More of the Same

Why in the hell did it have to be so goddamned hot? For the past week the entire city had been in a heat wave which of course was always going to lead to the exact same thing: very hot and angry citizens. What few people were out were usually in shorts and tank tops, though they did little to relieve people of the boiling heat and intense humidity.

Aya was one of those people. Currently she was sitting in her car at a stop light, wearing but a pair of very torn jeans and a leather vest along with black boots. She had a hand at the steering wheel while the other was wiping sweat from her brow, the air conditioner in her car having decided to die on her just as the damn heat wave started. Normally she wouldn't be out driving, but due to Pierce giving her a phone call she had to leave the comfort of her nice, cool home.

The light finally turned green, prompting Aya to step down on the gas pedal. Air came in through her car's window, though it did little to alleviate to blonde woman of the heat. Her eyes squinted a bit due to the sun getting in her way (she actually wished the thing would just set already).

Aya's thoughts came back to that call Pierce gave her. As usual, it was another NMC report which pretty had MIST running around the clock these days. In the past two years, NMC attacks were no longer freakishly rare occurrences. Aya'd been lucky to get a few days without the damn things showing up somewhere. It'd gotten so bad that MIST expanded to offices in Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Miami, Houston, and many other major areas in the country. Other countries had even started making their own variations of the States' MIST unit (such as the United Kingdom's Paladins, Japan's Oniudo, and Spain's Demonio Asesino). MIST had open applications monthly for new recruits due to shortage of staff in situations like this. In short, things had gotten very hectic in the last couple years.

"Tch, why the hell did he have to be right?"

Aya had finally arrived at her destination, a decent-sized apartment building in less than roomy neighborhood. Luckily it made getting the roads blocked off a helluva lot easier than a less dense place. The woman stepped out of her car, immediately going to the SWAT van parked outside the entrance hall.

"Yo, you're late." A familiar black man greeted Aya.

"Save it Rupert, I'm not used to NMC attacks when six o'clock traffic hits."

"Well, luckily the building is evacuated so we won't have too much to worry about." Rupert tossed Aya a shotgun with foldable stock. She began loading the gun with shells.

"So, how many do we got in there?"

"I dunno, with the activity I guess we have at least four or five. I didn't hear anything about humans attacking so GOLEMs are thankfully out of the possibilities."


Aya pumped the shotgun, loading a shell into the chamber. She took a bandolier and strapped it around her hips like some sort of gunslinger. Rupert handed her a pistol that she immediately holstered.

"Well at least I can worry a little less. Last time I had to see one of those bastards my damn sword broke."

"Plus with your better half halfway across the world, we aren't exactly in the best of situations for them."

"We'll deal with it."

The two of them made their advance, Rupert covering the door while Aya slowly walked into the building. She was greeted with silence, though it was the kind that was only so because of something trying to hide itself. Pressing herself up against a wall, she signaled to Rupert to advance forward.

It continued like that for several, long minutes. Aya had been expecting to begin firing her gun the second she stepped through the front door, but instead she was treated to a slow advance through the apartment building. Even after checking all of the rooms of the first three floors they still hadn't seen any NMCs.

"Are you sure that the residents saw an NMC?" Aya was sitting on the lower steps of the central stairwell.

"Well the witnesses said they saw what appeared to be some sort of mirage that was attacking people. Usually that means it's some sort of neo-mitochondrion activity."

"Whenever things are quiet it worries me. Makes me think these things are getting smarter by the minute."

"With an increase in activity there's bound to be some cases of a boost in intelligence."

"Great, you've been reading Maeda's papers again."

Aya stood and readied her gun again, walking up the stairwell with caution. Again she heard no difference in the immediate surroundings. No scuttling noises, no shuffling of feet, just silence. Perhaps peace was a bit refreshing, but the inactivity just raised the tension building in Aya's chest. She covered Rupert as they advanced further up the stairs.

However, she didn't quite catch the unusual blurriness of the ceiling. If it weren't for the creature's clumsiness, making a scratching sound along the ceiling, than perhaps Aya wouldn't have noticed it at all. Reacting quickly, Aya aimed her shotgun as best she could and fired. The report rang out across the floor, alerting Rupert who was almost up the stairs.

Aya pumped her gun as the foul, scuttling creature scurried across the ceiling. Aya wasn't going to let it escape. Once she had her sights set on something, it was locked for execution.

"I hate Stalkers."

Realizing that its natural camouflage was of no use, the NMC crashed through a nearby window in some sort of effort to get the agent of its tail. Aya leaned out the broken window and looked upward, seeing the now-visible creature racing up the side of the building. Aya sighed and looked towards Rupert.

"You might want to start going up the stairs again."

"Don't tell me you're gonna pull another one of your stunts. Keep in mind that you were in traction for a week after last time."

