Chapter 18:

Chapter Ten - Wednesday II - Thursday II - Restart

In Search of An Oasis

Phase II - Threat Level; Severe

‘So, Sensei, would you care to explain to us where that shield came from and how it works?’ the bespectacled woman with an orange streak of hair trailing near her left eye asked the emerald-eyed woman sitting directly behind the driver of the WR Blue Mica-painted GRB chassis WRX STi Spec-C.

So, I’ve already been assigned a nickname? Um… ‘Do you want the short answer, or the full story?’

‘Well, I do have an engineering degree and spent the majority of my service time in hardware development and manufacture, so I’m cool with the full story. Lay it on me, doc,’ she playfully invited.

‘Okay, I’ll outline the facts first, which should make it easier for you to follow.

‘First of all; it’s not a shield.’


‘Please, save the questions for when I’ve finished, otherwise this will take ages,’ the doctor calmly warned.

‘Yes, Sensei,’ Renka quietly mumbled.

‘Rather than being a thin layer that absorbs the projectile energy, what you saw was a field with a different purpose, I believe.

‘I still had the ability to breathe as normal while benefitting from its effects.

‘The incoming bullets reached a particular point and then decelerated to velocities that rendered them harmless as the acceleration of gravity took over and accelerated them toward the ground instead.

‘At the point of the projectiles’ velocity decreasing, small trails of light appeared around them.

‘I’m sure you can see where I’m heading here?’

‘Um, it’s a field that converts energy?’

‘Bingo. It’s a field that has the ability to convert kinetic energy into visible light at a rate which neutralises incoming projectiles before they can reach my body is my theory.

‘In addition, I did pick up one of the bullets. Its surfaces held room temperature, leading me to believe that the field is also capable of converting thermal energy into small amounts of light as well.

‘Strangely, it felt as natural as breathing air. I’m guessing the field was a passive phenomenon, triggered by my heightened state of fear. Also, the ease with which I could “deactivate” the field was as if I’d been using it for my entire life. Now you may ask questions.’

‘Do you think that energy-conversion field could be applied to other people or things?’

‘Maybe? I am a bit tired though; I haven’t slept since Monday night and have hardly gotten any rest during this drive as well.’

‘Driver, if you don’t mind, could we please stop off at an abandoned warehouse or something, so that we can see what the doctor’s field is capable of?’

‘Huh? A session of attacking dear Tsubaki? On the one hand that would be funny, on the other hand, I don’t want to see her getting hurt. On the third hand though, her being able to use that field on others would definitely be useful…’ the black and purple-haired lady at the wheel murmured with a curious tone.

‘What was that?’ Tsubaki barked. I’m pretty sure you only have two hands as well…

Lightly laughing, Renka insisted, ‘Worry not, Sensei, just relax and try to get some sleep.’

Great; the idiot duo has officially joined forces. ‘You don’t have an opinion here?’ the doctor asked the black and pink-haired woman seated next to her.

Kasumi shrugged without making a sound.

So, I guess Team Idiot gets their wish by way of democratic majority? Well, isn’t this just peachy, the doctor conceded, lips quivering in awkward trepidation.

Under the morning sun, largely shrouded by light grey clouds, the women continued to advance south-west. The EJ207-powered hatchback rapidly carried them to one of the major industrial cities of the main island within an hour despite the convoluted route taken in order to avoid numerous armed conflicts.

Hikari and Renka’s basic plan for testing out the doctor’s energy converting field led the quartet to an abandoned warehouse near the outskirts of the industrial city.

‘This should be perfect!’ Renka exclaimed, pointing out at the roadside.

Hmm? A chained-up gate and a warehouse that looks like it’s in disrepair and hasn’t been used for years. It might possibly fall down if we so much as kick it, the car’s black and purple-haired pilot summarised as it crawled forward.

‘Yep; it’s perfect!’ Renka confirmed with an excited smile.

‘Right, do you have anything to cut the chains with?’

‘Nope. Though I was thinking that rather than leaving evidence of a break-in, we could use the car as a stepping stone to hop the fence.’

‘You all better be wearing clean shoes or clean them off before you do,’ the driver sternly and quietly warned, her eyes panning across all occupants of the car.

