Wings of Unity
It was as if I was falling down a long shaft.
All I could see were pictures of people I didn’t know.
Memories of events that I couldn’t even imagine were real.
They were more like dreams.
For some reason, I felt nothing. These memories didn’t mean anything significant to me until I passed a familiar face.
I closed my eyes and felt a tear roll down my cheek.
I felt a soft breeze blow against my skin and the smell of fresh flowers in the air.
I opened my eyes and saw the sunset right in front of me, with hills filled with green grass and flower patches below that were surrounded by fields and tall forests. There was a cherry blossom tree next to me that gave off an even finer fresh scent.
Where am I?
I couldn’t remember anything but what I saw last before I ended up here – the flaming blast coming from the large beast at Urasaki heading towards us. Yusa held onto me, yet she was nowhere to be found.
Tachibana-san, where are you?
I started to look around, feeling myself panic about Yusa’s whereabouts. As I was about to take off in an unknown direction to try to find her, a white owl soared by me.
I looked back at the cherry blossom tree where there was a trunk laid down next to it, and I found a woman dressed in an all-white business suit sitting down on the log. Her flowing black and gray hair was moved by the wind.
“You know, cherry blossoms were your favorite kind of tree...” she spoke in a soft voice as her head slowly turned to face me.
A familiar face made more tears begin to well up in my eyes to the point where I couldn’t hold them back anymore, feeling them roll down my cheek uncontrollably.
“You look tired, Kitaru,” she smiled at me. “Why don’t you have a seat next to me?”
I smiled and nodded my head, taking a seat right next to my mother. I looked into her gray eyes, remembering the same sweet look she used to give me all those years ago.
Her nonstop love for me, the efforts she put into raising me, and doing her best to make sure I was taken care of.
After all these years of her being gone from the world, her eyes still shared the same affection that was present so long ago.
“Mom… where am I?” I asked her.
“You’re in a place where...” She paused for a second and looked at the sunset in front of us before turning back to face me. “You shouldn’t be yet, honey.”
“What does that mean?” I blinked. “Di-Did I... A-Am I dead, mom?”
She put her hand on my shoulder and slowly moved it down to my chest where she rested her hand on top of my heart. I could feel my heart begin to beat rapidly as it had been years since I felt the tender touch of her hands.
I miss you so much… every day...
“No, you’re not,” she smiled. “Which I’m very thankful for. But… you’re hurt.”
“Yeah...” I scratched the back of my head. “I’m really hurt, mom...”
“I know...” her smile turned into a small frown. “And I’m so sorry that… at such a young age, all of this has happened to you. But… I know you’ve gained a lot of experience and strength. You’re no longer the little boy that I used to chase around the house and who would cuddle with me until you fell asleep – you're a man now. You’re strong not only for yourself, but for everyone else around you.”
“Eh… I’m not that strong...” I chuckled. “I get my ass kicked by a girl every day, mom.”
“Yet, you’re still the same goofy boy as always,” she laughed. “A girl, hmm? Has my boy found the one?”
I felt my face heat up. “N-no! It’s not like that at all, mom! Tachibana-san is only just… a really close friend of mine.”
Her elbow nudged mine. “And still you two share a room?”
“What!?” I exclaimed. “How do you know that!?”
“Even though your mother’s gone, she still does her best to keep an eye on you, Kitaru,” she noted.
My eyes started to water again. I grabbed my mom and sobbed.
All the pain I felt, the feeling of misery, and just missing my mother all came out as I wailed in her arms. She wiped away my tears and allowed me to continue to rest on her, brushing my hair with a graceful stroke.
“M-mo-mom...” I sniffled and said in between breaths as I held onto her. “I miss you… I need you!”
“Aw, honey...” she brushed my hair more. “You’re doing just fine from what I see. You’ve grown up to be such a great young man, and I can't wait to see you grow even more. I know that there’s a lot more to come with your life, but you’ll make it – I believe in you.”
“Thank you, mom...”
“I love you so much, Kitaru,” she said in a sweet voice. “I’ll always be here for you. Now… I just need you to do something for me...”
“What’s that, mom?” I asked her.
“All you have to do is… wake up, my love,” she muttered as she patted my head. “Wake up, Kitaru.”
Her words echoed in my head as I closed my eyes.
“OZAKI, WAKE UP!”
Yusa’s voice echoed in my brain.
I felt myself laying down, feeling the gravel and cement of the streets underneath me.
I opened my eyes and saw her dirtied face. Her helmet was gone, and I could see a few scratches and blood all over her. Although she was a bit battered, her golden-yellow eyes still shined.
“Tachibana-san...” I groaned.
I looked around and saw dead bodies and flames around us.
Yusa helped me up to my feet and I coughed, feeling my helmet no longer on my head.
“Ozaki… we’re in trouble...” she whispered to me as she helped me walk. “We need to get back to the others… Runners are beginning to overrun this place as we speak… You’re going to need this.”
She pointed to an earpiece in her ear before handing me one.
I put the earpiece into my ear, and I heard a beep of activation.
A loud roar was heard and I looked up, seeing the shadowy beast in the near distance towering over everything.
“What the hell is that?” I asked, feeling my heart begin to beat faster.
