Chapter 14:

Chapter 12 - Resounding Discovery

Wings of Unity

Ayano let out a yawn and sighed, stretching her arms out. She stood in the middle of a plaza directing civilians towards Cranes so they could be evacuated from Urasaki. The screaming cries of civilians and other Troopers around them were drowned out by her ears as she looked ahead at Tomoko, who stood across from her on the opposite side of the path.

“Man!” Ayano exclaimed at the top of her lungs.

“What’s wrong, Ayano-chan?” Tomoko asked as she divided her attention between Ayano and the civilians. “Oh, yes, yes! This way, please!”

“I can’t believe this!” Ayano replied.

“That this is happening?” Tomoko innocently asked. “Yes, this way! To safety, everybody! Yay!”

“No!” Ayano groaned in frustration. “That we’re doing this! Seriously! Kitaru-senpai and everyone else gets to go out into battle and we’re… stuck here on evacuation duty!”

“But didn’t they say it was because they needed the more experienced ones with Kitaru-senpai?”

“Exactly!” Ayano gestured towards Tomoko with her hands. “Are we not as experienced as everyone else? This just means that we suck! Hell, even Yukino is with them and she’s as scared as a baby!”

“Yeah, but...” Tomoko paused for a second. “Aren’t you the one who’s scared to even use the jump-pack?”

“Wh-what!” Ayano stammered. “I-I mean… ye-yes! But that’s not what I’m going for here!”

“... And doesn’t Yukino-chan have majutsu?”

“What about Sayaka?”

“She’s the medic.”

“... Nobu?”

“Doesn’t Nobu-kun have the most kills in the Holographic Arena out of all of us?”

“We-well… well Erika and Shadow...” Ayano grunted. “Never mind...”

“You should remember what we’re doing here is also important too, Ayano-chan,” Tomoko said with a reassuring nod. “Although, I wish there were some treats nearby…I’m getting hungry.”

“And I wish that we could at the very least see some kind of combat – do something else than this boring stuff…” Ayano sighed.

“Well, you’re in luck,” the voice of Mika said aloud. Ayano and Tomoko looked over and saw Mika walking up to them, her M22 Assault Rifle clutched tightly in her hands. “Strategic Command’s summoning us for a mission, we just need to grab Tatsuharu and head over.”

Ayano’s mood completely changed into an upbeat attitude as she strolled out of her stance on the edge of the path immediately, with Tomoko following shortly behind her. The civilians continued to come in the masses, and other Troopers took their places where they once stood to direct them to the Cranes.

“Where have you been the entire time, Mika-chan?” Tomoko asked her.

“Logistics,” Mika replied. “I was helping with communication by directing the Cranes to where they needed to go.”

“Did everyone else land safely?” Ayano asked, referring to Kitaru and the rest.

“I believe so,” Mika replied. “Last reply that I overheard from them was that they were heading towards the Harvester Core.”

The three girls looked out into the distance while they walked and saw the five beams shooting upwards towards the skies from the Harvester Cores.

“I hope they’re okay...” Tomoko said in a soft voice.

“Yeah...” Ayano said.

“Tatsuharu, meet us at the command center,” Mika said over their radio.

“Will do, Mika-san. After this next barrage, I’ll be right over,” Tatsuharu replied.

As soon as he said that, the thundering boom of the artillery fired. Five bright lights shot up into the air, seeking their intended targets at the city.

“Mika-san, huh?” Ayano nudged Mika with her elbow. “Seems like you and glasses are getting pretty close, eh? Wouldn’t you say, Tomo?”

“It’s very precious, Mika-chan,” Tomoko teased with a small giggle.

Mika narrowed her eyes in annoyance before shaking it off, ignoring her teammate’s remarks. They continued walking and followed a ramp up to a room in the plaza that they were holding the evacuations at. The door opened and the three of them walked in, only to have Tatsuharu follow in moments after.

They stood at attention in the command center, where Troopers were walking around in haste and there were overlapping voices going on – directing the flow of evacuation and detailing the battles of what was going on in the city. A man with his helmet off, revealing his dark-gray hair and a withered face, saw the four cadets and approached them.

“You the Blue Team?” his gruff, old voice asked them. The four saluted the older man, and he nodded – acknowledging them. “I’m Captain Higona of the 112th Rapid Response Forces – currently overlooking the evacuation process here.”

