Chapter 3:

Ch.3: To Survive

Gun Girls Online

Mr.Akibarra!” The raspberry-haired young woman wound her way through the chaos of first responders. Bookmark here

“Miss.Neena!” The slightly battered man exclaimed, wading through the crowd to reach her.Bookmark here

“Oh, thank God, you’re alright!” The woman exclaimed in relief, realizing  that he had nothing worse than a few minor scratches. “Oh, how on earth did this happen?” Bookmark here

“I have no idea! I was watching the candidates and all the sudden…I believe that a bomb went off!” Mr.Akibarra reported gravelyBookmark here

“Oh, crap!” The woman gritted her teeth and uttered what amounted to severe profanity for her. Bookmark here

“Yeah, it was definitely a bomb! It was the UJFF. We just found out that they were planning a big attack in this city at night, when there would be a lot of people. But…” She looked angry. “It was obviously far too late to do anything. The front-line terrorism surveillance unit has been so short-staffed lately than the reports that could have helped us take action we only read an hour before the bomb went off!”Bookmark here

“This bomb was pretty strong.” The man said somberly. “I suspect that those monsters will have what they wanted. There will probably be countless fatalities. The damage stretches a good six or seven miles. Dozens of buildings were torn apart.”Bookmark here

“Wait.” The woman said, suddenly startled by something that he had said earlier. “Did you say that you were watching the candidates?” Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

 “Wait, were they here when the bomb went off?” Bookmark here

“Yes, all three girls. The little one was with her mother. All four were crossing the crosswalk when the bomb went off.”Bookmark here

“Damn!” Neena clenched her teeth tightly. Of all the stupid things…they’d screwed up badlythis time! She should have listened to the FLTS unit head when he’d begged her to recruit more people to help monitor the networks that they had infiltrated! She'd denied the resquest because she wanted to focus on recruiting more frontline agents and secret project members to actually fight terrorists and local crime. And now thousands were dead or dying and her future operatives…she didn’t want to think about it! All this because of her decision. She hoped that they were all still alive. She prayed that they were all still alive. Neena felt immensely guilty, as if the wounding of the three girls and the mother were her own doing. Even though she had had no clue that the four would happen to cross paths at a terrorism target, she felt as though she should have been able to do something to protect them. Since they were candidates for the Simbelyne project, she was responsible for them.Bookmark here

Neena suddenly threw her arms around Mr. AkibarraBookmark here

. “Thank God that you’re okay! I don’t know what I’d do if you’d been killed while carrying out my orders!” Bookmark here

“Hey, Miss! It’s quite alright!” The old man allowed a tiny smile to creep onto his face as he patted her on the head.Bookmark here

“It’s my job! I do this because I want to. I want to change the world before I leave it, and I knew what I was getting into when I first decided to join the defense corps.” He placed his hand on her shoulder.Bookmark here

 “Miss, compose yourself!” He ordered gently. Bookmark here

“You are the co-head of the defense corps and must coordinate the rescue operation and the hunt for the criminals! You can’t be acting like this at the scene!”Bookmark here

“Oh, yes!” Neena jumped back from the man and straitened up. “Quite right! Let’s go talk to the head of the response and rescue unit and get the first response report.”Bookmark here

As the two headed to where the command tents had been hastily pitched, Neena turned to look up at the flaming rubble piles.Bookmark here

‘Oh, Jesus…protect those four. Please. Not because they are important to my plans, but because they themselves are important...innocent lives... Please…I don’t want to have to be the one to find their bodies.”Bookmark here

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Mikkari’s eyes fluttered. She lay face down under some ruble. Slowly, she came to her senses and opened her eyes all the way. Her whole body screamed in agony. She tried to move her right arm and then let out a horrific cry of pain. Bookmark here

“Ehhh! It hurts so much!” An intense burn had destroyed much of the skin. She couldn’t see bone, but there was a charred and oozing hole burned far down into her flesh. She moved her head as much as she could and took inventory of her body. Bookmark here