“It’s a Leviathan...” Yusa replied. “We were wrong about the Cores… They weren’t giving the Harvesters more energy, they were summoning the Leviathan.”
“It’s… massive...” I said.
“This is Tachibana,” Yusa said into the earpiece. “I’ve recovered Ozaki. We’re proceeding back, over.”
I felt myself stumble and Yusa held tightly onto me.
“What are we going to do?” I asked her.
A low snarl was heard and Yusa paused for a moment, using her free hand to bring out her H45 Pistol. She fired two shots and a dead Runner fell to the ground in front of us. We continued and she sighed.
“We’re going to fall back to a safe distance away from the Leviathan,” she said. “It’s… not looking too well for us here, Ozaki...”
Ahead of us, we saw Troopers running away from the Leviathan – stumbling and running in a panic. There was a Rhino that followed behind them, its turret turned towards the Leviathan and firing its cannon as it sped away.
“ANOTHER BLAST! EVERYONE, GET DOWN!” someone screamed.
Yusa instantly reacted and brought us down to the ground, hearing the Leviathan roar once more. I looked up from where we were laying and saw a beam of fire envelop the Rhino and Troopers – turning them to burnt bodies and ashes as they screamed wildly.
My eyes widened in fear.
We got back up to our feet and I felt myself able to walk on my own again. Yusa and I silently made our way past the charred remains of the Troopers and towards where everyone else would be.
I looked around and saw the flames among the many bodies that laid in the streets.
“Where is everyone?” I asked Yusa.
“We found a place where the Leviathan’s attacks can’t reach us – a small cellar hidden underneath one of the bridges,” she replied. “Ozaki… we’ve lost so many people since you’ve been unconscious. Do you remember what happened?”
I struggled at the thought of remembering what
“No...” I shook my head. “I don’t.”
Everyone from the Blue Team...are they okay?
I couldn’t see anything but images of my dead first-years from the Blue Team and I felt nothing but hurt. I clenched my fists in anger and shook my head once more to get rid of the thoughts.
No. They’re fine. You have to trust that.
“You shielded us,” she simply said.
I tried to remember what had happened and only struggled more.
“I can’t believe you came here alone… just to find me, Tachibana-san?” I asked as I continued to follow her.
“I didn’t come here alone,” she said. “We needed you, I had no other choice. Otherwise, I would’ve done the whole world a favor by letting an idiot like you stay behind.”
“Tachibana, come in,” the familiar voice of Pilot Jinto said into the earpiece. “You have approaching Runners. We’re arriving to assist. Use this moment to get him back to the cellar as fast as you can.”
“Roger that,” Yusa nodded as she looked at me. “Don’t you dare look anywhere else besides me. You’re going to keep following me until we reach a door, you got that, Ozaki?”
I nodded my head.
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Low snarls and growls echoed through my ears. It was as if they were getting closer with every passing moment.
Then the sound of engines that resembled that of the Frames arrived next to us. I heard massive amounts of gunfire and explosions around me.
The sound of the engines made it seem as if there were only three Frames rather than the four that were a part of Dagger 3-1.
They lost one.
“OZAKI!” Yusa shouted and glanced over her shoulder at me. “RUN! NOW!”
Yusa began sprinting towards a collapsed building in front of us that barely stood, with rubble and debris littering the streets around it. It was on fire, slowly burning to the ground.
“On the left flank, there’s too many of them!” I heard Morita’s voice over the radio.
“Incoming Brute!” Jinto shouted. “Watch out! It’s broken through the line!”
I heard the deep growl of the Brute and a sound of crushed metal followed right after that turned into a small explosion on my left side. As much as I wanted to look, I concentrated more on following Yusa as I did my best to steady my breathing.
“Pilot down! Pilot down!” Morita’s voice screamed.
“Dagger 3-1, we’ve lost two Pilots! We’re down to fifty percent fighting capability!” Jinto said.
“We need to help them!” I shouted to Yusa.
“No, we keep moving!” she said to me. “They have a job to do and so do we, they know what they’re risking so I can get you to safety.”
“Da-damn it!” I shook my head.
“Use your booster!” Yusa shouted as she utilized her jump-pack to soar over the chassis of a destroyed Rhino. I did the same and continued following after her, feeling my feet grow tired from sprinting. “Dagger 3-1, where are you!?”
“On your tail, Tachibana!” Jinto replied.
As we were running, a Brute appeared in front of us – locking us in its sights and roaring tremendously.
“BRUTE!” Yusa shouted.
A Frame came into view, accelerating into the Brute to push it out of the way before gunning it down with its weaponry.
“I got you covered, keep moving!” Jinto said. “You’re almost there!”
A sound of louder explosions was heard as Yusa came to a stop by a bridge. I looked behind us as I stopped as well, seeing the two Frames marching towards us with speed – covered in small flames and wires beginning to spark from their damages.
“My Frame’s heavily damaged!” Morita shouted. “I can’t hold it for much longer!”
“Morita, eject!” I shouted to her.
Her Frame stopped and the hatch opened, revealing Pilot Morita in person for the first time. She wore a black bodysuit with a different type of helmet in purple colors. She hopped out of the Frame and landed on the ground, running towards us as we hid behind the pillars.