“You called us in, sir?” Mika asked.

“That’s right,” he nodded before clearing his throat. “I lost contact with one of my squads inside the Fuyaku Museum nearly half an hour ago. I fear they’re KIA, but right now they’re missing. They’re one of the few squads carrying heavy weapons – making them crucial and highly viable in this situation we’re in. My resources are stretched thin, and I have squads all over escorting civilians trapped in key locations to get here to the evacuation center.”

“Where do you need us, sir?” Ayano asked.

Captain Higona nodded his head approvingly. “I like that. You got spunk, kid. What’s your name?”

“Ayano Sasaki of the Blue Team, sir!” Ayano exclaimed.

“Sasaki… sounds a bit familiar,” he replied. “I’m placing you under command here. Squad Sasaki is your new name,” he said with a nod. “I need you four to get into the Fuyaku Museum and see if that squad is still alive and kicking. We’ll go from there once you reach your destination. Do you copy, Squad Sasaki?”

“Yes, sir!” the four of them declared with a salute.


Ayano walked by a dead body of a Trooper on the street, grimacing in disgust at the dismembered and bloody body. They looked up and saw the Fuyaku Museum, standing tall and visibly untouched from the horrors of war – but eerily silent, as if it was void of life.

“I don’t like this,” Mika spoke up. “Where is everyone?”

“Maybe they’re all inside?” Tomoko said. “... Or I hope...”

The gunfire in the distance echoed around them, and Squad Sasaki continued to move towards the entrance of Fuyaku Museum.

“What is this place anyway?” Ayano questioned. “Why send a heavy weapons team here? Out of all places?”

“Do you usually ask questions that we don’t have answers to?” Tatsuharu groaned. “Or is this just the first time I’m actually paying attention to you?”

“Don’t be mean, Tatsuharu...” Mika mumbled in a quiet voice.

“Apologies, Sasaki-san...” Tatsuharu whispered. “To answer, Fuyaku Museum is a museum dedicated to inventions made that date all the way back to the 2080’s. It’s filled with sound devices, musical instruments, amplifiers, and anything of the sort.”

“So… it’s a museum dedicated to a band geek,” Ayano uttered. “Sounds simple enough.”

They carefully walked up the stairs to the museum’s entrance, keeping their guard up and weapons raised – prepared for any type of encounter they might have.

“Is it impolite if we don’t knock?” Tomoko asked. “I’m scared to knock.”

“Command, we’ve reached the Fuyaku Museum,” Ayano said into the radio. “We’re going to head inside, but… it’s really quiet here. We haven’t encountered any type of Harvester and… it’s as if it’s just us.”

“Roger that, Squad Sasaki,” Captain Higona ordered over the radio. “Update us once you reach the beacon of the missing squad. Command, out.”

“Understood,” Ayano responded before turning to face everyone else. “Okay, well… let’s get to it, guys.”

“... Do you think there’s snacks inside?” Tomoko asked.

“Tell you what, Tomo,” Ayano said as she shook her head. “If we find any snacks, I promise I’ll give it to you.”

“Yay...” Tomoko loudly whispered.

Ayano walked up to the automatic doors that would let them into the museum, and noticed that they weren’t opening on their own. She glanced over her shoulder and nodded to the rest of Squad Sasaki, who split up and took defensive positions behind her. Tatsuharu walked up to her and aimed his M22 Assault Rifle at the door, covering Ayano as she began to pull on the door to open it.

The door opened with ease, revealing the inside of the museum to be pitch black with the exception of a few flickering lights and the moonlight from the outside shining in.

“Power’s dying,” Ayano announced. “Floodlights on, stay close.”

Squad Sasaki activated the lights on their helmets, walking into the museum with caution.

“I don’t like this...” Mika whispered, frantically looking around with her weapon pointed. “It’s quiet… too quiet...”

“Tatsuharu, how far away are we from the beacon?” Ayano asked, taking as many quiet footsteps as possible.

“We’re about...” Tatsuharu looked down at a scanner he held in his hands. “About fifty feet that way.”

He pointed down a dark hallway, with lights flashing every now and then from the dying electricity.