"Cut me some slack, it was raining."

Aya bashed out the rest of the glass and climbed onto the window sill as best she could. She perched like a cat, not correcting her balance in the slightest as she readied herself. Then, like some sort of bird, she shot upward along the side of the building. Not even the highest level athletes could pull off something like this. To Aya though it was like a good exercise. Using the window sills as footholds, she leapt from one to the other as she went ever-upward.

After about thirty seconds of a feat that would astonish the greatest of acrobats, Aya finally got to the top of the building where the Stalker was fully exposed. It knew now that no amount of running was going to do it any good so now the only thing to do was fight.

Aya reacted first, firing off a round from her gun that ripped through the concrete of the roof. The Stalker, however, had instinct on its side and leapt into the air just as Aya had begun to pull the trigger. Its lanky form descending on her, Aya rolled out of the way just as it was about to pounce on her.

Five feet separated the two of them now, the Stalker shuffling its long, spidery legs and Aya with her hands on her shotgun. The blond woman popped her neck loudly, almost as if she was signaling that she had finished a warm-up. The Stalker prowled across the roof, Aya doing the same. Their eyes never left each other as even a split second would provide an opportunity.

Gunshots came from the stairwell. Aya was suddenly cursing her instincts as that sound caused her to change her gaze from the Stalker to the stairs. That moment allowed the Stalker to leap at Aya, this time nearly slashing her throat with its claws. Thankfully Aya got her gun up to keep her head on her shoulders, though at the cost of the weapon flying out of her hands.

The Stalker took the chance it had bee given, preparing another strike with its claws. What is didn't expect was Aya grabbing it by the face with strength completely unnatural to a human. Any person would have been astonished, but even more so by the fact that Aya's hand was now radiating with red-hot light.

"You are one pain in the ass to make me do this. I DON'T LIKE DOING THIS."

The Stalker burst into flame, starting at its face until it spread onto its entire body and devoured it wholeheartedly like a hungry beast. The screech would have made anyone plug their ears, but Aya paid it no heed as she went to retrieve her gun. She shouldered it as the Stalker finally gave up the ghost, falling limp into a charred remnant with ashes soon to follow. Aya looked at her hand, its skin no longer luminescent with heat. She grinned sarcastically.

"Angels, eh, Seph?"

Gunshots were still coming from the lower floor, prompting Aya to reply to them. She pumped her gun again and headed down to Rupert's aid.


Apparently the only major threat in the building had been the Stalker; the rest were just NMC rats and maybe a few birds which Rupert handled mostly on his own. Luckily the case wasn't so big like some other times in the past; Aya was still cringing from that case in Central Park five months ago where three GOLEMs and a bear went insane in the zoo.

The aftermath was pretty much standard procedure: get the NMC corpses out of the scene and find any traces of "artificial sources". To that end, Aya and Rupert's purpose was over as the cleaners and investigators were better equipped for that. Although, Aya could have done without the reports waiting at the office.

"Dammit, exterminations shouldn't require friggin' essays." Aya didn't hesitate in bemoaning the mountain of tree products she had lying on her desk.

"Oh, deal with it, you've been doing it for over ten years."

"Forgive me if I'm still not used to it."

Aya propped her feet up on her desk, her pen working on the report she had to write after the case. It was all standard procedure, but it was definitely annoying for her. She sighed and sucked down a cup of coffee that had gone cold.

"So, heard from your other half yet?"

"Yeah, gave me a message because of the time change. Says the jet-lag is kicking his ass and people stare at him all the time." Aya tossed her cup over shoulder, but missing the trash can behind her.

"People stare at him anyway; ya don't see too many guys with hair women would die for."

"Tch, are the old office contests still up then?"

"What, the ones where they guessed whether you or him were prettier? After Pierce nearly crapped himself they quit it. Having a two-hundred dollar pair of Oakley's sliced in two'll do that to ya."

About half an hour later Aya and Rupert finished what was needed, both a bit tired due to the somewhat hectic fight back at the apartment. Stepping out, it was still blazingly hot, disgruntling Aya a bit more than she needed to be. Oh well, at least her new place was a bit closer to the office than the old one had been. She started her car and pulled out of the parking lot into the street.

The drive was uneventful, perhaps being a perfect lament to the otherwise hectic day. Stopping at a light, Aya looked at her hand. She still remembered that scorching heat that hand had emitted only hours ago.

When she was younger she never would have used her power so willingly. Up until Seph came into her life, she never had used them willingly for either survival or convenience. For the last few years though it became easier for her. She became more willing to use those powers she so despised. She didn't know whether she stopped caring if she was thought of as a monster or that she found someone who might as well be a monster at times. No, he wouldn't use "monster". He would use "angel".