“Jinto!” she shouted. “Your turn! Let’s go! The Frames are done for!”
“I… I can’t...” he replied.
“What do you mean!?” she cried. “Eject!”
“Slamming into the Brute when my Frame was already damaged compromised my hatch,” he said as we could overhear rapid beeps coming from his Frame. “I’m… I’m caught...”
His Frame stumbled towards us – the circuits breaking and his Frame in a condition beyond repair.
“Damn it...” I gritted my teeth.
“The Leviathan’s firing...” Yusa gulped.
We looked up and saw the Leviathan let out a volley of flames towards us.
“JINTO, EJECT NOW!” Morita desperately shouted.
“Do what you can… to stop this thing, Kitaru,” he said before his Frame was evaporated in the flames and exploded before our very eyes.
“Jin-Jin… JINTO!” Morita screamed at the top of her lungs before Yusa and I dragged her into the cellar right before the flames reached us. She dropped down to her knees inside the cellar and punched the ground. “DAMN IT! NO!”
“MORITA, COME ON!” I yelled as I grabbed her by the shoulder and tugged her with me.
“GET OFF ME!” Morita screamed back as she tried to free herself from my grasp. “JINTO!”
Yusa grabbed onto Morita and we began dragging her towards the entrance to the cellar.
“WE NEED THE DOOR OPEN!” Yusa shouted.
The door instantly swung open and two Troopers ran out, taking defensive positions as we dragged Morita inside the cellar.
Morita brought herself up to her feet in silence and lowered her head. Yusa and I exchanged saddened looks and I let out a deep sigh.
Two Troopers closed the door behind us as another four stood guard with them, their weapons ready. We proceeded to walk through the dark hallway past the cellar’s entrance.
The hallway had injured Troopers being taken care of by medics against the wall and I could hear the chatter of their condition between the medics. As we passed them, we encountered the Troopers that had succumbed to their injuries, being covered in tarps as a sign of respect.
“Ozaki… as I said before, we lost a lot of people…” Yusa spoke as we passed them.
“Good people…” Morita said in a deep voice.
We kept walking until we entered another room, where there were no more than a few dozen Troopers standing around, waiting for something. I looked ahead and saw Zenko standing in the center of the room by a table.
He saw my presence and gave me a nod and I returned the nod. Morita, Yusa, and I stood by the entrance to the room, waiting to see what was next for us.
“We don’t necessarily have everybody here,” Zenko said. “All squad leaders, report in.”
“Delta 9 and half of Delta 6 are here,” a Trooper began.
“Echo 7’s standing,” another Trooper nodded. “Couple Troopers from Echo 8 and Echo 2 are with us.”
“Lima 4 is present, sir,” the last one remarked.
“This is all that’s left?” I asked out loud. “Where’s… where’s my team?”
My heart began beating faster and faster. The same thoughts that I had before came into my head and my heart sank.
Are they… are they gone?
Zenko threw a small cube onto the table and a holographic projection of Urasaki appeared – with a giant red hologram that represented the Leviathan being the tallest out of all the other buildings.
“Just like the rest of us, Kitaru. Scattered,” he said as he pointed to certain areas of the blue hologram marked white. “Those are ASC units all over the city. The initial blast from the Leviathan completely destroyed our advancement lines – nobody's ever encountered a Leviathan before and they ran, which is completely understandable.”
“Do we have a confirmed list of who’s still alive?” someone asked.
“We do,” Zenko swiped on the hologram and a giant list appeared with names all over it in the colors white, red, and orange. “White means alive, red is confirmed KIA before the Leviathan, orange is those who are presumed KIA as they haven’t checked into any of the safe areas after the Leviathan.”
The list scrolled automatically and there was drastically an extra amount of red and orange highlighted names rather than in white – causing the atmosphere of the room to shift into a gloomy and dark vibe.
“Not good...” someone whispered.
“That’s nearly seventy-five percent dead!” another whispered.
“We need to get out of here…”
“With the arrival of the Leviathan, Command has cleared Urasaki as a total loss,” Zenko said. “The Harvester Shades are wiped out, leaving only the Runners and Stalkers left, possible Brutes. However… all of our air support is gone, Frames have been wiped out, and we have nothing but a handful of Troopers and Rhinos. The situation is dire, everyone.”
Murmurs rose amongst the ranks – nothing but doubt and fear.
“Ozaki...” Yusa said my name and I looked over – her face written with nothing but despair.
“We’ve got to get out of here…” another whispered. “All of my friends are dead… we’re next if we don’t get out of here!”
“What do we do, sir?” a Trooper asked.
“We fight,” Zenko said.
“The Lieutenant’s gone crazy...” some Trooper said.
“With what?” another one asked. “Sir, we’re barely able to fend off the Runners that are slaughtering others at this very moment… what makes you think we’ll be able to kill that?”
“We make do with what we have,” Zenko pointed at the holographic Leviathan. “Captain Nakajima said they detected high amounts of majutsu coming from the Leviathan. How have the Harvesters managed to utilize majutsu to manifest a beast? No clue, but one thing I know for sure… Danketsu’s the only weapon we have that will be able to channel enough majutsu energy to defeat it.”
He looked at me and all the eyes in the room fell on me.