Her head hurt more than she though possible. Her entire body was bloody and beat up. Her legs were the worst; they were ripped up by shrapnel and she couldn’t feel them. She painstakingly tipped the rubble off of herself and rolled onto her back. Thank God that it hadn’t been heavy!Bookmark here

She took a look at her chest and nearly fainted. Bookmark here

“Oh…God…!” Bookmark here

Her lungs hurt and her chest throbbed and now she knew why. Several sharp pieces of metal were imbedded in her chest. Her mind raced. Bookmark here

“Oh…! What do I do? What do I do?” She moaned. Bookmark here

She felt woozy and, while she may not have been a medical expert, she assumed that that was not good. She looked up. She was in a debris field. It looked like she had been tossed into an area where the remains of an office skyscraper had ended up. That building had originally been a good two miles down from the crosswalk that she had been at. Bookmark here

‘What…what happened?’ she wondered. ‘How did I get so far down the road? I was just walking across the street and then…’ The memory of being airborne seemed like a dream, it had happened so quickly.Bookmark here

Mikkari was scared and she had no clue what she should do. She could only conclude that there had been some sort of explosion and there was so much rubble that it could take forever for someone to find her. She had been thrown into the remains of a building and, given how catastrophic the damage was and the time of night, rescuers would likely focus on looking for survivors where the street had been. Would they make it to her before it was too late? Bookmark here

It hurt to breath and her chest screamed. The shrapnel could have punctured a lung. Would she even be able to walk? She couldn’t feel her legs at all, despite the horrific injuries. The pain in her arm made her eyes water.Bookmark here

“Is…is this it?” She whispered hoarsely. “Is this the end of me? Am I going to die alone in this place where no one will find my body for days?”Bookmark here

Her chest tightened in despair. This world was so cruel and unfair! After what she went through, after all her suffering... was she was going to die a miserable, unfair death with no one to care that she was gone? She refused to accept it!Bookmark here

Slowly, Mikkari managed to roll back over onto her back. She pushed herself slightly upright. Bookmark here

“Uggg!” She moaned under the strain and the pain. Slowly, she tried to crawl forward, but fell down, crying out as her burned arm hit the pavement and oozed a fresh wave of blood. Bookmark here

“I-I can’t move my legs!” She cried in anguish. Tears of hopelessness gathered in her eyes as she clutched at the dust on the ground. Bookmark here

What was the point? Why try to move? Isn’t this what she wanted all along, death? But this…Bookmark here

As she lay sprawled in defeat, Usa-Chan’s words eccoed through her head.Bookmark here

Well…If your true personality is anything like Kimi-Chan, then I think that you are stronger than you think you are.”Bookmark here

“I’m happy that I met you, too!”Bookmark here

Suddenly, Mikkari remembered. Bookmark here

Meeting Usagi for the first time. Having long, deep talks late at night when they both couldn’t sleep. Fighting side-by-side. Going out to festivals and having sleepovers together. Usagi-Chan, the Battle Nurse. Her first friend. Her only friend in the entire world!Bookmark here

With a sudden strength that surprised herself, Mikkari began dragging herself forward by her elbows. Even as she groaned, shrieked, and moaned in pain, she kept dragging herself ahead.Bookmark here

“Even if it was only online…even if it was just a game…We still loved each other as friends! Our friendship was real!” Mikkari’s tears poured down her face, clearing rivers through the blood and grime.Bookmark here

Then she remembered her other friends online. The group hunts and raids. Getting embarrassingly drunk at the karaoke bar. Her first time feeling accepted and wanted in her whole life.Bookmark here

The ceremony that they were supposed to be attending together drove her forward. She wanted to be with her friends who were waiting for her! She wanted to see them again. For the first time, a strange, strong feeling burned in her chest.Bookmark here

“I-I don’t want to die! I wanna live!” She screamed to the sky.Bookmark here

*                                                                                *                                                                         *Bookmark here

“Hey! I got another one!” The rescue worker yelled as he cradled a young boy in his arms. An emergency medic ran up to him and took the child.Bookmark here

