Chapter 2

        B-BANG B-BANG!
        The gunfire raining down on Strength's metallic hands kept her from advancing toward Scout and FemScout. The recoil of Scout's Force-a-Nature worked in their favour, though FemScout's Soda Popper served as additional support. With their concentrated gunfire, the two Scouts knew that, this way, the Opposition Member could not come close enough to smash either of them with those giant hands of hers.
        They also knew that they were running out of ammo.
        And fast.
        B-BANG B-BANG!
        FemScout decided that there was only one thing that could give them more ammo, and screamed into her headset the one phrase the whole team knew.
        "Need a Dispenser here! Come on, come on!"
        "That won't be necessary," declared a cold female voice just behind the Scouts.
        Or rather, a voice that seemed cold to those who didn't know the person it belonged to.
        Homura Akemi had arrived in her magical girl uniform, with her right hand on her circular shield.
        Homura remained behind Scout and FemScout long enough to allow them a glimpse at her, before she gave her shield a quarter turn counterclockwise.
        The few people visible in the black void became caught in a dull wash of gray. The circular shutter-windows on Homura's shield had opened to expose the inner gears and mechanisms inside. Homura's time-stopping powers were in full effect.
        Homura briskly moved behind Strength, who had her left hand raised into a fist. She then reached behind her shield and took out from it a shotgun that had twin shell-drums on each side of the single barrel. The gun was the Back Scatter, which was built in such a way that its shots were more damaging when used on an opponent's back.
        Homura held the Back Scatter steadily in her hands and fired.
        Then she put the gun away and turned her shield clockwise back to its initial position.
        As soon as the shield clicked into place and closed its windows, the dull gray wash disappeared.
        Just then, the bullets from the Back Scatter echoed out as they knocked Strength onto her knees, and sent the metallic hands slamming onto the ground.
        Scout and FemScout reacted to the amplified gunshot they heard.
        "What the hell was that crap?!" yelled Scout.
        FemScout laughed instead, relieved that someone could actually damage the miniature behemoth in front of them.
        "Uh..." said Scout, pointing at Strength.
        The Opposition Member had gone into a stance where she spread her fingers toward him and FemScout like giant claws. But then...
        The firing mechanisms inside the mechanical arms were jammed, and now the Opposition Member began to twitch her fingers at them for no reason. Scout joined FemScout in laughter while mockingly pointing at Strength.
        Beneath the laughter, though, another green onion missile blasted off straight for Strength. It crashed into her at full speed.
        The explosion forced Strength to move her arms to her sides, leaving her wide open to attack for a few seconds.
        But that was all the team needed.
        A small clawed bolt, mounted with a battery, was fired onto Strength's chest. She looked up to see that Engineer had joined the two Scouts with a monitor-mounted Rescue Ranger shotgun pointed right at her.
        "Gotcha, chuckwagon!" shouted Engineer.
        His gun was surrounded by a red glow with faint crackling electricity because of the Kritzkrieg's Ubercharge, and Engineer was receiving a stream of healing energy himself.
        A blast from behind Strength sent her to her knees once more. Homura stepped out from behind Strength with the Back Scatter gun at her side.
        "Oh hey!" Scout said as he noticed the gun. He had been looking all over for it that day and was surprised it fell into Homura's hands.
        "Hey, nice shooting there!" approved FemScout.
        A whoosh through the air dislodged the clawed bolt from Strength's chest, to Engineer's surprise.
        The four mercs looked at the blue-and-pink-haired girl behind them. The girl, Stocking Anarchy, was in her vibrant corset-like outfit with wings and a halo that suggested an otherwise angelic history. However, the team knew her as one of the Hostiles in this world.
        Without any hesitation, Engineer shot a clawed bolt onto Stocking's right hand that held her sword, right when the crit-boost Ubercharge ran out.
        "Gotcha, stretch!" called Engineer.
        "Color me shocked," muttered Stocking as she tore the claw off with her left hand and threw it away without a pain reaction.
        A pink glow exploded right on Stocking, sending her stumbling forward a step and causing her to look behind her.
        Madoka had arrived with her rose-topped bow in hand and a determined, albeit out-of-breath, expression on her face. She drew her bowstring back once more, this time creating three pink-light arrows between her hands.
        Stocking tried to leap at Madoka with a sword slash when Madoka made the shot.
        Two of the arrows made contact and stunned Stocking, who spun in place as she collapsed onto her knees.
        "Amazing, kamerad!" cheered Medic.
        As Madoka readied another triple volley of arrows, she saw Strength rush the four mercenaries and knock them out of the way.
        KRRSH! KRRSH!
        Pained groans briefly echoed around the area as Strength pounded Scout and Engineer to one side, and FemScout to the other. But when Strength raised both her metal fists at once, Medic began to shout.
        "You will go no further!"
        Medic used his Kritzkrieg to create a curved rectangular holographic shield in front of Madoka.
        Strength dropped her giant hands onto the shield, which hissed as it made contact. She then pulled her shuddering hands back into the air with a jolt.
        "Now! NOW! Shoot the tank!" ordered Medic.
        Madoka then saw an opening in Strength's defense and let loose her volley of arrows.
        The exploding pink light didn't affect Strength, but it caused her to hesitate for a brief moment before she slammed her fists onto Stocking
, who was just outside Medic's shield.

