A gunshot rang out in the darkened, maze-like alleys of the slums. The single shot was followed by another. Then another. Eventually, gunfire flooded through the slums. Flashes of fire lit up the border between the slums and the factory district; echoes of shouts and screams bounced off of the makeshift walls that made most of the buildings. It all became an orchestra of chaos that could be heard for miles across the city.
Mary sighed from the top of the largest tower in the slums. She had been sitting there for hours waiting for the beginning of the invasion of the slums, her ‘armtaker’ leaned against her shoulder, [It’s starting,] Abe said to her.
[Indeed it is,] she replied, emotion gone from her voice.
[Still a bit out of it?] he asked.
She shook her head, [No. I’m just disappointed is all.]
Abe gave a sad laugh, [That’s what you’ve been saying for the past week. Just admit it, you never thought the people put the Purists into power. I honestly should have thought of it, thinking about it. My world had our own horrible dictator elected into office because of him swaying the populous with charisma. Though, he had the help of an economic crisis, so there’s that.]
Mary sighed again, moving her vision between clusters of fighting, [I know, you’ve told me… I’m just… exhausted,] she said, [There’s no point in staying here anymore, and we-]
[Look, let’s stop going in circles. We’ve been over this: we keep our post until the last of the refugees are gone, we go and ask those extradimensionals for help, and we get the hell out,] Abe cut off, [I know. You lost all motivation, but- Oh, five targets on the left.]
[On it,] she replied. She whipped her rifle up and took aim at the armored car convoy making their way into the slums from the southeast. She fired a round, lighting up the night but giving no recoil to her. The first car exploded into a shower of shrapnel, the passengers dead. The car behind the first rammed into the flaming wreck, scrunching the engine block together. The men within filed out, taking cover in the alleyways that lined the road. She took no interest in them, slamming another round into the last car in the procession. It’s fate was similar to the first’s, occupants dead and frame shattered into a shower of metal.
The occupants of the other cars dashed out of their vehicles, but Mary ignored them. With another three shots, the cars were lying on the road as burning masses of twisted metal. Nodding to herself, she leaned the rifle against her side once more, [How much longer until we’re done here?] she asked with a sigh, [I really don’t want to leave Huk here, but… I can’t stay here anymore.]
[Man,] Abe remarked, [You’re really out of it. You’re even thinking out loud here!]
Mary shook her head, scanning for more cars, [Look, I’ve had a tough week. Between prepping for the invasion, helping get people out, and coming to terms with the fact that the majority of people on this f****** island want me dead because of my foster dad, I’m a bit stressed…]
Abe mentally nodded, [I know, I know. You’ve had a tough week, but you’ve got to get focused. The last boat of demis is probably being filled up right now, and once that’s done, we can kiss the Rats goodbye and sail off to a quieter corner of the planet. How’s that sound?]
[Good, but more targets.] She took aim and sent a blazing round through the engine of a speeding enforcer car. The car exploded and was wreathed in flames as it went over its front wheels and flew into a building. [Please tell me that one was one of the ones with an underground shelter…] Mary muttered.
[It is. The only one around us is already far behind the enforcer’s lines. Speaking of, they’re taking ground quickly. It looks like they’re still a few miles from Gus’ shop, but they’ve got about a mile without real resistance. About a mile from his shop, they’ll hit the first wall. After that, they’ve got that extra mile of heavy resistance before they get to his shop. For now though, keep an eye out.]
[Well, that’s good, if only for the fact that these people are going to keep fighting until tomorrow morning,] she admitted. She continued scanning the labyrinthine roads until she caught sight of something new, [Hey, tell if I’m wrong, but that’s a tank, isn’t it?]
Abe took a moment, his attention sweeping over the tank, [Yep. And I think it’s looking for you. I say you blow the thing sky high while you have the chance.]
Mary thought about it, but shook her head, [Nope. I’m going to hide, wait for it to think I’m gone, then pick it off along with whatever its leading into the slums.] Abe mentally shrugged and warned her to be careful, agreeing with her plan. She laid down on her stomach and kept a close eye on the tank. It took its time searching the rooftops, looking for her, and eventually had its sights on the large tower she was lying on. After a few moments, it moved on with its search and scanned the other rooftops. Grinning to herself, she laid in wait for the tank to give up its search.
Finding nothing on the roofs, the tank began to move forward towards the front line, which had become a bloody stalemate of the living, dead, dying, and walking dead all clashing in a chaotic battle. Mary noticed more than one time when the enforcers would shoot at each other in the confusion, which was a convenient thing for her. Just before the tank was about to reach the front, a column of cars rushed into the slums, spreading out before Mary could notice them.
[Bit off more than you could chew?] Abe joked.