“You’re kidding,” Ayano batted her eyes.

“I… I’m kind of scared to go down that hall, Ayano-chan...” Tomoko whispered.

“We have no other choice,” Ayano mumbled.

“Actually, we do,” Tatsuharu mentioned as he pointed down a different hallway, this one completely pitch black in darkness. The three girls looked at Tatsuharu with a blank stare.

“I’m… okay with the other one now...” Tomoko coughed.

Lights flickered rapidly around them as they proceeded down the hall. With each step they took, each member of Squad Sasaki felt themselves getting more nervous about their surroundings.

They walked into the room where the beacon was coming from, a huge showroom with a statue in the middle of a man carrying a sound device in his hands. The moonlight from the exposed ceiling above shone down upon the statue, and they could see bodies lying around the statue – the bodies of ASC Troopers.

“Well… we’ve found them...” Ayano said. “Move up, check your surroundings.”

The closer they got, they found the body of a huge Stalker laying among the five dead ASC, who were shredded to pieces and if it weren’t for the armor, would be highly indistinguishable due to the amount of injuries.

They took positions around the dead squad, awaiting Ayano to contact Captain Higona. They noticed a rocket launcher with a few missiles next to one of the bodies – the heavy weapon they were sent in to recover.

“What the hell...” Mika said as she looked away in disgust.

“Interesting…” Tatsuharu said as he knelt towards the deceased Stalker, noticing small fumes coming from the body. “It’s as if it’s burning…” he touched the body with one of his fingers, only to retract it immediately. “It’s like a furnace…”

“Did you… did you just touch it?” Mika cringed.

“Command, we’ve...found the missing squad...” Ayano reported as she gulped. “They’re KIA.”

Captain Higona deeply exhaled. “Roger that, Squad Sasaki. Your new task is to pick up their heavy weapon and advance towards the Harvester Core – link up with the rest of Blue Team and pave the way. I’ll be sending reinforcements to your position, the estimated time of arrival is fifteen minutes.”

“There’s also something else, Command...” Ayano said. “We found the body of a Stalker here. We think it’s the one that eliminated the squad.”

“Squad Sasaki, listen carefully,” Captain Higona’s tone drastically changed to a state of worry and concern. “Are there lights in the museum?”

“Barely, Command,” Ayano said as she looked around the darkness of the showroom. She caught a glimpse of something glowing red high above on the second floor, and narrowed her eyes to get a better look. “It’s as if the whole museum’s power is going to go out soon.”

“You need to get out of there! Now!” Captain Higona shouted over the radio.

“What?” Ayano asked, feeling her heartbeat begin to rise excessively.

She looked back up at the second floor, seeing dozens of red lights now – and she found them to be red eyes.

“HRAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!” a loud, combined screech pierced their ears.

“STALKERS!” Mika screamed.

“POSITIONS! OPEN FIRE!” Ayano shouted. Squad Sasaki instantly aimed their weapons at the red eyes and began firing wildly into the darkness. The red eyes began moving quickly around the dark, jumping down from the second floor and onto the same level as Squad Sasaki. The cadets backed up into the center of the showroom where the dead squad lay, and continued firing.

The light from the night shined down from the exposed rooftop, creating an invisible barrier of light between the darkness of the museum. The red eyes rapidly moved towards Squad Sasaki, but seemingly stopped at the edge of the light and ceased their attack – growling and hissing at them instead.

“Wh-what?” Mika stammered.

“They’ve stopped...” Ayano said. “Wh-why?”

“It’s the light…” Tatsuharu pointed. “They’re afraid of the light.”

“Command, situation! We’re trapped here inside the museum… but it seems to appear that the Stalkers are afraid of the light!” Ayano said into the radio. “Requesting some kind of advice here, Command!”

“... If you stay in the light, you should be safe from the Stalkers,” Captain Higona reported. “I know your team didn’t combat too many Stalkers, but the simulations aren’t exactly accurate. There’s still more things about the Harvesters we learn each day, and we’ve come to realize that the Stalkers are affected heavily by any type of light source – whether it be natural lighting or not.”

“How exactly do we… get out of here?” Mika asked.

“Why don’t we just stay here? Wait for backup?” Tatsuharu said, his voice filled with mild panic.

