Alena grabbed Yuni and ran into an alley. The two leapt for cover behind some rubbish bins. They could hear the missiles detonate behind them, feel shrapnel from the street settle on their backs.
“It’s some kind of stealth jet,” Alena said.
“Why would the enemy attack all the way out here?” Yuni asked.
“To cause confusion,” Alena said. “Maybe to stir up panic and desperation.”
“Attention everyone!” the robotic voice blared from the sky. “Will Alena Richards please come out of hiding for her beating? She hurt Jenny and must be punished. Alena has sixty seconds to comply before this unit pursues her.”
“Or it could be a personal grudge from someone with great tech,” Alena said. “But that just seems so… unlikely.”
She sent the fighter by itself after installing an AI program.
“I see,” he said. “That’s okay, then.” He opened a laptop and started typing.
He shrugged. “It won’t hurt the plan. It won’t help, but it won’t cause any damage either.”
Then why the concern?
“I thought that Zhao may have gone herself,” he said. “Losing her would be a damaging thing indeed and she is so… difficult to predict.”
What if the jet kills our own kind?
“It’s unfortunate,” he said “but such losses are inevitable in this war. Especially now that they’ve been deployed on both sides.” He glared at the laptop. “And she took out the self destruct mechanism so there’s nothing we can do about it at this point.”
“Who’s Jenny?” Yuni asked. They had moved to the next street and Alena was prying the cover off of a sewer hatch. “Should I be worried?”
“Don’t know,” Alena said. “Wait, what was that second thing?”
“Nothing important,” Yuni said. “Here, let me help.” A blade of light came from her hand and Yuni hurriedly cut the cover in half. “Are we really going to run?”
“No choice,” Alena said. “Let the military handle it.”
“But what about bystanders?” Yuni asked.
“They’ll be running too,” Alena said. “Besides, it’s too bright for my powers to work.”
“The sun’ll set in a few hours,” Yuni offered.
“Doesn’t really help,” Alena said. “Get in, I’ll follow.”
“But it’s after you,” Yuni said.
“Don’t argue just go!” Alena said. That was when the two heard the roar of a missile. Alena pushed Yuni aside. Yuni picked herself up to find rubble in the streets, a downed wall on the far side with a building collapsing. There was no sign of Alena.
“Alena!” Yuni called. There was no answer. “Alena!” Still no answer. Yuni looked up in the direction of the stealth jet. “You killed her!” Daggers of light, hundreds of them rose from behind Yuni and hurled into the air. Some kept going past the point where they vanished, others hit. “Got you!” Yuni cried. Light burst from her feet, propelling her into the air. Long, slender blades of light burst from her forearms, she punched downward with her right arm, smashing the jet’s cockpit. Down came the left, smashing the controls. That was when the jet came into full view. It was sleek, just big enough for two people and maybe a dozen missiles. There were no people in it. Yuni kept slamming her blades into it as it crashed.
It fell into the street, ripping up asphalt. Yuni held on by hooking her blades into the fuselage and holding on. Her power quickly faded and she fell into the street. The plane had come to a complete stop, so she got away with a few bruises. She tried to call on her power again, but she could barely stand, much less focus her strength. She settled for kicking the fallen jet.
“That’s enough, you got it.” Yuni turned around and saw Alena behind her.
Tears came to her eyes. She stumbled toward her and buried her head in Alena’s chest. “I… I… I thought you were d…”
“I’m not,” Alena said. “Now we have to go, before any concerned citizens decide that we need to be dealt with.” She helped Yuni up and half-carried her away from the wreckage.
“Eat, Mija,” the plate was placed in front of Ines. “You’ve gotten so thin.”
“Mama, I’m fine,” Ines said. “I don’t need a fifth plate.”
“You don’t have to always be so strong Mija. With how fast you move, it’s only natural that you need to eat a lot. Now, eat.”
Ines rolled her eyes and started on the plate. Her mother nodded with satisfaction. That was when the call came over the radio. “Omicron Squad report in, immediately.”
“Sorry, Mama, I’ve gotta go,” Ines said.
“Uh uh, are you forgetting something?”
Ines gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. “That’s better. Come back safe and tell me more about that girl you like and don’t forget to eat.”
“Okay, Mama,” Ines said. She sped away.
Katelyn was the last to arrive. “What?” she asked, looking around. “I had to come all the way from the boonies.”
“Where’s that?” Yuni asked.
“Remind me to give you a lesson in slang sometime,” Katelyn said. “So, what’s up? If this is about those news stories, I was never mentioned.”
“So, you aren’t the mysterious pool hustler who witnesses claim set fire to the 8th street pub with her mind?” Sirvanna asked.
Katelyn shrugged. “I don’t have fire powers. Prove I could have.”
“This isn’t about your recreational activities,” Trask said. “Frankly, I don’t care if Ines is running around getting caught on camera for split seconds, Alexa is flying around, even if she did pelt several bystanders with cell phones.”