 “Oh, God. Another Kid?” The medic exclaimed sadly as he took the child in his arms.Bookmark here

“What’s the count now?” The rescuer yelled at the medic as he quickly retreated to the medical area with the victim.Bookmark here

“30 found dead. 10 dead after being brought to the treatment tent. 3 died after reaching the hospital, but it’s probably higher by now. All the hospitals in the area are to swamped to report in. 130 suffering severe to minor injuries at last check-in.”Bookmark here

“Damn!” The rescue worker kicked at the ground. So much loss of life…! Why? What could possess someone to want to do something so horrible? To kill innocent people? To murder children in cold blood? Bookmark here

He looked over at the lump covered in a jacket. He had also found the body of a middle school-aged girl. He was waiting for one of the body handlers to come pick it up for identification and transportation. He hadn’t been able to bear looking at the girl’s face. Bookmark here

She looked peaceful, but startled, as if she had been surprised by the noise of the explosions when the bomb that took her life went off. There was a bloody dent on the left side of her head. She’d probably been thrown into a wall so hard that she had suffered fatal brain damage. She’d probably died instantly. Bookmark here

He’d found the little boy curled up next to her. They were still holding hands. If he had to guess, the big sister’s body had probably saved him by cushioning his impact. Bookmark here

He sat down next to the body. He couldn’t shake his feelings of guilt, even though he knew that there was no way that he could have saved her. He hated when mass disasters happened because people inevitably died and left him with painful reminders of his all too human inability to save everyone.Bookmark here

Suddenly, he heard the sound of rocks and rubble shifting. Startled out of his self-pity, the man’s head swiveled to the right. To his shock, a badly battered figure emerged from the endless towers of wreckage. At first, he was confused. The dusty, dirty, bloody figure looked more like a zombie or a wraith than a human.Bookmark here

But he soon realized was he was seeing. It was a teenage girl with short, spiky hair. She was wearing a tattered school uniform and was covered in grime. Her shoes had been blown off in the explosion. Blood trickled down her legs. Her body was curved to the right and her head was tilted in that direction as well. Blood dripped in large quantities from her head onto the ground.Bookmark here

“Hey…mister…” She said in a raspy voice. “my…head hurts…could you…help me…please?” Her face suddenly went blank.Bookmark here

 Jumping into action, the rescue worker made it to her just in time to catch her in his arms. He felt for a pulse.Bookmark here

“Geez! How did she manage to get herself out of there?” He exclaimed as he looked at the vicious gash on her head. Bookmark here

How in the world was she even able to be conscious, let alone awake and able to walk and talk with such a nasty head wound? This kid was a fighter!Bookmark here

“Hey, I got another kid here!” He screamed, running as fast as he could in the direction that the rescue worker had gone.Bookmark here

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Ugh…” Alize groaned, gradually testing her limbs. Bookmark here

What had happened? Her head her and her whole body felt stiff. Bookmark here

“What the-?” She slowly reached out above her head and hit solid black cement. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. Bookmark here

She tried to put together what had happened. She had been crossing the street with her daughter and that little girl who had rescued her daughter’s stuffed bunny. Then all the sudden…her mind flashed back to the loud explosion, the buildings and road flying up into the air and shattering, throwing herself onto Kami to protect her. “It was a bomb.” She announced definitively to no one in particular. Bookmark here

From past experience, she just knew…a terrorist attack? It had been speculated that the United Japan Freedom Federation Force was about to make a move again.Bookmark here

 The modest criminal network was formed of people who hated the fact that there was a new style of government in Japan, one that blended western-style democracy with the time-honored Japanese tradition of an emperor. Well, that and the fact that, after the cataclysm; the natural event 75 years ago that resulted in the shifting of all of earth’s landmasses; that South Korea was no longer a country. It had been absorbed into Japan, quite literally, and was now divided up into different Japanese provinces. Some people on both sides still couldn’t get over that, even though they hadn’t even been alive then. Just the other day, she had read that the UJFF had been detected again. After a standoff with the police eight years ago, they had seemingly disappeared underground, and a lot of people had believed that they had simply disbanded and quietly died off. But the Japanese Defense Corps; what amounted to the national legal and police force; had recently released a report disclosing the fact that the UJFF had been detected moving underground and that it was highly likely that they were planning to resume their operations and that they had grown their ranks behind their peak back eleven years ago. Well, they had come back with a bang. Literally.Bookmark here