“We can’t,” Mika replied, pointing at the light shining above them, which began to move. “The moon is moving, and so will the light. If we stay here, we’re dead.”

Ayano sat and thought for a second before looking around at the flickering lights all over the room. She took a deep breath and did her best to drown out the noise from the Stalkers, ignoring their vicious growls and hisses.

“We… use the lights,” Ayano said.

“What?” the three others all said in unison.

“Look,” Ayano pointed at the flickering ceiling lights. “There’s a three second pause in between the lights. If we go one at a time, it should eventually lead us to...” her finger moved with her eyes. “There.”

Her finger ended at the hallway they took to get into the showroom.

“That was quick of you to think of,” Tatsuharu nodded approvingly. “I’m very impressed.”

“Did you just compliment me?” Ayano asked.

“Did I just compliment you?” Tatsuharu asked.

“I’m at a loss for words here,” Mika remarked. “Anyways, is that… really the only option we have to get out of here? Besides just gunning down the rest of these bastards?”

“We can’t do that,” Ayano said, pointing again at the second floor where the Stalkers emerged from, with more red eyes coming from the shadows, snarling in anger. “They just keep coming. We try to shoot blindly into the dark, we’ll eventually run out of ammo.”

“I agree,” Tatsuharu said. “It wouldn’t be wise to waste the ammo we have now, especially since we have to meet up with Kitaru-senpai...if we get out of here.”

When we get out of here,” Mika said in annoyance.

“Well, we should get going… before the power dies completely,” Ayano said.

“Who’s going to carry the rocket launcher?” Mika asked.

Tomoko instantly picked up the seemingly heavy rocket launcher with ease, slinging her M22 Assault Rifle over her back and carrying the rocket launcher in her arms. She looked around at the astounded Squad Sasaki and nodded her head rapidly.

“It’s very light!” Tomoko gleefully said.

“Who knew the airhead had this much strength...” Ayano quietly remarked.

“I agree...” Tatsuharu said.

“Alright, well, follow me!” Ayano said as she leaped onto the light, then jumped onto the next one as it appeared.

Tomoko followed after her, with Tatsuharu behind, and Mika being the last.

Ayano’s plan was working, as the Stalkers were afraid to approach the light, instead just snarling in the darkness around Squad Sasaki – awaiting a moment where one of them would mess up and be left for dead.

They continued on for a few more spaces of lights, before Mika let out a yelp that caught everyone’s attention – she had misplaced her jumping time and was now behind the rest of them. She jumped to another light, misplacing her feet again.

“MIKA!” Tatsuharu shouted at the top of his lungs, watching helplessly as Mika stumbled backwards before getting her feet proper. With haste, she found a spot that started to flicker with light and jumped over to it, landing safely. “Mika? Mika!”

“I’m… I’m okay!” she replied with pants from her heavy breathing. “I’m… whoa!” the light began to flicker and she jumped to another spotlight. “I’m going the opposite way! Where… where does this lead me!?”

“Da-damn it!” Tatsuharu gritted his teeth, glancing over at Ayano and Tomoko before shaking his head. He took a small running start before jumping, stumbling as he landed near Mika.

“Tatsuharu!” Ayano shouted as she and Tomoko continued on, having no choice but to keep moving. “Damn it! What if… what if I cast a Construct!? I can’t leave you two behind!”

“It’s fine! Just keep going without us, we’ll meet up with you!” Tatsuharu waved them off.

“God damn it!” Ayano cursed.

“Ayano-chan, we have to keep going...” Tomoko said. “We don’t have the energy or firepower to handle the Stalkers...”

“Meet us outside!” Ayano shouted back.

“Please be safe!” Tomoko added on before the two girls disappeared around the corner, leaving Mika and Tatsuharu by themselves.

“Wh-what are you doing!?” Mika shouted at Tatsuharu. “Why did you do that?”

“I’m… I’m not leaving you behind...” Tatsuharu said to her. Mika looked up at him and nodded, before they had to jump to another spotlight.

As they continued on, being hunted by the Stalkers in the dark, they noticed that the lights above them began to flicker wildly – an indication that the power would completely die in moments.

“Oh, no...” Mika whispered.

“RUN!” Tatsuharu screamed at the top of his lungs.

