The Last Command
Chapter 7: The Devil You Know
Her lungs ached – every breath she tried to take was stolen by the harsh winds that forced sharp daggers of cold deep through her cardigan and muscle, straight down to her bones. It numbed her, coupling with the deafness brought by the howling gale and the blindness courtesy of the thick, dancing snow to cut her off completely from the world around her. She was alone…
No, not alone, not completely. His hand was still in hers, and still warm. She cradled it to her cheek, grateful for what little heat it provided, and the implied assurance of her safety. So long as Daddy was here, nothing could hurt her. And Anna, too – she couldn't see her, but she knew her sister was on Daddy's other side, probably clung to his other hand. Her sister was probably terrified, but Nina was unshakable. They were a family. They would face everything together – and come through it with a smile, stepping over the broken bodies of their enemies as they departed. Together.
She wanted to tell that to the shimmering, ethereal shadow men before her, beings that twisted and turned with every change in the wind, that mocked and laughed at her in their warbling, distorted voices. She wanted to shut them up, somehow. But every time she opens her mouth, the threats die in her throat before they can be voiced. She turns to her father, hoping for some words of encouragement – but his face was now nothing more than chalk-white bone, glaring down at her with accusation in its empty eye sockets…
... ... ...
The smooth, calming voice of a stewardess over the cabin's PA system greets me as I return to the waking world with a muffled groan.
"…and gentlemen, we will be touching down in Sydney 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Please return to your seats and put all trays in the upright position, and take care to remove all hand luggage when leaving the plane…"
None of that really applies to me; couldn't carry any guns aboard without making advance arrangements with customs on both ends of the journey, which I didn't have time for, and I haven't left my seat once for fear of disturbing the baby across the aisle that's been mercifully quiet. Besides, y'know, I've been busy getting tormented by my own warped little mind, so fun times all round.
Speaking of which…it's been a long time since I last had that dream. Thought I was over it by now; I'm twenty-five going on forty-five, for God's sake, a grown woman, and I'm perfectly happy being alone in this world. Perfectly. Happy. At least when I'm alone there's no complications, no arguments, no slapping from a bitch of a sister, and nobody I'll wind up failing to save. Like that twerp Lukas, or Jin…or Dad. My eyes are starting to sting. I don't know why.
A lurch in my stomach warns me as the plane begins its final descent, which at least gives me something else to focus on. I've got quite enough on my timetable as it is – introspection can wait for another day.
This time is different. My grip tightens around the trigger and, in dreamlike slow-motion, I see the burst of flame spread from the barrel of my pistol like a blossoming flower, a second before a ragged, circular hole is punched through the pale, smooth skin on Anna's forehead, revealing the darker flesh beneath and a glistening sliver of wet skull, swiftly overtaken by a torrent of bright red blood. Her jaw reflexively slackens as the light dims from her eyes, and decades' worth of spite and bitterness disappears from the lines of her face. I don't remember the last time I saw her so…content.
And just like that, the image fades from my head, leaving nothing but a slightly nauseous feeling in my mouth, and a thumping headache. This time wasn't so bad – knowing what to do made it easier…even so, this is still a seriously twisted way to get a damn computer to turn itself off. Even more so than those reset switches that are so tiny you need to stick a pen in them. On the plus side, I'm officially halfway done now, so only two more pretend-Annas to murder. Funny how I'm not looking forward to that – although it is pretty sad that these little copies never put up a fight the way the genuine article does…
Tch, didn't we already promise to leave the brooding 'til later, girl? Prying another ridiculous helmet from my head, I take a moment to massage my temples before slipping out of the chair and trudging back over to the tiny industrial lift that lifts me out of the dark, claustrophobic underground chamber and back up top into a…garage, I suppose? You have to applaud the architect for going this far in pursuit of a disguise; there's at least three Zaibatsu-related facilities in this city alone that would be much more sensible choices to house a network node, but instead they plump for a tiny, discreet little shack in the slums, or at least the closest a nice place like this has to slums. Smart, and must have cost a fortune too. Still, the subterfuge is undermined slightly by someone filling up every square foot of storage space with weapons and ammo, not to mention something big covered by tarp that could be an armoured jeep. Maybe that was Jin's way of helping me out. Moron.
As the corrugated steel shutter retracts into the roof with a succession of clanks, the sudden brightness of the midday sun makes me blink, and casts my vision into near-blindness for a moment – just as the hairs on the back of my neck prickle in warning. Dropping a hand down to a pistol I scrounged from the hoard inside, I take a deep breath and lower myself into a more balanced stance and…nothing happens. I give it another ten seconds, then fifteen, as my sight returns, before easing up – there's nothing there, just the same deserted back-alleys leading to the same barely-used road I took to get here. Great, now I'm jumping at nothing. Usually my instincts are worth listening to, but I guess running for as long as I have with only broken sleep is bound to take a toll…
I step outside to find it just as pleasantly warm as when I arrived, and the chirping birdsong compliments the sea breeze quite beautifully, I reflect with a faint smile as I pace unhurried back towards the road. The saltwater smell makes me think of trips to the beach as a kid and –
And I smell the gun-oil and throw myself to the ground a second before the repeating dry thunderclap of full-auto fire tears the serenity apart like rice paper.
BRAKKA – BRAKKA – BRAKKA!