Hikari carefully positioned the hatchback so that its rear bumper sat millimetres away from the concrete walls which surrounded the site.

One by one, the women clambered over the fence, using the car’s roof to launch up onto the thick, stony ledge, before slowly lowering themselves down the other face.

Hikari on the other hand, graciously hopped, skipped and flung herself into the air from the car’s roof, tucking her arms and legs in, to form a perfectly straight shape as her body rapidly twisted through the air in multiple directions.

Uwah; she’s opted for a twisting front somersault.

The black and purple-haired woman landed softly on her feet and casually continued to walk toward the three women.

Um, what? That’s not normal. Such an extravagant manoeuvre, executed flawlessly, as far as I could tell and not even a joke or any emotional reaction? What are you made of?? Tsubaki remarked.

‘Bravo! Marvellous! Totally unnecessary, but I give you a ten for the entertainment value!’ Renka declared.

Hikari returned a small smile in response. ‘So, Tsubaki, are you ready to find out what that field of yours is capable of?’

The doctor replied, ‘Do I have any other choices?’ with a clearly glum tone.

‘Think of it like physical exercise and training; you could skip out on it, but you’d risk self-inflicted injury when you try to even mildly exert yourself later on,’ Hikari offered with a comforting grin.

Physiology? Well played. ‘I guess that’s true,’ the doctor replied, calmly.

‘You’ll be pleased to know that I gathered about eight or nine mags’ worth of ammo from that little skirmish in the gym, so we’ve definitely got a few to spare for a bit of testing,’ Renka cheerfully informed. ‘That said, I don’t want to be spending loads of ammo, so let’s try to make this quick.’

Hikari turned to the doctor, ‘Would you be so kind as to ingratiate us with your field, Sensei, heh.’

Sensei? So now you’re taking cues from the new girl? Annoying as it is, I kind of preferred the flirty nonsense that you were spewing last week, to be honest.

A pale green glow quickly enshrouded the doctor.

‘I take it you’re ready then?’

‘Mhmm’ the doctor meekly responded, nodding.

Gazing directly into the doctor’s emerald eyes as she drew nearer, Hikari advised with a hushed voice, ‘If you’re not feeling up to it, please let me know; I’d hate to know that you’re genuinely uncomfortable.’


Idiot, Idiot, Idiot. Why would you say that while longingly gazing into my eyes with those caring and gravitating amethyst eyes?? Now I’m uncomfortable, but not for the reasons that you’re probably thinking of. Though, now that I think about it, this might be that unnecessary flirtatious behaviour that I carelessly wished for a moment ago.

I should probably breathe, to try and escape from the vice-like tightness in my chest triggered by your comforting words.

‘I’ll keep it in mind,’ Tsubaki accepted, with an uneasy smile.

‘Okay, so there are three things to test; how quickly you deploy the field, how the field behaves in response to other energy types and if or rather, how well it works when deployed on something other than yourself,’ Renka informed.


‘First up; the speed test, which also gives us a chance to closely observe how the field behaves with kinetic energy. You’ll probably be pleased to hear that this thing only carries ten rounds.

‘So, your job will be to deploy the field before I have a chance to fire. We’ll do the first five drawing from the holster and the last five with the weapon in my hand.


Tsubaki nodded, with a tiny squeal.

‘I don’t plan on shooting unless she’s got the field deployed, so don’t worry. Believe it or not, I do actually have good trigger discipline,’ the captain quietly advised Kasumi and Hikari, who stood either side of her.

‘Set!’ Renka commanded, as she looked into the green eyes of the woman standing twenty metres away from her.

A tense silence descended on the dusty and dim warehouse space as everything fell still, save for some minor fidgeting from the doctor.

Renka’s right hand instantly bolted, collecting the weapon, the hammer clicked as the gun rose and in little more than a second the gun had gone from resting still to pointing straight at the body of a green-eyed woman surrounded by a faint green glow.

A quiet pop preceded the 45-calibre bullet whizzing from the Impuls-IIA suppressor’s exit port towards the doctor.

As it speedily closed in, a bright trail of green wrapped the projectile and it rapidly slowed.

As if pinched between the fingers of an invisible guardian, the small metal unit paused before harmlessly falling and clinking against the floor.