The two of them bolted from their spot, running as fast as they could through the darkness of the unknown. Massive amounts of footsteps began chasing after them, and they could hear the Stalkers hiss and screech that they were a step closer to hunting down their prey successfully.

Tatsuharu and Mika turned on their helmet’s lights, looking around the museum as they ran in order to find a place to get to. They saw a room that was open down the hallway and they sped up, feeling their feet start to ache from the amount of pressure that they were putting on their legs.

“Okay...” Tatsuharu said in between his pants from running. “On three, I fire on them...” he checked the ammo count on his M22 Assault Rifle. “Then you cast your Construct. Okay?”

“O-okay!” Mika nodded as she ran.

“One, two, THREE!” Tatsuharu shouted as he stopped running and instantly turned around, firing his M22 Assault Rifle. The flashes of the muzzles showed the gruesome faces of the Stalkers he was shooting at, and he saw that he was taking down a few of them.

Defense Construct: Guardian’s Wall!” Mika said, and a blue wall made of Construct immediately formed right in front of them, cutting a good portion of the Stalkers off. The few that were beyond the Construct were promptly gunned down by Tatsuharu.

“Let’s go!” Tatsuharu shouted, standing up and turning around to continue running down the hall. He grabbed Mika’s hand and tugged her along with him, glancing over to see his friend do her best to keep up with them.

They reached the end of the hallway and entered the room, seeing that it was pitch black. They activated their lights and looked around, seeing nothing but glass cases filled with sound devices inside of them.

Turning around, they saw that the Construct wall had disappeared, allowing the monstrous Stalkers to continue pursuing them. They instantly reacted by manually shutting the double doors that led into their room – blocking them off from the Stalkers once more.

“Wh-what do we do...” Mika looked over and saw the Stalkers trying to bash through the glass doors. “They’re going to break through soon...”

“Hmm...” Tatsuharu walked away from her, looking at the devices inside of the glass cases. He found one that was built as if it were a gun, analyzing the sound device and he read it out loud. “The V500 Resounder… projects an ultra-high frequency that’s sensitive to the hearing of certain mammals… especially those that are cold-blooded… interesting.”

“Y’know, Tatsuharu!” Mika shouted. “I get it, that’s very interesting! I promise, we’ll come back one day, but could you please focus on the matter at hand!”

Tatsuharu continued to look around the entire room, finding himself thinking out loud.

“Harvester blood… they’re the undead so their blood must be cold...”

The Stalkers continued bashing onto the glass door, and left behind huge cracks on the door that was seemingly about to break.

“TATSUHARU!” Mika screamed.

The sound of glass breaking erupted and the Stalkers rushed into the room, their eyes filled with nothing but a lust for blood. Mika began firing her M22 Assault Rifle to gun down as many of the undead as possible, but more emerged from the black hole.

As a Stalker neared her, she hit it with the butt of her rifle to knock it back. The towering undead stood over her, and brought its giant spear-like arm up to strike her down.

Time slowed as Mika stood there, on the brink of death.

Tatsuharu shattered the glass container of the V500 Resounder, pulling the sound device out of its stand and pressing the trigger.

Mika opened her eyes, finding the Stalker before her stunned as if it was frozen in place and looked around – seeing the rest of the Stalkers also frozen.

She took no time to hesitate, shooting the Stalker in the head to kill it. Tatsuharu did the same and in moments, the entire room was cleared of the Stalkers as they all laid dead on the ground.

She and Tatsuharu exchanged looks as Tatsuharu picked the V500 Resounder back up into his hands. He looked down at the sound device and back at her before nodding his head slowly.

“I… I think we’ve just discovered something...”


“Command, please advise!” Ayano shouted into her communications device. “I still have two other Cadets trapped within the museum!”

“Squad Sasaki, reinforcements should be there momentarily. They will assist you in getting to the rest of the Blue Team to reinforce their advancement to the Harvester Core,” Captain Higona replied. “Do you have the heavy weapon in your possession?”

Ayano looked over to Tomoko, who sat on the steps of the museum with the rocket launcher by her side, chewing on a piece of a candy bar that they found on the way out – and as promised, Ayano gave it to Tomoko. Tomoko nodded her head enthusiastically, giving Ayano a thumbs-up.