Alize glanced to her left and saw a tiny body curled up into a ball. “Oh, Kami! Thank God!” She breathed in relief. “Are you okay? Kami?” Her daughter didn’t answer her. Was she unconscious? Bookmark here

“Hey, Kami, what’s wrong?” She asked, crawling over to her child. “Kami? Kami, why aren’t you answering me?” she asked, reaching out and shaking her daughter’s shoulder. “You’re scaring me!” The girl’s shoulder was ice cold. Panic set in. “Kami! Kami!” Alize scooped the child up in her arms and continued trying to shake her awake in shock. This couldn’t be happening! This couldn’t be happening!Bookmark here

“Kami! Kami! Wake up now! Please!” Alize begged, starting to cry. Kami still hadn’t responded. Alize paused. She couldn’t see the girl’s chest rising or falling. She held her left wrist, with her silver bracelet over her daughter’s nose. She had no breath. “Kami! Kami!” She screamed in agony.Bookmark here

The little girl’s eyes were still closed. She was bruised and battered and scratched, but didn’t have any visible major injuries. “Nononononononono!” Her daughter was so tiny and they had been buried under part of a building; had she received internal damage?Bookmark here

Ahhhhhh!” She screamed in terror. What should she do? She had to…she had to get out! She had to get help! She needed to save her daughter! Bookmark here

Gently, she set Kami down and began frantically digging at the rubble above them. She knew that the little girl was probably dead, but if she could get help soon enough, then maybe they’d be able to bring her back! Bookmark here

As the concreate and metal rained down and patches of light began to show through, Alize was aware that she could lose her child. It terrified her. She loved kami more than anything! Her husband was always away on business and she still felt out of place as an American in Japan. Bookmark here

All she had always wanted was a house full of children, but a disease that she had caught on a relief trip when she was a teenage had left her unable to have any of her own. She’d decided to adopt kami from the 1st Africa. The little girl had been orphaned at the age of three during a civil war. Alize had been on a mission trip. She was part of a unit that came in after the attacking forces had been driven out of a village. Kami had been orphaned in an attack on her village. Alize didn’t know how much the girl remembered now, but she had been forced to watch her whole family be slaughtered and was then left alive. It was love at first sight for Alize. What would she do without her little girl? She loved her husband, but he was hardly ever there. She’d be so lonely. Bookmark here

Her fingernails were torn to the quick and her fingertips had been torn open by the sharp rubble, but she didn’t feel the pain. All she could think about was getting to the surface, to help. Even if it was naïve, even if it was a long shot, as long as she could get help, there was at least a tiny chance that kami could be saved! That’s what drove her on, despite logic telling her that there was no point to her frantic endeavor. After all she had done, after all the people she had helped in ruined countries, she refused to be unable to save her own daughter!Bookmark here

Suddenly, Alize’s hand broke through the cement to open air. She shielded her eyes from the dust that came pouring down on her. The hole was small, but just big enough. Gently, she slipped her arms under the cold, still body of kami. “Don’t worry, sweetie, mommies got you. I’ll get you help. You’ll be okay, you’ll see!” She promised, gently lifting her daughter out of the hole before crawling up herself.Bookmark here

Alize quickly cradled her daughter’s limp body as gently as she could and frantically stumbled through the disaster zone in search of aide. As she staggered, tripped, and ripped her feet open on exposed wires, the tears she had been holding in in denial came pouring down her face.Bookmark here

By the time she found a rescue worker, she was no longer able to hold in her pain and fear. “Please! Someone, help me! Save my little girl!” She screamed in agony to a group of startled rescuers digging in the rubble.Bookmark here

