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“I don’t know how much more I can take of this.” says an officer to another. “When I joined the force, I thought I would be helping people you know. Today it seems we are doing nothing but dealing with strange events. It’s like this whole city has become a stage for some sort of twisted horror movie.”
“Yeah, first it was that insect swarm, now its explosions in the ruined part of town. Let’s not forget the ever growing population of witches.” Braced against the wall the other officer looks around. He takes a swig of coffee. “Just be glad rook, your dispatch. We actually have to go out and see this shit.”
The younger officer shakes his head. “Just knowing about all these things is enough to make someone go mad. I never thought the SDP was like this. I imagined we would be going after the more hardened criminals. Not spooks and monsters.”
“You didn’t get the memo?” grunts the older officer. “They changed the S to Spectral.” the group of officers laugh. “Sure as hell seems that way at least.”
Over the radio a voice calls out “Hey, ah, is anyone inside the Valkner room?”
The young officer at the desk looks over his monitor showing no heat signatures. “That is a negative.” he replies.
“Well, there is a lot of noise coming out of there. Did someone leave one of the Valkners on?”
“That is also a negative. The indicators are displaying them all as inactive.”
“I need backup down here, now. Something is moving around inside that room. It is big and made of metal.”
“I’ll send someone down.” The rookie looks up over at the older officer. “Could you?”
“Yeah yeah, I am going.” he retorts.
Just as the older officer is about to exit the room an alarm goes off from the console. The younger officer looks down at the board to see a red light flashing. “Hanger three was just breached from the inside.”
“Shit, help!” the officer cries out over the radio.
“What’s wrong with him?!” The words wrung inside Apricot’s head. As she gazed up at Cortez staring into the pillar of radiance. Aside from the quaking thunder, there were subtle screams. She could feel her chest pounding. Tugging at Cortez’s arm resulted in little more than a moan from him. He turns his head slowly towards her, life returning to his eyes.
Finally, they were running; trailing behind Shiori. The shadows of every object stretched like long spikes casting themselves upon every wall. They did not have to run far, the car was already in view as they raced down the alleyway. The lights from helicopters coasting along the bright night sky slash across the roadways.
“What the hell was that! Shiori what was that!” Cortez screams as he cowers in the back of the car nearly in tears. Apricot felt the same anxiety though her tears were too shellshocked to escape her eyes. The car roars as it races down the ruined roadway. “Things got more complicated.” Shiori whispers.
Cortez shakes his head. “What the hell was that?” Apricot went to ask the same thing, yet the words couldn’t leave her lips. Her throat tightens, mouth turning dry. “You going to say something?” Cortez burst out.
“Yes, I am just thinking.” Shiori calmly says. “That was one of several seals around the city. They are old sights around this region.” Shiori explains. His driving slowing as they arrive onto more commonly traveled roads.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean!”
Shiori clears his throat. “I think one of them was just broken.”
The ringing of Apricot’s phone jumps her from her thoughts. Looking down at her table she sees her phone gliding as it vibrates. Grabbing hold of the pink plastic plush case she raises it up to see it’s a text from Bonni.
“Wanna do some window shopping?!”
The roar of gunfire echoes through the hall of the SDP’s hanger. The bloody remains of officers are smeared like splattered bugs across the pavement. “We got to stop it!” yells an officer hiding behind a support beam. Two other officers hide from the adjacent pillar. Holding their pistols to their chest the officers peak at the war machine marching down the corridor hall. “These guns are useless. That is reinforced alloy, no way in hell our shots will make it through that armor.”
“What the hell are we supposed to do?” yells a female officer.
“We got to run and close the gate.” replies the first officer. “It will buy us some time to get the special units suited up.”
All the officers nod in agreement. While they run down to the end of the corridor the machine lumbers forward disregarding the other officers. After making it to the other side of the corridor the female officer presses a memorized set of numbers onto the keypad. The twin doors groan as they come together. The machine stops its movement watching the doors descend. “It’s not moving.” says the older officer.
The other officers peak through the slabs before the metal gates latch shut. “Well, that won’t buy us much time. If it rips through this one like the other two.”
“Let’s get out of here.” suggests the female officer.
The group turns tail down the hall as the twin doors let out another groan. The officers turn back to see the door opening again. The Volkner suit remaining where it had been previously. “What the?” says the female officer as the red lights on the suit grows live once again.