“Rocket launcher is in our possession, Command,” Ayano said with a sigh. “Awaiting further orders.”

“Understood, head over to regroup with Blue Team, your mission now is to get to the Harvester Core,” Captain Higona said.

“But… but what about the other two of my squad inside?”

“Cadet… if I’m going to be frank with you… the squad that’s deceased inside had years of training and weren’t able to put up a fight against a swarm of Stalkers. It’s most likely that your fellow cadets… won’t make it out. I still have reinforcements headed towards you. Rendezvous with them and push forward. Command, out.”

“Ayano-chan...” Tomoko said as she put the piece of candy down. “We’re not… going to leave Tatsuharu-kun and Mika-chan, ri-right?”

“L-Listen, Tomo...” Ayano sighed.

“They said they would meet us outside, Ayano-chan!” Tomoko shouted. “We… we can’t just leave them!”

“There’s no way you’d leave us behind!” Mika’s voice sounded in their ears.

“See, Ayano-chan? I can even hear Mika-chan saying that we can’t leave them!” Tomoko said.

“We’re so glad to see you didn’t leave us!” Tatsuharu’s voice shouted.

“And I can hear Tatsuharu-kun too! He doesn’t sound as annoying as usual, though...”

Ayano looked past Tomoko, seeing Mika and Tatsuharu emerge from around the corner of the museum, running towards them.

“That’s because they’re right there, idiot,” Ayano sighed. Mika and Tatsuharu ran up to Tomoko and Ayano, panting heavily. “I’m glad to see you guys are okay.”

“We’re… we’re more than okay!” Mika exclaimed in between pants.

“Take a look!” Tatsuharu shouted as he showed them the V500 Resounder.

“Looks like a megaphone,” Ayano shrugged

“I like it, Tatsuharu-kun! It’s really cute!” Tomoko exclaimed.

“Wh-what? No!” Tatsuharu shook his head. “This V500 Resounder… it’ll save lives! It’s a new way to combat the Harvesters!”

“I don’t think they’re going to choose to listen to music over eating us alive, Tatsuharu...” Ayano scoffed.

“No, trust me!” Tatsuharu said. “Mika and I witnessed it. It impairs them momentarily in a duration long enough to provide us an opportunity to eliminate them! It worked on the Stalkers inside.”

Ayano turned to Mika. “What did he say?”

“It stuns them for a few moments, giving us a chance to kill them while they’re stunned,” Mika said.

“Huh… interesting,” Ayano nodded her head. “Well, how can we test it?”

“Maybe.... if a horde of Runners were to attack us we’d be able to test it. Otherwise, I’m not too sure,” Tatsuharu replied.

“HRAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHH!!” the combined shrieks of a nearby horde sounded.

The three girls looked at Tatsuharu, glaring their eyes at him.

“You just had to say that, didn’t you?” Ayano groaned.

“It’s fine, we have this!” Tatsuharu patted the V500 Resounder.

“... It better work, dipstick,” Ayano muttered. “Wow, who am I? Erika?”

“You must miss her, Ayano-chan!” Tomoko giggled.

“Me? Miss that witch? No way!” Ayano scoffed. “Anyways, defensive positions! Squad Sasaki, roll out!”

“... What?” the other three asked in unison.

“Do you expect us to transform or something?” Mika asked.

“You know what I meant!” Ayano said.

With that, Squad Sasaki took positions around the stairs that led to the entrance of the museum, awaiting the horde that was headed their way.

They looked beyond and saw a fog that approached them, signaling a large horde of Runners. As the fog neared, dozens of pairs of red eyes glowed through the fog and Squad Sasaki began firing their M22 Assault Rifles into the mist.

“You wanted your action, Ayano-chan…” Mika whispered. “… This is it…”

“Anybody wish they were back in the Holographic Arena?” Ayano grinned under her helmet, and Tomoko meekly raised her hand behind her. “Tomo, put your hand down.”

Runners emerged from the fog in numbers, fresh blood dripping from their claws and fangs. They let out grotesque moans and groans as they had only one thing on their undead minds – to kill Squad Sasaki.

Squad Sasaki resumed firing into the Runners, gunning down as many as they could.