· * *Bookmark here

“Miss. Neena! We have a situation!” The red-haired woman’s heels clicked frantically as she ran down the hospital hall, keeping pace with the nurse. The nurse was one of their qualified staff on hand to treat anyone that the defense corps sent to the hospital; a secret insider, so to speak. They were regular nurses, but also on the payroll of the defense corps to confidentially treat agents without asking questions that could compromise security.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong?” “It’s one of the selection candidates you told me about. The little girl?” The woman asked. “I’m going to be blunt. You can either have her implanted with an Alpha Shard now or let her die. She received drastic blunt-force trauma in the attack and she’s not going to make it. She has about three minutes left.” The two halted in front of a glass window.Bookmark here

“Clear!” The medical staff were shocking the little girl to keep her alive. Her heartrate was just barely registering on the monitor. Bookmark here

“Damn…” Neena chewed on her lip. What should she do? She still didn’t feel comfortable with using such a young child for the program. To make such an innocent creature into a soldier, to make them grow up far too early…it made her feel like a criminal. But what choice did she have? While she may have had the luxury of changing her mind before, this was now a choice between life and death. If she didn’t implant Kami Wood now, then she was going to die and Neena would have blood on her hands. Letting someone die was the greatest sin that she could imagine. At this point, the morality of experimenting on a child and turning them into a super solider was irrelevant. Bookmark here

The Alpha shards would rewire the human body and give it technologically advanced powers. They carried the powers of the ideal hero that the recipient had created. But, aside from the enhanced abilities and endurance and advanced weaponry, the most important factor of the shards were their healing abilities. There were plans in the works to remove the tactical programing and rewire the shards so that they could be used for emergency medical treatment. They could improve mental health, fix physical injuries, erase chronical illnesses, and extend the lifespan of those with terminal illness. The very act of implanting the shard in the human body would return the body to perfect health, returning people from the brink of death.Bookmark here

It was the only hope for the little girl.Bookmark here

“Do it.”Bookmark here

The two women watched as the doctors set to work. “They’re inserting it into the base of her neck so that it will be able to heal her injuries. They think that it was a traumatic brain injury.” The nurse informed her.Bookmark here

“Hey, how are the other two girls doing?” Neena asked.Bookmark here

“Mikkari Miswa. Extensive lacerations. Third degree burns on her arms and neck. She’s undergoing surgery on her heart right now. She was impaled on some rebar that broke off inside of her. What didn’t end up inside of her turned into shrapnel and sliced her stomach open. She’s lucky. The rebar just missed her aorta. She’ll definitely live But...” The woman looked down at the ground. Bookmark here

“She’ll never walk again. Her spinal cord was damaged by the shrapnel. She’s going to be paralyzed from the waist down. She’ll probably be wheelchair bound the rest of her life.”Bookmark here

“And Suzune Miyamma?”Bookmark here

“She’s not dead… but dying probably would have been better.” The nurse stated gravely. “She also experienced a traumatic brain injury. She’s older than Kami-Chan, so it wasn’t fatal, but she’s been put into a coma. She’s showing no brain activity at all and there is only a 3% chance that she’ll ever wake up again.” Bookmark here

“Then…the only way to return them to the way that they were would be to implant them with the shards, correct?” Neena asked, already knowing the answer. Bookmark here

“Yes. But I need to know now. The only way that we can guarantee that it will work is if we start right away before their conditions worsen.”Bookmark here

Neena closed her eyes and thought. She’d wanted God to provide her a way to know what to do, a way to be able to get the three girls on board with the Simbelyne project, but not like this! This was also a cruel choice. The girls had no choice but to be dragged into the project, into the Defense Corps, into an adult world of crime and fighting. They could say no, but at this rate…there really wasn’t anyway for them to refuse. These shards would save their lives, but there would be no going back. The DC had complete data on them from the Gun Girls Online Candidate analysis Project. These three particular shards were specifically made for a single individual and it would drastically alter the make-up of their anatomy. They would become living weapons imbued with superpowers based on their strengths and personalities. There would be no way to run from this; no way to undo the surgery. Bookmark here