‘One down, nine to go!’ Renka ejaculated, with a pleased smile.

After repeating the process until the click of a slide locking rearward followed Renka’s firing. ‘So, Sensei, how was that?’

‘Well, considering that I’m not riddled with bullet holes, I’d say it went okay. It’s surprisingly easy to deploy the field; it’s kind of like an automatic defence mechanism.’

‘Great, so now we’re going to test out how it deals with other forms of energy. My dear black and pink-haired friend(?) here reliably informed me that there’s no need to test sound, given that it’s essentially carried as kinetic energy. That and I don’t think we have anything capable of producing enough sound energy to be massively destructive. So, next up, we’re testing thermal energy,’ the captain explained, pacing toward the doctor and slowly waving a box of matches in front of her face and displaying a naughty grin.


‘Don’t worry; I’m only going to hold this lit match and attempt to set you on fire,’ Renka explained, with a playfully malicious grin.

What!? The doctor internally remarked, her reappeared within an instant of the captain revealing her intentions.

She keeping a surprisingly straight face as well… ‘I see you’re growing into that field pretty quickly, Sensei,’ Renka jested teasingly as she drifted the little flame towards the back of the doctor’s left hand, arrested within her fairly tight grip.

Interesting. All it does is turn the flame into a small flash of green light and extinguishes it almost instantly. It’s odd that the field converts energy, but I physically don’t feel it converting energy, though I do momentarily feel the heat. ‘Maybe you want to try another one?’ the doctor nervously suggested.

Renka ripped another match along the rumble strip of the small box and swiftly pushed it towards the doctor’s hand.

‘Well, your fields are certainly consistent,’ Renka conceded, with a deflated frown and mildly irritated tone of voice. ‘In the interest of science, we’ll repeat it a few more times, though I strongly suspect we’re only going to find the same results…’

After a few minutes of testing, ‘Well, aside from confirming the fact that you can essentially protect yourself from thermal attacks, that was thoroughly boring.’

‘Please, I found it pretty entertaining, watching her squirm a bit; those little whimpers are too cute,’ Hikari interjected, closely regarding the doctor with a teasing smile.

‘Nobody asked for your opinion!’ the doctor snarled, shooting an irritated glare at Hikari, who shunned her in reply, with a playful smirk.

‘Okay, lovebirds, that’s enough. Onto the third test; this one’s quite simple. Using this interesting murder machine here as our test subject, we’re going to see if your field can be effectively projected onto something or somebody else.’

Eyeing Hikari directly, ‘It’s pretty simple; now you’re going down to where dear Sensei here stood for the first test and I’ll be shooting at you,’ the glasses-wearing woman informed, nudging Hikari in the desired direction with the end of her pistol’s suppressor while still firmly gripping the doctor’s wrist.

‘Is the threatening behaviour really necessary?’ Hikari asked sulkily.

Glaring at the woman with a water lily in her hair, ‘I don’t trust either of you. Well, I don’t really trust you, so, yes,’ the captain bluntly replied. ‘Off you go.’

Hikari trudged to the target area.

‘No funny business with the turning invisible either. I’d rather we get this out of the way quickly, so that we can all go and get some rest.’

‘Yes, yes,’ Hikari waywardly affirmed.

After an entire week of facing down 17s and a 433, now I get to be shot at while Tsubaki is held at gunpoint. It’s been years since a crushing sense of powerlessness and helplessness has borne down on me like this.


What do I do here? No way to strike back and I have no fucking clue how I get her to trust me. This is almost as paralysing as what happened in 2017.

The woman with the water lily in her hair kept her eyes fixed on the doctor, longingly.

With almost blinding efficiency, the black HK45T transitioned to sit with its sights trained on the target.

Oh, come on; between my eyes?? You aimed at Tsubaki’s body when she was the target. Admittedly, aiming for the head is what I’d do, to be honest.

The doctor fidgeted in addition to her whimpering, as she reluctantly observed the black and purple-haired woman.

An index finger with a neatly-maintained, gloss-finish, orange painted nail at the end slowly edged the trigger rearward amid the silence.

A bullet quietly ripped through the air, toward the target, who shut her eyes following the subdued bang and puffs of light smoke.

