with green eyes from the Omicron squad who hit her. You know, the one barely taller than you? Do what you want with that.”
Zhao’s face lit up. “Then Zhao will use Anastasia’s information to teach her a lesson.” She ran off towards her workshop.
“You shouldn’t have told her that,” Anya said.
“What’s she going to do, head behind enemy lines and pick a fight?” Anastasia asked. “She’d get bored a quarter of the way there or figure out that her gift is useless for fighting and come back for a snack.”
Yuni returned with a solemn look on her face. She looked around, her eyes tearing up. Then she ran to Alena, hugging her tightly and crying.
“What’s wrong?” Ines asked.
Yuni spent several minutes trying to speak, but being stopped by uncontrollable sobs. She finally managed to speak “m… my fi… first kiss. Sh… she took it.”
“There,” Alena pat Yuni’s back awkwardly “there.”
“Maybe someone else could give you their first kiss,” Katelyn said. “Ines?”
“I wouldn’t be against kissing her,” Ines said “but she wouldn’t exactly be the first girl I’ve kissed. She would be the…” Ines thought for a couple seconds “twenty third.”
“Then Alena can do it,” Katelyn said.
“N…no that’s okay,” Yuni said. She wiped her tears on Alena’s sleeve. “I’ll be fine.”
Sirvanna returned with the rose in a simple vase. “Good, we’re all here. I have some good news. They’re going to give us some time off to recuperate. You can all do what you want and I’ll see you around the barracks.”
“Where did you get that rose?” Katelyn asked.
“It’s so pretty!” Yuni exclaimed.
“This?” Sirvanna asked. “I got it from Ines.”
Katelyn turned toward Ines. “I thought you didn’t know where she got it.”
Ines put a hand on Sirvanna’s shoulder. “Don’t look at me, I tried to cover for you.” And she was gone.
“Ladies, welcome back. You all look well.”
“Sir, the mission was a complete success.” Jenny said.
“I suspected as much. Still, you all did well,” he said. “You’re a very reliable group.” He scrutinised each of them in turn. “Anastasia, take a few days off.”
“But, Sir, she didn’t hurt me that badly,” Anastasia protested.
“The war will still be going on when you’re done,” he said. “In the meantime, I don’t want to risk any of your lives by making you fight when you’re not at your best. Jenny,” he turned towards her. “I have a special assignment for you. I’ll explain when the others have left. Anya, Callie, Christina, I want you three to provide support for Beta, Delta Theta for a while, if you would be so kind.” The three of them nodded. “Good,” he said. “You’re all dismissed. Kinder egg?” Anastasia took off without one. The other three each took one before going.
“What did you need me to do?” Jenny asked.
“I need you to aid Zhao in the lab,” he said. “For a couple weeks, anyway.”
“Sir?” Jenny asked. “Am I really the best choice for that?”
“She requested you specifically,” he said.
“What should I do about her feelings?” Jenny asked.
“Whatever you like,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter.”
“Sir, she’s a child,” Jenny said.
“No,” he said. “She’s a grown, albeit short, woman who frequently conducts herself like a child. There is a difference. In fact, she’s a year older than you. As such, whatever there is between the two of you is really none of my business. Whether you want to reject or accept her feelings is entirely your prerogative.”
“Understood,” Jenny said. She took the proffered egg and went to help Zhao.
The BA-97 just launched.
“Odd,” he muttered. “Why would Zhao do such a thing without orders?”
She’s a precocious brat. I keep telling you that.
“Please don’t call her that. It does make things so much more difficult when you two fight.” He sighed. “Do be so good as to find out where it’s going.” He waited until Naoko was gone and turned to the mutt. “They’re all such children.” The mutt wagged his tail.
She had thought it was just a coincidence… at first. But it just couldn’t be a coincidence. Alena turned her head. Yuni was staring at a piece from the abstract movement that looked like the artist had just splattered paint everywhere. After several minutes she saw Yuni glance over and hurriedly turn back to the piece.
Alena walked over. “Why are you following me?”
Yuni gave her an awkward smile. “Who, me?”
“You’ve been following me all day,” Alena said. “Ever since I stopped at the coffee house. Or do you expect me to believe that you’ve coincidentally gone to all five places I’ve been today?”
“I… I just want to be friends,” Yuni said.
“I don’t need friends,” Alena said.