They took notice of their perfected aim compared to how they were before when they entered the Holographic Arena for the first time. More connecting shots to vital parts of the Runner’s undead bodies that caused them to be killed in a single shot, conserving their ammunition by firing in bursts compared to firing wildly, and their breathing was more controlled as they had better calmed themselves in a situation like this.

With each Runner that fell, more seemed to emerge from the fog. However, Squad Sasaki maintained their composure and structure as they continued to fire.

“After being almost killed by Stalkers, this seems like a piece of cake!” Mika exclaimed as she felt the kick from her M22 Assault Rifle with every shot she fired.

“Cake!?” Tomoko gleefully shouted.

“You’ll get a piece of cake after we get through all of this!” Ayano replied. “Actually, you know what? I’ll even get you a whole cake, Tomo!”

“A WHOLE CAKE!” Tomoko yelled. “Did you hear that?!”

Squad Sasaki fired more into the Runners, decimating the undead with every shot.

A large spaceship flew over Squad Sasaki and they watched in awe, seeing the ASC frigate bringing them hopes and brightness to their spirits.

“Looks like the tide’s starting to turn in our favor, but we’re not done yet!” Ayano shouted. She looked at the fog and saw way more Runners than before and turned to Tatsuharu. “Tatsuharu, give the V500 a shot! See what it can do to Runners!”

“Got it!” Tatsuharu said as he set his M22 Assault Rifle down and gripped onto the V500 Resounder. He pressed the trigger and in an instant, nearly a quarter of the advancing Runners stopped and gripped their ears, howling in pain altogether.

Squad Sasaki took the opportunity and gunned them all down with ease. Tatsuharu activated the V500 Resounder once more and it stunned more Runners than before – who Squad Sasaki swiftly took out.

The fog began to dissipate and the battlefield laid dead with the countless bodies of Runners, with no more in sight. Squad Sasaki exchanged looks and they all let out cheers of victory, surviving alone against the waves of the undead.

“We did it!” Ayano said as she looked at the V500. “Tatsuharu, I love that thing! Thank goodness you had it.”

“Thank goodness I found it,” Tatsuharu said as he looked at Mika.

“And it’s all because you chose to stay behind with me…” Mika said with a smile under her helmet. “Thank you, Tatsuharu… I don’t know what would have happened to me if I was alone…”

“I’ll never let you be alone, Mika,” Tatsuharu replied.

“Okay, wow,” Ayano pointed at them. “Crazy amount of relationship development right there… did something happen inside that we don’t know about?”

“Lovebirds!” Tomoko exclaimed. “It’s cute! I’ll eat some cake in your honor!”

“N-no!” Tatsuharu stammered. “N-nothing of the sorts! I just decided to not leave our comrade behind and it paid off well by giving us the opportunity to obtain the V500 Resounder! Good things come to those who make good decisions!”

“He-he’s right!” Mika nodded her head rapidly. “I was fortunate enough to have survived thanks to Tatsuharu. That’s all!”

Their victory was short-lived as they felt the ground began to rumble with multiple footsteps. They looked towards the source of the shaking and found more than a few Brutes in the near distance, drawn to them by the amount of gunfire and bloodlust from the engagement before.

“BRUTES!” Mika shouted. “AND WE GOT A FEW OF THEM!”

From the distance, the hulking beasts approached with speed, roaring amongst one another. They shoved each other aside in a beastly manner, trying to be the first ones to kill their prey.

“That is way more than a few! I’m counting six of them!” Tatsuharu shouted in a panic.

“Tomo, fire the rocket!” Ayano ordered.

“Firing!” Tomoko replied instantly.

She dropped down to one knee, aiming the rocket launcher before firing – sending a missile straight towards the Brutes.

The missile impacted one of the Brutes, sending an explosion that annihilated it. Tomoko immediately sent another rocket that destroyed another one of the Brutes – leaving the remaining four in a fit of rage.

The four monsters advanced with speed, heading towards Squad Sasaki.

“Tomo, fire another rocket!” Ayano barked.

“I’m… I’m out of rockets, Ayano-chan!” Tomoko replied.

“Didn’t you pick up the other rockets!?” Ayano’s eyes widened.

Tomoko stifled a giggle. “Um… I must have forgotten…”

“Damn it, Tomo!” Ayano looked over to Tatsuharu. “Alright, dipstick, now’s your time to shine with that recorder! Play some music for these bastards!”