It reached about 200mm away from its target before almost slowing to a halt and succumbing to the effects of gravity.

So much for me being your protector, heh.

Useless woman; so much for you being my protector.

Renka repeatedly fired, until the click of the locking slide briefly dissolved the tension of the warehouse.

Huh? Why are you darting your eyes at me like that? Ohhh, I see…

Hikari dashed straight toward the doctor and the other two women quickly stepped back from her.

‘Thank you.’

Uwah! That is one very tight grip!

Huh? Is she crying?

No, just wavering a bit. Or maybe it’s only me; casting a field on another target was a bit more draining than I thought it would be. Maybe it’s both of us? Who’d have thought; the same emotionless killing machine is capable of this. I could wallow here forever if my opinion of you wasn’t so conflicted; despite how troublesome you’ve been for the past couple of days, this embrace is more comforting than anything I’ve been given before.

It’s warm enough to melt me in your arms, almost.

Hikari softly continued, ‘And sorry, of course.’

‘Right, right, now if you could please stop being embarrassing,’ the doctor requested, with a mildly sympathetic tone, as she retracted her arms from Hikari’s back and attempted to prise herself away.

Ah. Now that’s a problem. Unlike last Friday, your eyes are especially sparkly at the moment and while gazing at you, they unambiguously signal your fondness for me. If my field converts energy, then your eyes completely ignore the rule of thermodynamics and without a trace, destroy any energy that I’d use to resist them. I hate how much they pull me in.

But I won’t yield; you’ll need to enchant me to the point where I have no absolutely other choice but to do so, before I’ll yield to your wishes.

The doctor forcefully pushed herself back from the delicate cradling of the black and purple-haired woman.


Renka issued a thumbs–down gesture and fixed her eyes on the doctor with a disapproving glare.

‘What?’ Tsubaki barked, her voice tinged with confusion and irritation.

‘She literally handed you a perfect opportunity on a silver platter.’ Kasumi flatly advised.

‘Perfect opportunity?’ the doctor asked, confusion abundant in her voice.

Why are those two looking at each other and sniggering and why are you laughing so nervously as if they’ve just taken the wind out of your sails?? Would anybody care to explain to me what I’m missing here?

‘Never mind; I’m sure you’ll figure it out with her help soon enough,’ Renka replied, with a playfully exasperated sigh and her gaze flitting between Tsubaki and Hikari.

What’s that tone for? I don’t like where this is heading. And why are you joining in with their teasing now? You’re just like your mother. Ugh, did I really just think that? Cringe…

‘I don’t know about you gals, but I could probably sleep for an entire day if I were to fall asleep now, so maybe we should press on, towards a hotel or something and then sort out all of the burning issues tomorrow,’ Renka insisted.

As an almost red sun announced itself, beaming through the nearby window of the small bedroom on the ensuing Thursday morning, a glasses-wearing woman with an orange streak in her hair sat up, on her bed.

‘Good morning. What are you up to over there?’ her companion, with short, black hair and rose-coloured highlights quizzed, wiping her eyes as she rose from her bed.

‘Oh, good morning, Kasumi. It’s exactly what you think; I’m painting my nails again,’ Renka confirmed, with a friendly smile.

‘Why? I didn’t see any chips or anything.’

‘I’m touched that you’ve been paying that much attention,’ Renka replied, awkwardly attempting to cobble together a heart-shaped gesture with her thumbs and index fingers. ‘To answer your question; with the new gun, two additional adventurers and almost everybody discovering special abilities linked to mechanisms of science, I get the sense that our story has moved into a second act, so I’m switching from gloss to matte.’

‘What?’ Kasumi asked, blankly.

‘You know how plays and stories destined for theatre performances, along with modern screenplays often have three acts? Well, I get the feeling we’re going to be facing bigger problems for a while to come, so I’m going for a no-nonsense finish for now. If the omnipotent author doesn’t kill me off before act three, then I’ll probably mix things up again when the time arrives,’ Renka explained, finishing with a friendly smile as she filed one of her fingernails.

