The NightWing gently descended in the middle of the deserted field. Soon after landing a small ramp extended from the aircraft's belly, and four shiny figures appeared, cautiously scanning their surroundings.
"Nene, are you sure this is the place?"
The smallest of them quietly assented by giving her a quick nod. Priss couldn't help thinking about the strange way Nene had been acting since she had told them about this job. The assignment itself was unusual, to say the least, but the fact that it had been Nene who had been contacted by their mysterious employer left them little choice but to take it. It was the only way to find out whether their cover had been blown, as the anonymous message Nene had received proved to be untraceable.
"Priss, Linna," Sylia's commanding voice came loud through the radio within her helmet, "you two go around the warehouse and through the back. Nene and I will take the front. This is probably a trap, so if you detect any boomers we fall back, understood? We don't know what we're up against, and I don't want to take any chances."
The small group split in two. Sylia and Nene slowly approached the large storage facility. It seemed to be abandoned, as large portions of the metallic roof were missing, and the outside walls were covered by rust and faded graffiti. They soon reached a door. It was locked.
"Can you detect anything?"
Sylia received no response.
"Uh, no, the I.R.T. and E.M.D. are blank"
Sylia gave Nene a penetrating glance. Even inside the suit, she could tell Nene was shifting nervously.
"Sylia," Linna's voice, on the other hand, sounded as confident as ever, "we've reached the back entrance. We're going in."
With a single powerful blow Sylia crushed the door. The thin metallic sheet flew off the hinges towards the inside of the building. A cloud of dust formed within the dark corridor. Sylia switched her visor's optics to infrared.
The two women slowly proceeded along the maze of corridors. Their footsteps echoed along the hallways, and Sylia felt her body tense every time they reached an intersection, her muscles contracting almost painfully in anticipation as sweat fell down her forehead.
"Can you detect any type of signal? Anything at all?"
"No, Sylia, I've got all sensors to the max, but nothing"
"Everything seems to be quiet here, Sylia. How about you guys?"
It was Linna.
"All quiet. We should soon reach the main hangar in a few minutes. We'll rendezvous there. Be careful, it's the most likely place for an ambush."
"O.K., we'll let..."
"Linna? Priss? Is everything O.K.?"
The radio was dead.
She turned around. Nene had stopped walking, and stood about ten metres behind her.
A shower of bullets ripped through the air, and a flash of white hot pain shot through her body as a couple of slugs penetrated her suit and lodged into her arm and shoulder. She violently spun round and immediately began firing back, destroying the incoming boomer's head with a precise blast of her laser gun.
"Nene! Take cover!!!"
A second boomer appeared behind the remains of the first. Sylia again took aim, and pulled trigger. The laser cut a hole through the corridor's roof, missing the boomer by almost a metre.
"What the hell?" Sylia could have sworn the targeting sight had turned green. She staggered backwards, desperately trying to evade the bullets that shot from the mecha's arm. She almost fell back when a slug hit her in the thigh. She grounded her teeth in an attempt to concentrate and ignore the pain that consumed her body. She carefully aimed the laser at the boomer's chest, and when the sight turned green she fired twice.
Both shots missed.
"Nene!!! My targeting is out! I need your..."
The deafening sound of feedback exploded in her helmet, an unbearable screech that almost busted her eardrums. Instinctively, she motioned her arms in an attempt to cover her ears, only to grab the sides of her helmet. She realized her mistake too late, as her eyes widened in terror when she saw the boomer's arm pointing at her face.
* * * * *
Throwing all caution aside, Linna and Priss began to recklessly run as soon as they heard the shots. They had lost contact with their comrades, and although it was against Sylia's instructions, they knew they had to aid them somehow. Soon they had come out the maze of corridors and stood in the middle of a large room at the centre of the warehouse.
"Where are they Priss!?! I can't find their beacon!!"
"Piece of shit! Mine's not working either!"
They both spun around to see Nene running desperately, coming out from an entrance at the other side of the hangar, a boomer chasing after her.
Suddenly they found themselves in the middle of a bombardment. Looking upwards they saw three boomers jumping down from a couple of platforms which hung near the roof.
"Linna! Help Nene! I'll take care of these bastards!"
Linna's jets ignited as she jumped in the air and headed towards Nene. Priss leaped towards one of the boomers as she fired her railgun against a second one, screaming in fury.
Linna flew over Nene and lashed her whips at the mecha, severing its head and an arm.
"Nene! Where's Sylia?"
Yet another boomer appeared at the entrance. She performed a perfect somersault and landed directly in front of the confused mecha. In one swift move she smashed her knuckle bomber into its face, destroying half its head. She prepared the final blow when Nene's scream sounded through the radio
"Linna!!! Behind you!!!"
She glanced at the small radar in her helmet. A red dot indicated something just behind her. She spun around.
There was nothing there.
Two metallic arms suddenly surrounded her and locked around her chest. Her suit creaked under the tremendous strain, but her servomotors where beginning to loosen its grip.
The moment Linna broke free, the boomer self-destructed, and Linna's hardsuit caved in under the pressure of the shock wave, crushing her within.
Priss had managed to destroy two of the boomers, and turned towards the third and last one as the deafening explosion made the whole building tremble. She knew, however, that no matter what had happened she could not turn her back on the mecha, as it would not hesitate for an instant to shoot her from behind. She had to finish it. Now. She tightened her fist, and prepared to attack.
Suddenly, a pencil thin laser struck the back of Priss' neck, instantly severing her spine. It was the boomer's bone-shattering blow, however, which finally killed her.
* * * * *
Nene was sobbing uncontrollably, on the verge of hysteria. She nervously clutched a pillow as she watched the newscast.
"...to the mercenary group, "The Knight Sabers". All three bodies were found naked and severely mutilated, which has made identification difficult. It has just been reported, however, that one of the women may be Priscilla Asagari, lead singer of the rock group 'Priss and the Replicants'. So far, no trace of the of the fourth member or the suits has been found.
In an ironic twist of fate, Genom's stock rose a point and a half at the Nikkei. After weeks of speculation regarding the capability of their newest combat boomer, the defeat of the Knight Sabers has had shareholders..."
By now the girl was practically wailing into the pillow, a painful cry of despair.
The phone rang. Nene almost jumped off the sofa. By the time she pressed the "receive" button her whimpers had abruptly stopped. The small tele-screen remained black, but she immediately recognized the distorted electronic voice.
"Well done. You'll find them safe and sound in a red van on the corner of Niko and Yamaguchi, at Shibuya. It was a pleasure doing business with you."
Nene hung up. Her lips trembled.
Tears flowing down her pale cheeks, she grabbed her coat and left in search of her parents.
back to the Short Story Page.Secrets, 9 March 1996