The suit takes another loud stomp continuing its track towards the group. “Run.” says the older officers as the machine sparks its thrusters leaving a blue-white glow to burn propelling itself in a full charge.
Apricot could not help but see the world differently. As she walks down the familiar stretch of shops her sights wander to every corner and every shadow. She felt like this once before when she was in the dark about the phantoms. When she denied everything just for a few more moments of peace. Now, she is in the dark again. Bonni’s fingers rest on her shoulder. It is comforting. For the moment. Still the recent events are blasted into mind as the local city guard surround the quiet mall corridors. While it is usual for police to be walking about, today armored police with long rifles guard each junction in pairs. “I was worried about you.” Bonni says as they rode the escalator to the next floor.
“Worried? You?” Apricot asks while admiring the murals of party officials lining the walls. “Normally you tend to only worry about yourself Bonni.”
Bonni’s lips purse coy like a cats mouth. “Well, I will remember to do it less often.” Apricot smirks. The two giggle for a moment. “So, what is the deal with that cutie Shiori?” Bonni says raising her eyebrow. “You two an item?”
A heavy layer of blush fills Apricot’s cheeks as she looks at Bonni with bulging eyes. “What!” she barks quickly shaking her head while lightly tapping Bonni on the shoulder. “It’s nothing like that. He is just my boss. That is all.”
“Really?” Bonni pouts. “Shame, and here I thought you landed yourself a fairytale catch. Figures though, I could not see the two of you together, anyway. Common girls like us never interest those nobles.”
Apricot felt hurt hearing those words. She was a common girl, though it never occurred to her around Shiori. Considering his views on Cortez because of his heritage. Perhaps he felt the same way about her. “Well, you might be right about that.”
Bonni points towards the skylight in the mall’s center. “Look, what is that?”
Apricot’s eyes dart up to see a shadow loom over the glassy roof. As the shadow grows large Apricot raises a hand to her mouth as it smashes through raining shards of glass. The two girls huddle together as the downpour of fractures fall. Apricot raises her eyes to see a large metallic shadow rise from the rubble. It raises allowing stray framing and glass to cascade from its arms revealing two long rifles. “Get down!” Apricot shouts just before the thunder of bullets riddle the surroundings.
Diving over the escalator bars Apricot latches onto Bonni’s arm. Eyes locked onto the machine warrior. Curled on the ground Bonni remains frozen. “Bonni!” Apricot yells pulling on her danty coat. “Over to my side.” she says as Bonni sheepishly complies. The armored soldiers at the top of the escalator yell out orders and she hears another type gun popping off as well, in which she assumes are the police returning fire. People are running in every direction attempting to escape the rain of debris. The sound of gunshots stop. Bonni raises up to look up the escalator. “Shing!“ a bullet wizes by just missing Bonni who now has fallen to her knees. “Bonni! We got to move.” Apricot yells pulling on Bonni to get to her feet. With one more tug Bonni raises as Apricot drags her like a child.
“This way,” a soldier hollers motioning with his hands towards an emergency exit. The tower like helmet the man wore gave Apricot the creeps. It was like a cyclops with its one large red glowing sphere. Around the large sphere were four other small ones two on each side in the shape of a V. Apricot’s train of thought is interrupted as the man raises his rifle in their direction. He lets a shot fly past Apricot causing both her and Bonni to let out a shriek. His gray cape flows as he steps forward to fire another burst of shots. “Get behind me!” he yells marching forward past the girls. Apricot turns her head back to see the Volkner at the top of the stairs. She can see the red monocle adjusting its focus turning its radius as it gazes in their direction.
The large machine turns its body ajar, aiming its right arm toward the group firing a barrage of shots landing all around Apricot and Bonni; the armored soldier dives past the pair using his own body to shield them from the bullets. They continue down the hall even though Apricot is almost certain that soldier has just been killed. “You stabbed me in the throat!” Apricot hears a voice groan from inside her head. She turns her to see the soldier being split in half with the massive rifles bayonet. “I shall cleave yours in half, servant of the betrayer!” it roars ripping into the small hallway. Bonni lets out a scream running faster.
“This isn’t happening!” She cries.