I had finally remembered.
I don’t have Danketsu with me.
One of the white lights near our position on the holographic map began blinking.
“Incoming transmission, sir,” a Trooper reported.
“Patch them in.”
“This is the Blue Team, we’re reporting in,” the voice of Ayano said over the radio. “We’re currently in possession of Danketsu inside the Hi-Go Corporation’s building. It was recovered near the first blast from the Leviathan. Awaiting further orders, over.”
I let out a sigh of relief.
“Good to hear, Blue Team,” Zenko replied and he looked at me, nodding his head. “Casualty report?”
“We’re treating the wounded right now, sir,” Ayano replied and in the background I heard numerous voices along with moans and groans from the apparent wounded. “We currently have three members of the Blue Team unaccounted for. At the moment, we are forty-eight Troopers strong.”
What? No… who’s out there?
“Roger that, Blue Team. Continue to treat your wounded and maintain a safe perimeter. Further orders will be advised shortly,” Zenko said and the transmission came to an end.
“Ozaki…” Yusa’s voice caught my attention. “I can’t believe you lost Danketsu… Are you an idiot?”
“After all these times you’ve called me an idiot, I’m surprised you haven’t just assumed so already!” I whispered back.
“My… my team’s gone...” Morita sniffled as she shook her head. “We.. .risked ourselves for you… and that damn sword.”
“Why can’t we just retreat and come back with bigger forces? You said it yourself, sir, Urasaki is lost,” a Trooper said.
“Well… we’ve figured out why the Harvesters targeted Urasaki,” Zenko said. The hologram of Urasaki shifted to below the city underground. “Underneath Urasaki’s famous Highland Park, there’s an Interorbital Coil-Energized Cannon – an ICE Cannon – that lies dormant. It’s one of the few ICE Cannons that lie within the Haven – the rest being in the Void.”
“If they take out the ICE Cannon here, they’ll be able to advance further into the Haven...” I said.
“Undead bastards sure have a brain,” a Trooper said.
“Are we even sure they’re just undead at this point?” another Trooper pointed out.
“This makes the fight a bit more challenging. Which is exactly why what we do here in Urasaki today...will affect our survival as a species,” Zenko said. “There’s no retreating and coming back. If we lose this ICE Cannon, it’s only a matter of time… despite the odds, we still have some fight left in us.”
“What do we do about the Leviathan?” I asked.
“The Leviathan isn’t actively targeting any ASC,” he answered. “We’re tracking it’s movements and it’s slowly headed for Highland Park – to destroy the ICE Cannon. This will give us a bit of time to scrounge together the forces that survived and to come up with a plan to exterminate the Leviathan. We need Danketsu in order to do that.”
“We’re desperately low on ammunition, sir,” a Trooper said. “Construct energy is depleted.”
“We won’t be able to get far without ammo and energy...” Yusa said.
“I know of a place,” Morita spoke up as she stepped towards the hologram to control it. Her tears were now gone, in its place was now a serious look. “The Urasaki Military Police’s Northern Division has a station nearby. We’re about five blocks away. Considering it’s still intact, we’ll be able to replenish ammo and weapons there on top of utilizing their charging docks for our Constructs.”
“There’s too many of us to move as one unit,” Zenko said. “I’m assigning you all as teams to move towards the police station. Morita, take Kitaru and Yusa with you. Secure the police station and then the rest of us will move in.”
“Here you go,” a Trooper handed Morita an M22 Assault Rifle and ammunition. “I’ve scavenged a bit of armor for you if needed.”
“I’m fine,” Morita replied as she loaded the M22. “I’m sure there’ll be some at the station that won’t be from the bodies of the fallen.”
“Report to us once the station is secured, I’ll try to establish radio connections with the other survivors,” Zenko said with a nod. “Move out.”
I found myself walking around the streets of Northern Urasaki – a district known for its corporate buildings that were the headquarters of many of today’s top brands.
I followed behind Yusa and Morita, with the latter leading the way to the police station.
“What a day it’s been…” I sighed to Yusa.
“We’re not done here yet, Ozaki,” she whispered back. “Once this is over… what do you think’s going to happen?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, we can’t exactly go back to the way things were yesterday,” she shook her head. “The Harvesters broke through the Lightkeeper Forcefield, there’s no telling what’s going to happen to the academies… or us, for that matter.”
“My guess is,” Morita spoke up. “You’ve basically proven yourselves combat efficient to the point where you’re going to be on the frontlines,” she scoffed. “Three years at an academy? Please, it’s a glorified high school from what I’ve seen – and experienced. The only difference between academy cadets and regular kids in high school? You live longer than the others from the three years you learn.”
“That’s… a bit dark, Morita-san…” I said.
“Well, kid, take a look around.”
I looked around us and saw the streets that were littered with the bodies of dead ASC Troopers, Military Police, civilians, and Harvesters. I felt my stomach feel uneasy and I shook my head.
“Tachibana-san…” I looked at her. “I don’t think we’ll be having lunch together in the garden anytime soon…”
Yusa’s face turned bright red. “Wh-what? Why would you br-bring that up no-now!? Idiot!”
“Morita, what’s your position?” Zenko asked over the radio.