“That’s a lie!” Yuni cried. “You act tough but I can tell that you’re lonely. So I’ll keep you company, okay?”
“Do what you want,” Alena said.
“Then it’s settled,” Yuni said. She smiled broadly and moved into position next to Alena.
“What does Naoko want?” Zhao asked.
Aren’t you in the BA-97?
“Naoko shouldn’t answer a question with a question,” Zhao said. “It isn’t proper. Zhao knows that because she’s a dignified lady.”
Who launched the BA-97?
“Zhao launched it,” Zhao said. “It should reach its target soon.”
Who’s piloting it?
“Zhao adapted the professor’s AI system to work with the BA-97,” Zhao said. “BA-97 is piloting herself.”
Recall it, immediately!
“Zhao can’t do that,” Zhao said, calmly. “BA-97 won’t return until her job is done.”
What are you trying to do?
“Zhao is trying to clean the lab to make a good impression on Jenny,” Zhao said. “But Naoko is interrupting with her thought-speak.”
You know what I meant!
“Naoko should go back to the professor,” Zhao said “and Zhao will continue with her work.”
She was in the air. It was the part of her powers she loved the most. The freedom of the skies. Alexa soared above the crowd. Several looked up, most reached for their cell phones, undoubtedly to inform the authorities that a plaguer was loose.
It wouldn’t do them any good. The army had given her freedom, and she was going to enjoy it. Alexa sent a column of air to wrench all of the phones into the air. She tossed them around in a miniature cyclone for a bit before hurling them back in the direction she’d gotten them. Their owners would have some major bruises, but they’d be okay.
She flew away before they could start considering how to respond. It was probably a good thing that she was wearing jeans and a jacket, she mused. Wearing a skirt while flying around would just be idiotic.
“And eight ball in the side pocket,” Katelyn declared. She almost missed, but the ball seemed to shift on its own to go in. “Pay up,” Katelyn said, holding out her hand.
The guy turned to his friend. “Did that shot seem odd to you?”
His friend shrugged. He hadn’t been paying much attention. “It was a really good shot, but it didn’t seem strange.”
The guy grumbled a bit and slid several large bills into Katelyn’s waiting hand.
“Double or nothing?” she asked.
He muttered something about being broke and wandered away with his friend.
“Pity,” Katelyn muttered. “Don’t find many suckers that dumb.” She cleared her throat and cried out clearly “Any more takers?”
“So, what did you want me to do?” Ines asked.
“Just take a look around and see if there’s anything the regular investigative team missed,” Sirvanna said.
“I can’t believe you got permission for this,” Ines said. “Or that you pouted your lips to get me to come along.”
“I did no such thing!” Sirvanna protested.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ines said. “I’ll report back soon.” She vanished and reappeared seconds later. “You’re cute when you’re embarrassed.” And she was gone again.
Sirvanna shook her head and went over to the computers. She was going to take a close look at the files that were left. She hurriedly went through them. There had to be something… Wait. She went back. There was something odd about the file. That’s when the monitor blew out.
“You broke it!” Ines said.
“No,” Sirvanna said. “I didn’t. There was something weird about the file. When I went to take a closer look…” she stared at the now blank monitor.
Ines got a new monitor and Sirvanna checked over the file again. There was nothing wrong with it.
“Maybe your powers caused a surge of some kind,” Ines said.
“I guess it’s possible,” Sirvanna admitted. She sighed. “Did you find anything?”
“Not a thing,” Ines said.
“I see,” Sirvanna said, dejected. “Sorry to drag you out here.”
“No big,” Ines said. “I had to get away from my folks for a while anyway, and I’m always up for spending time with a pretty girl.” She winked.
“Must you flirt with everyone?” Sirvanna asked.
“Please,” Ines said “I have standards. I only seriously flirt with women who are my type.”
“So, you’re just joking around?” Sirvanna asked.
“When it comes to you,” Ines said “I’m completely serious.”
“Does that line ever work?” Sirvanna asked.
“Believe it or not,” Ines said. “It’s not a line. You’re cute when you blush, by the way.”
“Where are we going now?” Yuni asked.
“I’m going to buy some books,” Alena said. “You don’t have to come.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Yuni said. “I’m not bored or anything.”
“That isn’t what I mea…,” Alena was interrupted by a roar overhead.
The two looked up. The skies were clear, but there was a steady whir. That’s when the missiles rained down.