Through the exit doors Apricot and Bonni come crashing out, only to be greeted by even more of the menacing machines. Apricot freezes looking at the massive police mecha suits. “Get behind us!” one of the officers firmly orders. From behind, the other Volkner that has been chasing them smashes through the wall. Apricot turns just in time to see a large slash aimed in her direction. The blade is caught in the midair by the arm of the police’s Volkner. Having the gun retched from its arms the attacking machine is held back by the SDP mecha. Apricot and Bonni run past between the legs of the machine to safety.
Bonni screams out “Help!” to a line of armored officers who have formed a wall with their armored trucks. Running swiftly over the parking lot the booming sounds of the mecha’s guns thunder rippling against the walls. Glancing behind herself Apricot sees purple sparks and phantom fires blocking the shoots.
Bonni’s fingers releases from Apricot’s hand as their grip part ways. She watches her dive into the arms of an armored soldier that is directly behind the barricade. Another thunder causes Apricot to swiftly turn heel to a frightful sight. They had begun fighting, ripping each other apart. One however breaks rank and is now jetting directly for her. “Get behind us!” yells an armored soldier. The group open fire taking shots on the large mechanical suit.
“That thing is after me!” Apricot gives one last glance to Bonni whose eyes are filled with terror. She reminded Apricot of a small child in a panic. Hid behind the steel door of a truck too curious not to peak at the oncoming manifestation of death. Biting her lip Apricot looks directly into Bonni’s eyes giving one last look. She nods her head, perhaps for the last time. Running down the line of the makeshift vehicular wall she hears Bonni’s voice cry out “Apricot!” She dives past the armored soldiers and runs a full sprint through the stagnant traffic to the other side of the parking lot. Behind her she can hear the soaring machine bursting through the barricade. A heavy clash of metal and its high pitched bending screech grates on her nerves. “Please let Bonni be ok.” The cars on the road at the end of the lot are moving swiftly. Jumping over the barrier Apricot rushes into full traffic narrowly escaping the speeding automotives. Her heart pounds as she reaches the other side of the road to see a drop off onto another platform below. Without hesitation she slid down the side of the concrete landing harshly on her feet.
An upbeat tune played in the background, as pair of pure white dress shoes rests on top of a chocolate brown wood computer desk. Laying back in his office chair Shiori has a book spread open as he casually reads the dusty tomb. Just past the edge of the book he has a clear view of the city from his highrise apartment window. “Bzzzt Bzzt” his phone rumbles across the desk. Shiori glances down at the phone seeing it light up with the text “Apricot Signa” Letting out a sigh Shiori places down his book and casually lifts the phone to his ear clicking it on. “Hello Miss,” before he could finish he is assaulted by a barrage of panicked words.
“Shioriyougottohelp!Arobotistryingtokillme!Idon’tknowhowmuchlongerIcanrunbutyouneedtodosomethingnow!” The words came so fast it is almost incomprehensible.
Shiori let out a snicker “You got to slow down, honey. I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Shiori! I don’t have time for this!” Apricot screams into the phone.
“Well, if you need my help, that is not the way to get it.” Shiori snickers again.
Apricot lets out a growl in frustration. “A mech is trying to kill me!”
“Sounds, dangerous. All right, I will come help. Keep your cell on, Akagi will locate you.” Shiori says with a click of his phone. He tosses the slab onto his desk letting out a yawn stretching. “That crazy girl, I’m not sure she is even worth the trouble.”
Slamming through a car the mecha suit’s green electronic HUD locks onto Apricot running through an alleyway. Sparks fly from its thrusters as it makes the turn into the long stretch of narrow lanes. Using this to her advantage she jackknifes through the maze of off roads attempting to lose the machine. Each turn the mecha makes a boom trumpet from its thrusters. Seeing an open door Apricot heads into the back of a building.
An older man in a white chefs cloak shouts “Lady you can’t be back here,” as Apricot runs through the steamy hot room. Out through the double doors several waitress’s let out a shocked yelp. At the front of the building Apricot can see out the dining-room windows to see the mecha outside adjusting its arms.
“Get down!” Apricot screams as the machine unloads causing the room to erupt into a storm of steel and wood. Ripped fabric flies around the room as the guns tear up everything. “How the hell do I get out of this?” Apricot thought to herself as she crawls toward a fire door. She is not sure of how many people it actually hurt or if anyone is still alive, but the moans of agony rummage through her mind. It is all her fault. She put those people at risk. This thing, whatever it is, has absolutely no mercy at all. Is this the Okabe’s doing? They slaughter their own police.