“Near the station, sir,” Morita replied. “Will advise once we enter the station’s armory and have secured it.”
“Roger that, I’ve gained communications with a few others. Captain Higona is still alive, but he and his men are holding off the Harvesters at the evacuation center. Sergeant Eizo is located in Southern Urasaki, he picked up a few stragglers and an extra Rhino. He should be making his way to us,” Zenko replied. “Our window of opportunity is short. We need to secure that armory as soon as possible. I believe in you.”
“We’ll get it done, sir,” Morita said.
“How did you know where the police station is?” Yusa asked.
Morita quickly glanced over her shoulder before continuing to walk.
“I grew up in these streets… This is personal to me. Urasaki was my home until I shipped out to Yamamoto Academy,” she answered. “That’s where I met Jinto...”
“We’ll avenge him, Morita-san...” I said to her, “I’m sorry.”
She turned around and pointed at me. “Everyone is out here risking their lives for you. And for what? A stupid sword? The rumored ultimate Divine Weapon? I’ve read the history books… I just don’t know why so many people have to die...”
She’s right… too many people have already died...
Yusa stepped in between us. “Okay, I can definitely understand you being angry at Ozaki. That’s me every single day, but we have a job to do. We have to remember that this is war. And this is what comes with war.”
“Yeah, well, it wasn’t your team that was killed. I don’t need to hear the realities of war from a Cadet,” Morita glared at me before she turned around. “Everyone who has died… their blood is on your hands...”
Morita continued to walk ahead of us and Yusa put her hand on my shoulder.
“This is just how life is, Ozaki,” she shook her head.
“Ye-yeah...” I nodded.
We moved down the street and continued to pass by nothing but flames, rubble, and the bodies of the dead. It turned from seeing the bodies of Harvesters and ASC Troopers to civilians and Military Police.
“I wonder if anyone’s alive...” Yusa whispered. “The Military Police really did get slaughtered...”
“When my father was alive, he was one of the Deputy Chief’s,” Morita said. “He took me on a ride-along with him all the time… and he showed me one of the couple secret entrances into the station. We should take that instead of the main entrance – it'll be a wiser decision.”
Ahead we saw the undead stumbling around aimlessly. Without any human in sight, the Harvesters would resort to a more static state of neutrality. But once there was a human spotted, all attention turned towards killing that person.
“They’re stagnant,” Yusa said as we came to a stop. “We shouldn’t draw their attention...”
“They’re blocking the entrance, I knew it,” Morita said. “One of the entrances is on the side, we’d have to move through an alleyway.”
I heard something clutter and looked behind us, seeing the dead bodies on the floor begin to jolt and move slowly.
“They’re reanimating...” I whispered.
“It’s been a few hours...” Yusa said. “We need to go, now!”
Their undead moans and groans came as they slowly stood up from where they laid. The bodies of Military Police and civilians began to wander aimlessly, searching for their next prey.
“Look, it’s almost daybreak,” Morita said as the dark sky began to illuminate with the sun.
Morita led us to the side of the station down an alleyway, where there were no Harvesters to be seen. Ahead of us in the other streets, we could see more of the dead begin to rise from where they lay.
“This’ll pose a problem to everyone else…” Yusa said.
We came to a stop in the middle of the alleyway, where there was a porta potty propped against the wall to the police station. Morita moved it to the side and there was a piece of wood in the shape of a door. Morita removed the wood and there was a steel door behind it, with a keypad to the side.
“Let’s see…” Morita typed in a four-digit code and we heard the door unlock. It opened itself and we saw the inside of the police station – dimmed lights, along with the trashed inside of the station.
We immediately piled into the police station and I closed the door behind us.
“Looks like they left in a hurry,” I said, noting the papers and trash all over the porcelain floors.
“Idiot, they would have to – the Harvesters landed in their city,” Yusa shook her head as she walked around the room. “No time to waste when the undead appear.”
“… Only to their slaughter,” Morita added as she walked by us. “Armory is this way.”
Yusa and I exchanged looks before we followed Morita, walking through the empty police station. We found a bright light at the end of one of the hallways and I raised a brow in curiosity.
“What could be causing that light?” I asked.
Morita froze dead in her tracks.
“An open door.”
“… With the undead right outside…” Yusa added.
Instantaneously, we dashed for the light and saw that there was an open door at the end of the hallway. I could see that there were Runners outside that were stumbling by who didn’t seem to take notice of the open door.
“I got it!” I said as I began to run for the open door.
As if they had smelled my scent from a mile away, the Runners gazes fell upon me. They began to shuffle towards the doorway to get inside and I ran faster. I gripped onto the edge of the metal door and began to shut it, but the arm of a Runner was preventing me from closing it all the way.
Their groans grew louder as I could hear more footsteps approaching from other Runners.
“CLOSE IT!” Yusa shouted.
With all my might, I shut the door and heard the sound of compressed air as it locked, followed by looking down at the severed arm of the Runner. I let out a sigh and we continued to walk down the hall, finding the armory that was closed shut by a large, metallic door.
“Here we are,” Morita said. She looked over to the side and found another keypad. She quickly entered a four-digit code and a beep sounded. “Damn it.”
“Wrong code?” Yusa asked.