[Just watch.] Her first target was the tank that was just about to reach the fighting. She loaded an explosive runed bullet, funneled mana into it, and fired. The bullet launched, flying straight into the gap between the turret and the body. A thin mana shield flickered to life, stopping the bullet for a moment before shattering under the power of the bullet. The turret burst into a pillar of fire, blowing open the thick armor and leaving the tank a smouldering scrapheap. She whipped her rifle around and found the closest armored car rushing into the fray, firing a normal bullet at it. The car flipped over while wreathed in fire, skidding to a stop a few hundred feet down the road. She wasted no time in firing the next bullet, an electric runed one, which punched through the next car’s windshield. The passengers inside were all fried by the electric currents and slouched over in their chairs.
Mary fired one bullet after another, gutting the engine of a third car, blowing a fourth and fifth up, shredding the insides of sixth with a windstorm, and freezing the wheels of a seventh, sending it careening into the ocean. She loaded another round and scanned the streets of the slums for activity but finding nothing. Sighing in contentment, she leaned the rifle against her shoulder and continued to scan the streets. [Told you,] she finally said with confidence.
[Hey, motivation is never misplaced. I also think you should look for some crusaders to take out; every one of them killed is one less to go after the refugees or to terrorize the slums,] Abe suggested. Mary nodded to herself, scanning the streets once more. The fighting was creeping closer and closer to her tower, only a mile or so off from her tower. She vividly remembered Huk telling her that most snipers would need many minutes to track a target and get a good shot on them. It was completely acceptable for her to only hit the tanks and large groups of armored cars, but she wanted to be sure that the refugees got away safely so she showed some of her prowess.
Checking her remaining bullets, she was satisfied with the amount. She had packed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, and she had taken hundreds of bullets from The Ring when she got the gun. She still had over two hundred. Bullets left in her box —more than enough to take care of the rest of her work with the Tunnel Rats. Just as she found a crusader on the ground, she felt the need to duck. Her instincts being honed due to the fusion with Abe, she followed them and just narrowly dodged a bullet from another sniper. She threw herself to the ground and huddled against the lip of a wall she was using for cover, [Abe, did you see where that came from?] she asked.
He mentally shook his head, [No, I didn’t. Try to take a box or something and do the fake peaking trick.]
[What’s the fake peaking trick?] she asked.
Abe made a mental noise somewhere between a growl and a sigh, [Ugh, this- no nevermind. Try to make it look like you’re looking out of cover, but do it with something other than your head.] Mary quickly nodded, grabbing an empty ammo box she had used all of the bullets from and sticking it on the stock of her rifle. Raising it up a bit, she slowly waved it around to make it seem like her head. Unsurprisingly, the sniper did not take the bait.
[Well, that didn’t work… Alright, screw it. Pump as much mana as you can into deflecting bullets. I’m looking myself.] Abe did not respond, but the mana surged around her as cracks of static sparked around her. She turned her mana shield on and poked her head up. Almost immediately, a bullet pinged off of her layered defenses from her left. Whipping her head that way, she was able to catch a glimpse of the sniper skulking away from her position. It was a crusader equipped with a long rifle. Smirking, she tracked the crusader as she jumped from building to building, trying to stay hidden and only revealing herself when absolutely needed. Fortunately, Mary was able to track the armored sniper as she jumped from roof to roof. She eventually stopped at the edge of a short building and peeked her head at Mary’s tower. It was the last thing she saw.
The bullet tore through the small wall she was hiding behind, her mana shield, her armor, and through her entire body. The sniper’s lifeless corpse fell back, hitting the roof with a bounce. At that moment, white flares were sent up all along the slums that flew into the sky. [Looks like our job is done. Let’s get going.] WIthout another word, Mary took her bag filled with tools and clothes, her case of ammunition, and her rifle and left. The fighting on the ground became more and more savage as the night went on, and it had reached a fever pitch just after midnight. Mary avoided the fighting, however, and made her way to Gus’ store.
Before long, she found her way there. She looked up to the sky and guessed that it was about ten minutes after midnight when she forced open the door of the store. Just then, she remembered something, [Hey, wouldn’t they have left with the other refugees?]
[No, apparently, Gus had something that could let them stay here. Either way, let’s get in there and see if they’ll help us,] Abe replied. Mary walked into the darkened store and looked around, finding nothing unusual. Just as she was about to walk further in, a rush of mana flooded the store unlike any Mary had felt before. WIthout thinking, she bolted out through the door as the ceiling collapsed. She threw herself onto the street as the roof fell, barely making it out unscathed. When she turned around, the sight that greeted her was one of utter awe and terror. Metal pipes were visibly rising from the ground, valves blooming like flowers and walls growing like leaves around the pipes. Just then, a blast of fire erupted and blew open the walls of the flowering metal contraption. Inside, a group of people stood around the corpse of a Gus, clutching a gear in death. In the center of the room, a small furnace, glowing red, was connected by pipes that spread to the rest of the structure. Swarms of large ethereal blue spiders were crawling around the room and up the walls. In front of the group in the center, a bulky suit of armor stood. It had arms with bladed gauntlets and the thickest armor she had ever seen, with minute gaps showing an endlessly complex series of gear and cogs.
Mary’s mind blanked out as the fighting somehow started. She did not know how long she sat there, but when she came back to her senses, the group of people were standing in front of her almost entirely unharmed.