Out the fire exit she gains a few seconds. Everything started to become a blur. Running in the opposite direction she reaches the intersection of a main street. She only has a moment to react as a white car barrels up next to her nearly striking her. “Get in!” yells Shiori. Sliding over the hood of his car Apricot dives into the passenger seat. Shiori takes off flooring it. Latching onto the handle of the still raised door Apricot pulls it shut. “What the hell is this! It’s all over the news!” Shiori yells.
“It came after me when I was with a friend!” Apricot yells. “I don’t know what the hell it is!”
Shiori growls stomping on the gas speeding past cars appearing. To Apricot it appeared as though at any moment they would crash. “Well, way to make enemies with the world then. This is a problem!” Apricot looks back to see the mechanical warrior close behind. It smashes through cars giving no regard for anything in its path. The machines armor is physically damaged as the metallic plating has begun pealing off exposing the chasse below. “Where the hell are the cops!” Shiori yells.
Apricot looks down at her arm to see the purple flames once again burning. She holds her hands open palmed to watch the fire’s dance. “So, it is a phantom controlling that thing.”
She is suddenly jerked as Shiori nearly veers off the road yelling “What the hell! You’re going to kill us.”
“It doesn’t hurt physical objects.” Apricot quietly says. “I think that thing is a phantom.” Apricot comments turning her head to Shiori. “At least a phantom is piloting it. It said something earlier to me about stabbing its throat.” A shadow crosses the front of the car. Shiori slams the breaks; the tires coming to a screeching halt. The machine stretches out its arm releasing a loud hiss. A projectile stabs deep into the hood of the car with a loud clang. “Get out!” Shiori commands pulling up his door open. Apricot follows suit and dives out just before the car is lifted and thrown into the side of a building.
The two stand in front of the mecha. Shiori rises to his feet extending his rod. “I hope your right Apricot.” Shiori comments. “We only got one option now.” Apricot nods her head allowing the fires around her arm to grow more vibrant. The cables retract out of the car back into the machines hand with a metallic click. Standing about ten feet tall the machine dwarfs the pair. “You know Apricot. If your wrong we are going to die, right?”
The machine without warning jets forward lunging at Shiori. Jumping back he misses its fist aimed directly at him. The powerful machine smashes into the pavement harshly pelting Shiori with debris. Regardless of the minor impacts Shiori moves through the shrapnel slamming his rod against the fingers of the machines fist. The rod sparks as the metal moils against the alloy. “Shit this is useless!” Shiori roars as the machine straightens its posture. As the machine positions it’s other arm in Shiori’s direction Apricot runs past the machine waving her arms. Its attention is redirected to her, the hulking metal soldier shoots its claws down towards. As the razer claws sail in the air, Apricot leaps over the metallic tethers as they pass her. With the creek of the servos wines rapidly retracting the lines, narrowly missing her a second time.
Apricot regains he sights to see Shiori directly under the machine. “Got to be creative.“ Shiori roars as he hits the mecha directly in the chest stabbing his rod into the breastplate. Retching his rod from the machines chest panel, he rips the pilot’s door open. A dead soldier comes hanging out, his mouth open in agony, his eyes frozen wide. Inside the cockpit, a purple orb floats about stretching throughout the machine. Shiori lets out a cry as the machine’s powerful hand wraps around his waist. It quickly tosses him through the air like a rag doll. Landing on the ground he rolls several times ripping up his clothing.
“Shiori!” Apricot calls. Seeing an opening the machine raises its fist to strike Apricot into mush. As the fist descends Apricot lets out a scream diving forward striking directly into the purple orb of the mechanical soldier. The aura bursts into a bright flash as the machine falls forward, its fist smashing into the ground cracking the pavement. The rest of the machine goes limp. Apricot pants looking up at the body who is now hanging above her still strapped into the suit. His dead eyes gazing toward her but not at her. Blood drips from his limp, open mouth.
Shiori rises to his feet wheezing, he coughs, fluid flows from his mouth onto the ground. “Well, it didn’t kill me.” he laughs. “Damn it, that hurts.“ he roars wincing in agony. “Looks like you lived too kiddo.” he grunts letting out another pair of coughs. Apricot nods her head stepping out from under the machine. “Mind helping me get out of this mess.”
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