“I don’t know how much more I can take of this.” said 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 consol.  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 the 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 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 behind as it propels itself.

Apricot could not help see the usual 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 was 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 surrounded.  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. “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.  “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 just as it smashes through raining shards of glass.  The two girls huddle together as the downpour of fractures fall.  Apricot looks up to see a large metallic shadow rise.  It raises both of its arms before the two rifles fire rapidly shooting up the walls of the mall.

Diving over the escalator bars Apricot latches onto Bonni’s arm.  Eyes locked onto the machine warrior Bonni remains frozen.  “Bonni!” Apricot yells pulling her over the rail.  The armored soldiers above are taking shots as they yell out orders.  People are running in every direction attempting to escape the rain of debris.  “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 a v shape.   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; its red monocle adjusts focus to fix on her.

It fires a barrage of shots landing all around Apricot and Bonni; the armored soldier blocking most of the rounds with his own body.  Apricot and Bonni continued down the hall even though Apricot is almost certain that soldier had just been killed.  “You stabbed me in the throat!” Apricot hears a voice groan from inside her head.  She turns her head to see the soldier being split in half with a 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 the sight of several police Volkners.  Apricot freezes looking at the menacing looking machines.  “Get behind us!” one of the mechas firmly orders.  From behind, the other Volkner that had 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 air by the arm of another one of the police Volkners.  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.

Apricot feels Bonni’s hand let go.  She turns to see her diving into the arms of an armored soldier that is directed behind the barricade.  Another thunder causes Apricot to swiftly turn heel to watch as the mechas had begun ripping each other apart.  One however breaks rank and is jetting directly for Apricot.  “Get behind us!” yells one of the armored soldiers as they release a barrage of 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.   She hid herself 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.  Apricot runs down the line of the makeshift vehicular wall hearing Bonni’s voice cry out “Apricot!” Diving past the armored soldiers she runs at a full sprint through 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.  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, a pair of pure white dress shoes rests on top of chocolate brown wood.  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 barraged by Apricot’s 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 mecha 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 suits 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 out “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 tare 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.

Out the fire exit she gains a few seconds.  Running in the opposite direction she reaches the intersection of the main street.  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 as Shiori takes off.  Apricot latches onto the hand of the still raised door pulling it shut.  “What the hell is this!  It’s all over the news!”

“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 like 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 parts of it have begun pealing off exposing the metallic 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.  Shiori nearly veering off the road yells out “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 driving it.” The mecha dives in front of Shiori’s car.  He slam the breaks coming to a scretching hault.  The loud hiss of the projectile claws stops with a loud clang into the back of the car.  “Get out!” Shiori commands pulling up his door.  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 extends his rod.  “I hope your right Apricot.” Taking a fighting stance.  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 dwarfed the two.  “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 the fist but as it smashes into the pavement debris fly up pelting him harshly.  Shiori spins back around taking the blows slamming his rod against the fingers of the machines fist releasing a flurry of sparks as his metal scraped against the alloy.  “Shit this is useless!” Shiori roars.  Apricot slashes at the machine and her flames make contact.  Drawing back the machine looks down at Apricot, shooting its claws down towards her but she jumps into the air just missing the tethers.  Apricot hears the servos in the hand wine rapidly retracting the lines, narrowly missing her.

“Got to be creative.“ Shiori hits the mecha directly in the chest stabbing his rod into the machine.  Standing on the side of the machine he retches his rod to rip open the chest panel.  It reveals a dead soldier, his mouth open in agony his eyes frozen wide.  Inside a purple orb floated about stretching throughout the machine. Grabbing him by the back the machine quickly tosses him away.  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 chest cavity of the mechanical soldier.  The purple 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.”