“What do you think?” Morita sarcastically asked as she shook her head.
“Are you entering the same code as earlier?” Yusa asked. “Only an idiot would design an armory filled with lethal weapons to be accessed by a general code.”
“I’m very impressed you said something smart,” Morita said, causing Yusa’s face to turn red with anger. “You’re right, however. Any ideas what you think the code would be?”
“How would we even know?” I asked her.
“The person in charge of the code to the armory was a bit… of an idiot,” Morita said. “An expert with weapons, though. I’m still confused why they’d trust him with writing the code to the armory.”
“Well, idiot?” Yusa nudged me. “What do you think?”
“Uh… five-seven-four?” I scratched the back of my head.
“It’s four-digits!” Yusa said.
Morita entered the code into the keypad and the armory door opened. My eyes widened and I felt my lips form into a smile.
“You… you did it…” Yusa was baffled. “I can’t believe it… he actually guessed it right?”
“Oh, no, I just remembered the actual code,” Morita laughed to herself. “Nice try, though.”
I instantly frowned.
“Does she really think we have time for her games?” Yusa whispered to me and I could see the visible fury written on her face as she stormed into the armory.
I slowly followed them in, taking a look at all the weapons inside.
“Sir,” Morita reported into the radio. “We’ve found the armory. It’s untouched. Ammunition as well as over two dozen charging docks for our Constructs.”
“Copy that, Morita,” Zenko’s voice replied. “Sending squads over now. Relay the path you took to get there for them to follow. Caution, the dead are starting to come back. The streets are filled with them.”
“We’ve noticed,” Morita said as she walked around. “Sending information over now.”
“Ozaki, let’s gear up,” Yusa said to me as she took off her wrist-pad and placed it on a charging station. It began to blink with a yellow light before turning bright green. “Hmph. Definitely faster than the ones we have back at the academy.”
She took her wrist-pad off the charging dock as Morita walked over.
“State-of-the-art charging docks. Officers need to have them charged and ready to go in seconds in case of an emergency,” Morita said as she began to sort through a locker filled with Military Police armor.
I looked around the armory of the police station, finding weapon racks filled with different types of weapons ranging from handguns to modified rifles and other weapons I’ve never seen before.
“Different than the locker rooms from Miyamoto,” Yusa said as she walked up next to me. She put her M22 on the table behind us and picked out a compact sub-machine gun from one of the racks. “Interesting.”
“The Yakuyoko Type 95 SMG – the Y95,” Morita said from across the room as she began slipping into the armor. “40 round magazine with a high rate of fire. Used by UMPD’s Tactical Teams in hostage-rescue situations. It’s amazing to clear out rooms. For us? Runners won’t stand a chance.”
“I think I’ll take it,” Yusa nodded as she cocked the slide back on the Y95 and began grabbing spare magazines. She looked at me and ushered towards the other weapons. “Sticking with the M22? Or are you finally going to stop being bland?”
I walked towards the weapon racks and scanned them before I found a weapon on the end of the rack – a pump shotgun.
I took it off the weapon rack and held it in my hands.
I’ve never used anything else besides an H45 and M22...
“Mokamu Defense’s Type 05 Shotgun – the T05. It shreds armor and is perfect for close quarters combat,” Morita said. “Holds up to 12 shotgun shells at a time and it packs a nasty kickback in favor of complete and utter devastation of whoever’s on the opposite side of the barrel.”
“I’ll try it out,” I said as I began to load it with shells and grabbed spare ammunition.
“Hmm… come to think of it, I think I have an answer to our low manpower issue,” Morita said and a small smile formed on her face. “Let’s move.”
Yusa and I exchanged glances before following Morita out of the armory. Morita dropped the M22 that was given to her earlier and picked up what seemed to be a pistol with an extended magazine.
“A pistol over an assault rifle?” Yusa asked.
“What? I prefer to be light on my feet,” Morita said. “Harachi’s Generation 67, the G67 – it’s fully-automatic with twenty-seven rounds to pour into those undead assholes.”
We walked through the dimly lit hallways of the station until we reached the end of one, finding a room with an armored door. I looked up at the sign to read it.
Drone Bay – Authorized Personnel Only
“Well? How do we get in?” Yusa asked.
Morita took a step forward to a touchpad in front of the door and placed her right hand on it. The touchpad turned yellow for a few seconds before instantly turning green. The armored door let out a hiss as it opened – revealing a pitch black room.
“Looks like my father never took my handprint out of the system,” Morita smiled. “Lucky for us, if my hand didn’t match, an alarm would’ve sounded and we’d been swarmed by now.”
“N-no way!” Yusa shook her head. “You definitely knew this entire time! What would you have done if your hand hadn’t matched!?”
“I would’ve had one of you cut the hands off one of the dead officers,” Morita scoffed.
Yusa frowned and turned away.
Morita walked into the room and disappeared. Moments passed and the sound of a hatch being pulled sounded and the room lit up with light.
Within the once pitch-black room where five rows of what seemed to be robots plugged into docks. The humanoid physique of the robots were primed in the same navy-blue color that Military Police officers had for their armor, and even sported a similar helmet design with two lights on top.
“What are these…?” I asked as Yusa and I walked into the drone bay.