“They were gawking,” Alexa said. “Nosy bastards.”
“I don’t even care that Yuni and Alena destroyed an enemy aircraft in front of several witnesses resulting in a viral video. We were generous enough to give you all some time to recover, and now we need you back on duty.”
“I might still have emotional stress to recover from,” Katelyn volunteered.
“So, what’s our job this time?” Sirvanna asked, ignoring her.
“I need you six to go down to our Ellsworth Air Force base, and defend it,” Trask said.
“What, is the enemy going after our carved monuments now?” Katelyn asked.
“Forgive me, Sir,” Sirvanna said. “But Ellsworth is a good distance from the line is there some reason we’re going there?”
“Yes,” Trask said. “You’re going there because those are your orders. You don’t need to know the reason why.” He nodded to the roof. “There’s already a transport waiting, go.”
“This stinks,” Katelyn said. “Why do we have to head to such an insignificant little place?”
“Maybe they’re expecting trouble,” Sirvanna said.
“Or maybe they want us out of the way,” Alexa said.
“At least we’ll all be together,” Yuni said. She held on to Alena’s hand. “Right?”
“Whatever,” Alena said.
“I could get there faster on foot,” Ines said.
“True, but they want us all together,” Sirvanna said. “So you’ll just have to make due.”
“Suits me fine,” Ines said. “I prefer being surrounded by lovely ladies.”
“Maybe we can all sing Kumbaya,” Katelyn said.
“Or we could just skip to the experimentation,” Ines winked.
“We are not experimenting!” Sirvanna said.
“Not until you get her alone at any rate,” Katelyn said.
“Do we have the chemicals for experimentation?” Yuni asked. “Or is this one of the ones they do on behaviour?”
“Are you really that naive or are you full of it?” Alexa asked.
“Ladies, can we just go in peace?” Sirvanna asked, sensing that it was going to be a long trip.
The girls were greeted by an elderly man in a lab coat when they touched down.
“Welcome to Ellsworth,” he maintained a monotone as he spoke and never looked up from his clipboard. “Before you begin your assignment I have a few simple questions. Have any of you been sexually active in the past five months?”
Ines raised her hand. “What?” She asked. “Am I really the only one?”
“Is there any chance you might be pregnant?”
“Nope,” Ines said. “Absolutely none whatsoever.”
“What kind of birth control are you on?”
“It’s called lesbianism, Sir,” Ines said.
“I suppose you think that’s funny,” he said. “We frown on that here. Okay, no chance of pregnancy… Your assignment is to guard the base. Work out shifts amongst yourselves. Here are the keys to your quarters. You’re all forbidden from leaving the base. Have a nice day.” He took off.
“What a pleasant fellow,” Katelyn said. “He must have so many friends.”
“Why can’t we leave?” Yuni wondered.
“Who knows?” Katelyn asked. “Maybe it’s because they don’t want us disturbing the prairie dogs.”
“I wanted to see Mt. Rushmore,” Yuni muttered.
“It’s nothing special,” Ines said. “Just a bunch of half-broken faces in a rock.”
“Well, that’s alright then,” Yuni said.
“Will Jenny hand Zhao the soldering iron?” Zhao asked.
“Here,” Jenny said. “What are you working on anyway?”
“Zhao is building Jenny a really strong suit of armour. That way Jenny won’t get hurt anymore.”
“Shouldn’t you be finishing with your main assignment?” Jenny asked.
“Zhao is really far ahead of schedule,” Zhao said. “So the Professor said that she could build power armour for Jenny.”
“I really don’t need it,” Jenny said.
“No need to thank Zhao,” Zhao said. “Zhao is in love with Jenny and is very serious about protecting her.”
“I checked the perimetre,” Ines said. “There’s nothing, as usual.
“At least it’s a peaceful job,” Sirvanna said.
“But it’s so boring,” Ines complained. “We’ve been stuck on this base forever and nothing ever happens.”
“It’s only been a month,” Sirvanna said.
“It feels like it’s been longer,” Ines muttered.
“The base’s library has plenty of books,” Sirvanna said. “Try reading some of them if you’re bored.”
“You are such an egghead,” Ines said.
“Being well read does not make me an egghead,” Sirvanna said. “I don’t know why I partnered with you.”
“My fantastic bum,” Ines said.
“You’re incorrigible,” Sirvanna said. “Do you ever stop flirting and think about your situation?”
“I do plenty of thinking,” Ines said. “It’s easy when your mind has to work really quickly to keep up with your body. For instance, have you noticed that they never come back?”
“What?” Sirvanna asked.
“The planes,” Ines said. “Every two to five nights a whole bunch of planes take off, but no planes ever return and we never get more in. The entire base will be emptied pretty soon.”
“You’re right,” Sirvanna muttered. “I hadn’t really noticed, but you’re right. What does it mean?”
“It means that there’s more to this assignment than meets the eye,” Ines said. She winked at Sirvanna. “You wanna find out what?”