Neena hated it. She disliked playing God and choosing for the girls. Life or death? A forever changed life of warfare or death? The girls had no say in their fate. It was all in her hands and her hands alone.Bookmark here

Despite this…how could she just let them die? She took a deep breath and opened her eyes.Bookmark here

“Do it. Implant them. Do whatever it takes to save them.”Bookmark here

· * Bookmark here

‘Where…where am I?” Mikkari thought, slightly opening her eyes. ‘What happened to me?’ Bookmark here

It was dark. All she could see was shifting black and purple shadows. Despite the darkness, the place was warm. She was naked and the warmth made her bare skin tingle. It felt like she was floating through jell-o. Despite the strangeness of the situation, she didn’t panic. She wasn’t scared. She just felt…calm.Bookmark here

‘Am I…am I dead? Is this Hell…or Heaven? Or…neither?’ She thought. Her mind felt foggy. Her body felt stiff. Bookmark here

Suddenly, she could see a metallic blue light cutting through the darkness. Bookmark here

‘What’s that?’Bookmark here

She felt drawn toward the light. Slowly, she was able to make her body work again and slowly floated through the shadows towards it.Bookmark here

‘What-!’ Mikkari exclaimed in surprise as the ball of light descended into her open hands. It levitated just above her skin, but it felt as though she was holding it. It was warm. Comfortingly warm. She could feel its power; it was like a raw, charged bolt of energy. It was pure and strong. Bookmark here

‘What is it?’ She wondered. Suddenly, without warning, the ball of light shot into her chest. Bookmark here

‘Oof!’ She grunted. It hadn’t really hurt, but it had taken the breath from her lungs.Bookmark here

She felt her chest. ‘That’s…strange.’ She thought. ‘I think it went into my heart.’Bookmark here

She suddenly bolted upright as she felt a change in the air. ‘Eh?’Bookmark here

Suddenly, her body jerked back in a massive spasm as pain shot through it. “AAAAAAAAAAHHHH!” She screamed, contorting in pain.Bookmark here

Her skin flashed and what looked like fiberoptic and electrical wiring appeared on her skin. They flashed silver and neon blue as power surged through them. Mikkari continued screaming as her body made a mechanical noise, as if it was charging. The noise increased in frequency and speed and her body flashed rapidly. She was spread out like a starfish, her hands balled into fists and her feet clenched in pain. It felt like a million needles were stabbing her from the inside of her veins. Her whole body screamed in indescribable pain. It was the most horrific thing that she had ever experienced. It hurt so much! “Ughhh!” She moaned, contorting limply backwards. The charging slowed to a steady hum. Patches of mechanical silver, welded in place by large silver bolts, appeared on her body. Her hair rippled out behind her, lengthening and slowly turning platinum from its ends. Bookmark here

The pain ebbed away and Mikkari was able to float upright again. Bookmark here

‘What…what is this?’ She stared in wonder at the wiring in her hands as they coursed with energy. Her hair floated around her like a curtain. She felt…strange…stronger. Like something had changed inside of her. She looked down at her chest again. Through her skin she could see something, as if the area above her heart was transparent.Bookmark here

A small, glowing blue rod was crossed with a silver one. Silvery wires flashed and rotated around them, like the rings of a bizarre, mechanical Saturn. At closer inspection, the rods looked like computer hardware. Bookmark here

It was like she had turned into some sort of cyborg! But…she wasn’t afraid, for some reason. She felt…balanced, like her body was the way it was supposed to be. Like she was purged from her weaknesses.Bookmark here

“Mikkari Miswa.” A gentle voice echoed. Mikkari felt as though it had come from within her. Bookmark here

“Use this power. Use it well. Protect them. Save them. Don’t be afraid. Don’t misuse it and don’t cause suffering. Just believe. It will all be okay…”Bookmark here

Mikkari felt herself drifting off again. She felt her soul rising through the warm, soft shadow. The next thing she knew, she burst through the surface.Bookmark here

Mikkari opened her eyes and bolted upright.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.