“Constable Drones – they assist Military Police Officers with patrolling the streets and assessing high-level threats that pose risk to regular officers and civilians,” Morita said. “It appears they weren’t able to be activated before the Meteor Shower…”
“And your idea was to activate them?” I asked. “That’s great! Surely they’ll be able to help us against the Harvesters.”
“I agree,” Yusa nodded her head. “We could use any help that we can get – even if it’s from a Drone.”
“I’ll get started,” Morita said as she walked over to a console and began to tap the buttons on it. “It’ll be a few minutes, the encryption will be a bit tricky to break,” she laughed. “It’s been a while since I’ve had to do this.”
“When have you had to hack into something as a Pilot?” I asked her.
“Who said it was when I’ve been a Pilot?” she scoffed. “Just because my dad was a police officer doesn’t mean I was a goody-goody like Yusa here.”
“Kitaru, come in,” I heard Zenko’s voice over the radio. “Please respond.”
“Sensei?” I pressed on my headset to speak.
“Kitaru, a few of my squads made it to the armory. Are you all still inside of the station?”
“Yes, sensei,” I said to him. “We’re currently on the other side of the station within their drone bay. Morita-san is working on activating the Constable Drones since they’ll be able to help us.”
“Listen carefully,” Zenko’s voice changed to somewhat of a deeper tone. “The armory has been shut. A few Stalkers made it into the station and the Troopers inside of the armory were able to shut the door before they could be attacked. I’m not sending in any more squads until the Stalkers have been cleared out.”
“HRRRRAAAAAGGGHHH!!!” a piercing screech resounded in my ears.
“It’ll be done, sensei,” I said to him. I looked over at Yusa, who nodded in agreement and readied her Y98 SMG.
“I’m with you, Ozaki,” she said.
“Go,” Morita said. “I still need a bit more time to get these Drones activated.”
Yusa and I exchanged nods and we slowly made our way towards the exit of the drone bay. We walked slowly throughout the dim hallways, looking around and checking every single corner that we passed.
“This would’ve been easier with Danketsu…” I whispered to Yusa.
“Yet, you’re an idiot and happened to lose it,” she whispered back.
I heard the sound of footsteps nearby. I glanced behind me into an area of the station that was the desk area for the officers. Multiple cubicles that were surrounded by other desks. I saw what seemed to be movement within the cubicles and I nudged Yusa for her attention.
“Stalker,” I said to her.
“I got it,” Yusa propped her Y98 up to her eye and fired. The rounds escaped the Y98 almost seemingly at the speed of light – way faster than from an M22. I looked as the cubicle she fired at had multiple bullet holes.
A pool of blood slowly leaked from the end of the cubicle, followed by the impact of a Stalker’s spear-like arm hitting the floor.
“RAAAAGH!” a Stalker screeched. I glanced over my shoulder and found three pairs of red eyes in the darkness and they came closer with every passing moment.
“Yusa!” I shouted her name as I fired my T05, feeling the brutal kick of the shotgun hit against my shoulder as a shot came from the barrel. The pellets destroyed the torso of one of the Stalkers, leaving a gaping hole as it fell dead.
Yusa fired her Y98 at the Stalkers, killing one and diving to the side to avoid getting slashed by another Stalker’s arm.
I killed the Stalker with a swift and precise shot and turned my attention towards an approaching Stalker that was near me. However, it was too late for me to turn my T05 towards it. As the Stalker swung its arm at me, it was instantly gunned down by Yusa in a split second.
“Th-thanks, Tachibana-san,” I said as I helped her up to her feet.
“Right back at you, Ozaki,” she replied.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad…” I said to her, “Hopefully everyone else will have it as easy as we did…”
“Ozaki,” she put her hand on my shoulder. “Your missing team members… I’m sure they’re okay.”
“I hope so,” I nodded.
I still don’t even know who’s missing…
Dozens of footsteps began to come closer. I turned around and instantly aimed my T05 at the direction the footsteps were coming from.
Yusa kneeled next to me, aiming her Y98.
The footsteps then had a mechanical ring to it. I lowered my T05 and out from the corner, the Constable Drones appeared, with Morita leading the way.
“Constables are up and ready!” Morita said with a large smile.
Yusa lowered her Y98 and we approached Morita and the Constables.
“Amazing,” I said in wonder as I looked at the active Drones before I tuned into my radio. “Sensei, we’ve cleared out the Stalkers. The armory should be accessible now.”
“Great work, Kitaru. Sending the rest of the survivors to gear up now,” Zenko replied.
“What are our orders now, sensei?” Yusa asked him.
“Rally point has been established a few blocks near Highland Park,” Zenko said. “We’re going to rendezvous with the other survivors and push our way to the ICE Cannon. We’ve made a lot of noise, so prepare yourselves to encounter heavy resistance.”
“Oh, don’t you worry, Lieutenant,” Morita chuckled. “I’ve got the answer to that.”
She looked at the Constables and looked back at us.
“Hmph, well,” I said as I felt my mouth curve into a grin. “Let’s end this, once and for all.”
Nobu ran through the streets of downtown Urasaki, slugging his M134 Minigun with him. He panted and his visor became foggy with how heavy his breathing became.