‘Right,’ Kasumi flatly replied, brows furrowed in derision. I love your playful energy, but right now, you sound ridiculous…

At the same time, in another bedroom, a woman with a side ponytail and water lily sitting near its roots stood beside the other bed in the small room. Her eyes drifted over the occupant and she pondered.

You always look so elegant and beautiful with your hair down and when you’re not busy resisting me. Honestly, I feel a bit bad for having to wake you and that you still haven’t found reason to accept me. That said, I can at least have a bit of fun and see that cute side of you that believes you won’t fall under my spell… ‘Oi, come on! If you don’t wake up soon, the other two will probably storm our room!’

Wha? Why is one of my sides being prodded?

Uwah?!? What are you doing?? I can sort of understand the prodding, but why are looming over me as if you’re ready to pin me to the bed??

At least your eyes and friendly smile don’t suggest any malintent, but now I’m scared that you might try something that’ll make my already racing heart attempt a speed record.

Why aren’t you moving?!? At the current rate that my body and mind’s temperature is rising, I’ll ignite or evaporate pretty soon. The sight of such a powerful yet caring woman, combined with the alluring looks that you have is hard to resist.

That is, until my brain reminds me that there are oh so many flaws in your character and a lot of potential for complete and utter disaster.

‘I am awake, so you can step back now,’ Tsubaki insisted, feebly frowning and glaring in protest at Hikari.

‘Good morning to you too,’ the black and purple-haired woman offered, with a playful smile.

Slowly exhaling, the doctor remarked internally. Ugh, that was close. I’m going to need to be a bit more careful from now on and search for a means of reducing how badly affected I can get by you…

‘Hey, uh, may we come in?’

‘The door’s unlocked, Sensei; help yourself,’ a cheerful voice invited.

Tsubaki and Hikari shuffled into the bedroom room. They’re both sitting next to each other on one bed, so I guess we’re doing this two by two? the doctor assessed.

After sitting down on the empty bed’s edge, the doctor shivered slightly. Why would you choose to sit down there?? Right… At this point I’m not even surprised at the gentle stroking and brushing of my leg that your ponytail is giving me. You do realise that you’re not my pet cat though, right?

In another world, where we didn’t meet under circumstances of her almost killing my dear partner, we’d probably have hit it off from the very beginning. It’s adorable how expressive she is, sitting there, resting against Sensei’s leg; it’s a pretty intimate image from where I’m sitting

Even now, she’s got that handgun resting right next to her hand; she really needs to chill out.

Um, why is nobody talking? I thought we’d already established that I’m not a big talker, but the rest of you don’t really have an excuse.

‘So, ladies, we are gathered here today to figure out what we’ll be doing going forward and how we’ll be doing it,’ Renka introduced. ‘We’ve already established that you two want or need to escape and to be honest, with the way things are going, I’d be inclined to do the same, until things quieten down.

‘I say quieten down because in the past week or so, I’ve been collecting information that makes me pretty nervous. Last Monday, one of the SDF welfare camps in the west was subject to an attack and after having a little dance with some of their colleagues on the following Friday, it turned out that the gang was in some way connected to a company referred to as CSS, or Compass Security Solutions,’ Renka explained. Hmm, have I said something particularly interesting Hikari?

‘On Tuesday morning, we took on a gang that had taken control of that town on the North West coast. After sifting through all nineteen of the phones belonging to those clowns, it turned out the same CSS had invited them to test out something around the same time that they struck against the local police forces.

‘I don’t know exactly what’s going on there, but I strongly suspect that CSS has a relationship with the small-time gangs across the island and have been at least testing out offensive technologies using various armed groups on the island.

‘Now, Hikari. I saw your eyes light up and that little head twitch at my mention of Compass Security Solutions. Is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class? Renka asked, staring intently at the woman sitting on the floor, no longer resting against the doctor’s legs.

‘Um, yeah. I did see compass emblems on sweatshirts worn by almost all of the seventeen guys that I ended last Friday, when I cleared out the site of an arms stockpile.

‘I also found similarly-dressed operators on Sunday, when I got rid of the six-man team who were hauling a pretty impressive weapons shipment, before I took it from them.

‘I found almost identically-dressed operators on Tuesday morning; a ten-man team that thought elimination and recovery of a truck loaded with weapons was going to be an easy task. None of them survived, surprise, surprise.’