        But Stocking quickly opened her eyes and pushed her katana upward to block the impact.
        Strength and Stocking were caught in another blade-lock. Both of Strength's hands tried to break past the striped katana, while Stocking braced it with both of her own hands. Oddly enough, Stocking felt more confident that she could use both arms to brace her one sword; she couldn't do that so well with both swords.
        While the two opponents were distracted, Medic let his shield wear off.
        Madoka quickly made her way to Engineer and Scout. The three were soon joined by Medic and FemScout, and Medic did his best to provide health buffs to the others with his Kritzkrieg as quickly as he could.
        Meanwhile, Miku watched from a safe distance as Strength and Stocking remained in their blade-lock. She considered whether another missile blast would be necessary.
        Just then, the team's ringtone sounded on her headset. Miku assumed the ringtone was also on the others' headsets and phones, too. She began to listen to the conversation.
        While Madoka had some hesitation while putting her phone to her ear, Medic was the first to answer.
        "Yes?" said Medic.
        "Resurrection Movement. Good to hear from you."
        It was the Fugitive, the team's unseen commander who was targeted in a homicide attempt all those years ago.
        "I'm getting that, right now, Miss Stocking's over there getting distracted by Miss Strength. Okay, I'm sure you know that Miss Stocking attacked a lot of us over the last year. She used Demoman's sword to take out him and Pyro during that ambush, and she just used her own swords to attack your friends Kurisu and Sasha, which is something I still gotta look into."
        "Damn," muttered Engineer.
        "You know what? Just come back to the inhibitor room and we can have a talk, all right?"
        Madoka frowned at her phone before someone began to rub her shoulder.
        "You shouldn't blame yourself for what happened."
        "Homura?" said Madoka as she looked over at the black-haired girl who had appeared beside her.
        ("Hurry, everyone!") came Miku's synthesized voice over the team's comm systems.
        The four mercenaries and the two magical girls looked up to see Miku waving at them from the distance.
        "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" chanted FemScout.

        Soon, Stocking and Strength were the only ones left in the area, still in their blade-lock. Stocking managed to get onto her feet in the meantime and quickly shoved Strength away.
        Strength slammed her fists onto the ground once more and readied another punch with her left hand.
        A thin white beam emerged from far off in the black void and struck the left hand down.
        That electric bullet... It was the same kind of bullet she saw knocking people into comas last year!
        Stocking came to the conclusion that a frigging sharpshooter-- whoever the hell they were-- had been protecting her all this time. She managed to crack a brief smile.
        Strength turned her head around quickly from side to side, but saw no one else. She then realized too late that she was unable to close her left hand. That bullet had stunned it, much like the missile explosion did to her right hand.
        Stocking put her sword away as she transformed it back as one of her thigh-high socks on her legs.
        Stocking then left Strength behind. But after a moment, she frowned once more as she thought about what just happened.
        That sharpshooter who shot all those people into comas last year with all those electric bullets... has got to be an Opposition Member. But that giant-handed hooded freak was fighting those two youngsters back there, too, making that freak another Opposition Member.
        So why would an Opposition Member shoot another Opposition Member?
        Stocking didn't want to care anymore. She wanted to go buy some desserts from a nearby place before she would even think about caring.


*   *   *


        On the way back to the inhibitor room, Homura took a moment to pat Madoka on her shoulder once more while the others watched. After some hesitation, the both of them, still in their magical outfits, smiled at each other just before an impatient Medic called out to the group.
        "Mach schnell!"
        Madoka and Homura, who were holding hands at this point, awkwardly let go with some embarrassed stares at each other as the group resumed their march.

        At the inhibitors, Miku moved her arm in front of the group and then pointed in front of her.
        ("Guys, look!") she exclaimed.
        Just beside the destroyed Inhibitor 2, which had a faint glowing slash and a pillar of smoke, stood a young pink-haired girl in a pink-and-blue school uniform.
        Engineer put his left hand to his chin. He was sure he saw that girl a long time ago, around the time he and the other mercs were still trying to identify Miku.
        The young girl spoke up before Engineer could.
        "Excuse me!" The girl raised her hand up in a wave toward the group.
        "Yo, what's up?" replied Scout instantly.
        "You're the ones onée-chan talks about," the girl pointed out, referring to a cousin of hers like a sister.
        ("Yes. You guys remember her?") asked Miku.
        Engineer, Scout, and Medic replied in agreement.
        With a bit of hesitation, the young girl introduced herself first.
        "It's... nice to meet you! I'm Yutaka Kobayakawa."

        Those involved in the missions from years ago-- Miku, Engineer, Scout, and Medic-- helped further introduce Yutaka to the other girls in the group.
        Meanwhile, someone far away watched them on a giant concave viewscreen. That someone lazily pointed the stolen Lambent Light sword around the viewscreen and lazily turned it around in their hand.
        Whoever that someone was, they knew that the team on the viewscreen would get a nasty surprise very soon.




Chapter 3 >