He looked up and saw the colossal Leviathan beginning to move towards Highland Park with slow movements that shook the ground with every step it took. The buildings around Nobu were either lit with flames or in the midst of destruction.
He slid, causing his armor to scrape against the concrete and kneeled down behind an abandoned vehicle. He propped his M134 Minigun up onto the hood of the vehicle and adjusted his body in order to fire it.
“Come on, come on!” he said to himself.
Seconds passed by and out from a street corner, he saw Shadow emerge along with Yukino. They were running as fast as they could and in a few moments, a horde of Runners led by a Predator came from the same corner Nobu’s friends had just come from.
Shadow turned around and fired his SR1 Sniper Rifle at the horde behind him, taking down a few Runners at the front of the undead with precise shots that caused the other Runners to tumble and trip over the bodies.
Yukino had a frightened look on her face as she ran as fast as she could.
“Nobu-san!” she shouted to Nobu.
“Shadow, Yukino-san, move!” Nobu yelled as his teeth were clenched. “Now!”
Yukino dived to cover on the side behind a wrecked vehicle, with Shadow sliding down next to her. Shadow tapped Yukino and pointed at the horde and they began firing their weapons.
“Engaging the enemy!” Yukino shouted.
“I got you, bastards…” Nobu said to himself as he squeezed the trigger on his M134 Minigun. The six barrels began to spin rapidly before a barrage of bullets emerged from the ends of the barrels – mowing down the Runners in front of him.
In moments, the Runners that were chasing after them were swiftly eliminated.
Yukino and Shadow ran from their cover towards Nobu to regroup.
“We… we need to get to the others…” Yukino stated to her companions.
“Everyone else is just like us, Yukino-san – scattered,” Nobu said as he looked at the Leviathan in the distance. “Damn thing…and to think we were there – finally about to destroy the Core – and this… abomination shows up.”
“What is it?” Yukino asked. “I thought the Harvesters were… just the mere undead?”
Shadow shrugged and instead took a kneeling position behind cover, watching out for any other potential threats to the three.
“We have been encountering some odd variations of the Harvesters today. What seemed to be leadership within the Harvesters such as the Predator to… that thing…” Nobu shook his head. “What if… What if the Harvesters are… evolving?”
“What if they’re more than just the undead now?” Nobu frowned underneath his helmet. “Never mind that! You’re right, Yukino-san. We do need to get to the others… We just have to figure out where we are, first.”
The Leviathan let out a tremendous roar that sounded different from its previous ones. It was as if it was calling for something or someone.
The Harvesters around the three members of the Blue Team came to a halt at what they were doing and looked up. They exasperated a unified screech before taking off towards the Leviathan.
“What the hell just happened?” Nobu asked.
Shadow shrugged before walking towards Nobu – extending out his hand for Nobu to grab. Shadow pulled him up and Nobu looked at Yukino.
“I believe the Leviathan just called all of the Harvesters to it…” Yukino said. “That’s not good…”
“Definitely not good…”
A loud sound of an engine came to their ears. The confused members of Blue Team looked around for the source, and found a vehicle speeding towards them – a Light Reconnaissance Transport Vehicle, nicknamed the Hound.
It was colored in a sleek black and white camouflage paint job and they could see that a few more Hounds followed the lead one in a convoy.
“Friendlies? I don’t remember seeing any Hounds that were deployed…” Nobu took a step forward. “Unless…” he looked at Yukino.
“Reinforcements?” Yukino asked. “We’re… We’re going to be okay!”
The Hounds came to a sudden screech before the Blue Team, and Troopers clad in black and white camouflaged armor poured out of the Hounds – creating a perimeter around the cadets. A man stepped forward to the Blue Team and they looked at him.
“I’m Sergeant Tomasu of the Black Wolves,” he said to the three cadets. “… Is it just you three?”
“Yes, sir!” Nobu nodded. “We’ve been separated from our team… the Leviathan scattered us and our radios are down.”
“Lieutenant Zenko has created a rally point across the city near Highland Park to stop the Leviathan from destroying the ICE Cannon,” Sergeant Tomasu replied. “All survivors and reinforcements are to head to the rally point.”
“A charge against the Leviathan?” Nobu shook his head. “That’s what we did to get to the Core! And look where that led us…”
“It’s do or die time, cadets,” Sergeant Tomasu stated. “We’re the last of the reinforcements. If we don’t destroy the Leviathan… it could mean the end for us all.”
“Wh-what does that mean?” Yukino looked at Nobu and Shadow with a worried look on her face.
“It means what it means,” Sergeant Tomasu explained as he began walking to the Hound.
“Wh-what…” Yukino was taken aback as she looked at Nobu and Shadow.
“Don’t worry, Yukino-san. I’m sure Kitaru-senpai will do this – he has to!” Nobu said as he walked towards the Hound. “He’s got Danketsu for crying out loud! The ultimate Divine Weapon! We’ll be okay.”
Shadow nodded and put his hand on Yukino’s shoulder for a brief moment of support before following Nobu.
“Senpai…” Yukino looked up at the sky.
“Black Wolves, saddle up!” Sergeant Tomasu barked his order as Blue Team entered his Hound and his Troopers began to pour back into theirs. “It’s time to hunt.”
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