‘Uwah,’ the other three remarked synchronously, eyes wide and voices saddled with awe.

That is a lot of death. I shouldn’t be surprised, with all of the work I had to do on your right shoulder, but I never seriously considered that you were some kind of grim reaper.

That is a lot of death. I’ve seen my fair share of battles, but it’s unusual to hear of that much combat death anywhere else, besides terrorist incidents, civil wars, drug wars or mass shootings. It does make me wonder who you’re working for; there’s no way law enforcement wouldn’t have gotten to you, unless you’re a government–sanctioned ghost. I’ll not complain though; if that ghost can help me reach my goal, I can let things slide, though a bit less killing would probably help…

That is a lot of death. If you hadn’t tried to kill me, I’d probably be impressed as well as concerned.

‘Ahem, if you girls are done gawking.

‘I don’t have any hard evidence that the operators bearing the compass emblem belong to the CSS that you speak of, but the enemies that I’ve faced off against in the past week or so were certainly decently-equipped and well organised; essentially a paramilitary. I’m not sure that they’re developing anything, but their services definitely involve some pretty high-end private security work and autonomous paramilitary activities as well.’

‘Out of curiosity, which parts of the island did you run into them?’ Renka asked.

‘Hmm,’ Hikari put a hand to her chin, ‘I first ran into them in the capital city, then I ran into them again almost 100km west–north–west of the capital. After that, they ran into me about thirty clicks south of there.’

‘Eh? So, they definitely don’t have a problem getting around then, either that, or they have infrastructure set up across the island. While three of us definitely weren’t in their crosshairs, they’re probably still hunting for you as we speak, which is a bit of a problem because, as much as I hate to admit it, you’re definitely an asset to us as a quartet.’

Does that mean you can stop with the gun being kept so close at all times then?

‘Thinking about it from a tactical perspective, our best bet right now is to either hide, escape or discreetly try to gather up resources and strike back,’ Renka declared.

‘Pfft, strike back; I don’t fight, this one only uses blades, your partner uses bows and arrows and you only have a handgun. Even with my protective field and her ability to turn transparent, taking on a multinational(?) security company would almost certainly result in our premature deaths,’ the doctor mockingly scoffed.

‘Yeah, that’s why I said we’d need to gather up resources. Aside from the ordinary field medic abilities, I’m sure even you have some resources and skills that could benefit us out in the field, Sensei.’

‘Oh, she does, trust me,’ Hikari chimed in, with a mischievous smile. ‘Ow, what was that for?’ she rebuked, eyebrows furrowed, with mild irritation as she turned to look up at the doctor. Aww, are you annoyed? Still, was the knock on the back of the head really necessary?

‘You know why,’ the doctor quietly snarled.

‘Hmm?’ Renka quietly asked, peering curiously at the pair through her glasses.

‘Don’t worry, we’ll investigate what she meant later, Sensei. For now, I think our priority is to find somewhere that we can use as an egress point; either a port or an aerodrome. We can decide on whether or not we want to take on CSS once we’ve settled on an escape route. Well, that’s just my idea anyway; I’m open to suggestions,’ Renka invited, her eyes cycling between the other three women in the room.

‘I’m fine with that plan. I have nothing to go back to and it’s been kind of fun so far, so I’m happy to continue with you, to wherever our final destination lies,’ the black and pink-haired lady confirmed, peering directly into Renka’s eyes.

I know that was a serious answer, but dammit Kasumi, this isn’t the time or place to play my heartstrings like a violin.

‘Honestly, I’d be cool with facing off against a paramilitary MNC starting from right now, but I do also have my commitments,’ Hikari replied, looking up at the doctor with a friendly smile.

Ugh. So much for all of those years spent in medical training, I guess I’ll be a field medic from now on, akin to those working warzones or natural disasters. I guess it’s only a matter of time before my AI projects get weaponised as well. Then again, if I could somehow turn the tables and restrict the development to non-lethal weapons, maybe I could limit the bloodshed that these three will cause.

I say limit the bloodshed, but I know the most effective way to do that would be to get rid of Hikari, but before I could even get close, she’d most likely kill me or worse still, use other methods, to ensure that I bend to her will.

Steward McOy