Tatsuharu sighed. “I have… so many… things to say about what you just said.”

“Tatsuharu, now’s not the time!” Mika pointed at the Brute’s. “Do something!”

“Right!” Tatsuharu jumped out from his cover, the V500 Resounder in his hands. He stood in front of Squad Sasaki and squeezed the trigger of the V500 Resounder, causing the Brutes to pause for a moment.

One of the Brutes shifted its monstrous head in confusion.

“Did… did you press it?” Ayano asked.

“I… I did,” Tatsuharu nodded.

“Maybe try pressing it again?” Mika added.

“Did you try turning it off and back on again?” Tomoko asked.

“That’s not how it works!”

The Brute let out a massive roar, sending chills to Squad Sasaki. As the Brutes continued their march, Squad Sasaki stood still – with no escape from their imminent demise. While they awaited their death, the sound of engines soaring towards them erupted in their ears.

“Pilot Morita of Dagger 3-1, entering the battle zone,” a deep female voice said over the radio. “Coming in hot.”

From the skies, a fiery burst enveloped the Brute, causing it to shriek in pain. A Frame appeared and crashed into the Brute, sending it flying into a nearby building with a crash. The Frame took no time to hesitate and brought its giant sword of Construct energy down onto the crippled Brute – severing its giant head off its body.

The other three Brutes yelled simultaneously, enraged. The Frame activated its thrusters that boosted it towards the Brutes and sliced the Construct sword at them – cutting down one with ease before activating the wrist-mounted weapon to gun down another Brute.

The last Brute charged at Squad Sasaki instead of targeting the Frame, heading straight for the young Cadets on the ground. The Frame boosted towards the Brute with speed, impaling the undead beast through its chest.

Ayano and Squad Sasaki exchanged looks of excitement mixed with confusion at what had just happened.

“What?” Ayano batted her eyes. “What just happened?”

“You Squad Sasaki?” The Frame turned around to face them before gesturing at the bodies of the Runners who laid dead. “The four of you… did all this?”

“Squad Sasaki, reporting,” Ayano saluted the giant robot.

“Good to see you, the name’s Morita of Dagger 3-1,” the woman replied. “Sorry that I’m a bit late… Harvester bastards weren’t too kind to us on the way in here. You guys just came from the museum? Anyone else with you?”

“Negative,” Ayano shook her head. “Captain Higona sent us to find the squad in there and well… we were only able to recover their rocket launcher...”

“Right here, right here!” Tomoko waved the seemingly weightless rocket launcher around in her hands.

“Bummer,” Morita sighed. “Damn, nearly got you all killed for what? A rocket launcher?”

“Well...” Tatsuharu looked down at the V500 Resounder. “We think we might have discovered something… I believe this device conducts a high-frequency sound that temporarily impairs any being with a cold-blooded system, which allows us the opportunity to eliminate them while they’re stunned.”

“Er… maybe someone could repeat that for me in not-so technical terms?” Morita scoffed.

Mika shook her head. “We think it stuns the Harvesters for a few moments, allowing us to kill them.”

“That’s better,” Morita’s Frame nodded. “I like the sound of that.”

“What do we do now?” Tomoko asked.

“Further orders have been received,” Pilot Morita said as her mechanical beast walked towards Squad Sasaki. “The rest of Blue Team has been rerouted to assist a Rhino Tank battalion get to the Harvester Core – they're under heavy siege by Harvesters of all types. I guess the undead hate when the big guns come out.”

“Where’s the rest of your team, Morita-san?” Ayano asked the Frame pilot.

“The rest of my team already went to assist Blue Team,” Morita said as her Frame pointed towards the blue beam in the sky coming from the Harvester Core. “Whatever that thing is, it’s emitting more energy meaning it’s getting stronger. We don’t have any time to waste.”

“Alright, well,” Ayano turned to the rest of her squad. “Are we ready, guys?”

“Born ready!” Tomoko shouted with glee.

Tatsuharu and Mika exchanged looks again and nodded their heads simultaneously.

“Let’s go kick some Harvester ass,” Ayano said with a smirk.

“Some Harvester butt!” Tomoko exclaimed.

Taylor Victoria