"So much for – kaff!", I choke on the dirt kicked up by nearby bullets hitting the ground – so much for jumping at nothing, I meant to say, as I roll away from the nearest impacts and spot three men in dark green fatigues firing from the back door and windows of a neighbouring building. G-Corp? Here? Already? That's bad luck even by my own low standards. Their guys are amongst the best-trained professionals in the world so, naturally, all three are dead five seconds later, as I get back up with my pistol smoking in one hand. Training means jack-squat in the field.
My head snaps around at the squealing of tyres on tarmac – it's their back-up, coming off the main road in an armour-plated Humvee, with one man mounting the gunner's position on top. The momentum of the turn makes him slough over to one side, and I rush forward without hesitating – it's the only chance I'll get before he turns the .50-cal my way – even as the damn van's bearing down on me; the driver's leering face is visible through the windshield in the instant before I leap and plant one foot firmly on the bonnet, gritting my teeth as the impact shock jolts up through my hip, then sling my body forwards into a dive even as the Hummer keeps rolling under me. The gunner's recovered but I'm already past the barrel of his gun and reaching out for him with both arms, snaking a grip around his neck before I break it easier than a stranger's promise. His body slumps limply back down inside the vehicle to the sound of shocked yells from his squad mates, yells that only get louder as I drop in to join them, giving the closest guy a firm kick in the jaw before yanking his SMG free from its shoulder-strap and squeezing the trigger as the business end tracks around the tight cabin. The muzzle report for each shot is deafening in such a closed environment, drowning out the voices of the soldiers even before their shortened lives rob them of their speech altogether – but before I go feeling too proud of myself, that little danger tingle comes back, and my eyes widen as I see a wall closing in from the front. Squirming over two corpses, I pull down the latch on the left rear door and let it swing open before pushing myself out, landing in a tight somersault with a grunt. Behind me, the driver-less Hummer finishes its journey by squashing its crumplezone firmly against a few tons of brick and mortar.
There's got to be more – pressing the SMG's stock tight to my shoulder, I swing around in a quick circle – and sure enough, two more G-Corp guys, up on a rooftop this time. The crash clearly took them by surprise; another two muzzle-flashes and I make them pay for that mistake.
It falls quiet after that – too quiet. Yeah, shut up, I went there. Even allowing for this place being the less-busy end of town, somebody should have heard this ruckus by now, yet I haven't heard or seen a single scream or panicking civvy, which means the G boys have this place sealed off, and it'd take lot more men than the ones I just dealt with to do that. No big deal, though. I just need to fall back a bit to the garage, then I'll have enough bullets for all of 'em.
Assuming they actually show up. "C'mon, you weaselly little shits," I call out as I check the magazine in the SMG – eight rounds left, better than nothing, "you can do better than that…"
"Maybe they can't," says another voice, cruel and embittered yet tinged with condescending amusement, and right…behind me. "But surely my attentions will suffice." It's a voice I know too well, and I don't need to look over my shoulder to know how those mismatched eyes are staring at me like I'm something found stuck to the bottom of a shoe, or how the bastard's standing with his shoulders back and his arms folded across his chest like he owns this whole city.
I spit out the name like it's poison. "Kazuya."
He chuckles, and I whirl around, bringing the gun to bear on his predictably-smug face – but before my finger reaches the trigger, his right foot kicks up and knocks the gun clear out of my hands. But I guess I expected that – guns never worked on him before.
Purely on instinct, I narrow my hands into blades and lash out with a quick left-right aimed toward his ugly face and that dumbass head of hair, but he's as quick as ever, taking one step back as he leans first to one side then the next, letting my strikes sail past his still-mocking features with ease. Feinting a repeat attack, I crouch instead and join both hands at the wrist before thrusting a double palm-strike toward his gut – and pain shoots through my arms as he brings one clubbing strike down across my elbows to cut that plan short. An instant later, my vision snaps into blackness for a moment as something rock-hard and sharp – his elbow? – crashes into the back of my skull, and I barely get the chance to fall forwards from that before I see his knee rushing up towards my gut; my arms catch some of the hit, but I still – "Whuhhn!" – cry as my last breath is forcibly expelled from my lungs. Then I'm down on my knees, aching all over and helpless, with my head forced backwards by an iron grip clenched around my ponytail, unable to look at anything except the upside-down face of probably the one man I most want dead out of every person alive. Except for maybe Anna.
Time of battle: eight seconds. He's a Mishima. That's the way it goes.
"From what I hear, you've been busy since my son's unfortunate demise," he says, looking down at me the exact same way he did twenty-odd years ago…
…with a flood of freezing-cold liquid creeping up around the edges of my naked body, strapped to a cruel steel bed, wanting more than anything to pull at the restraints, to break free and tear that smirk right off his face, but rendered immobile by the sedatives at work throughout my system, refusing to let me move even an inch – except for my eyes, just to let me stay awake long enough to comprehend the full horror of what's happening to me…
He says some other things, but I'd be lying if I said I was listening. It's the same tired supervillain crap he's been spouting for years now.
"…there's no reason for us to be enemies anymore, Williams."
Oh come on. "Really? 'Cause that wouldn't go down well with my sis, and you don't wanna see her stroppy," I manage to grunt, hoping it'll buy me some wiggle room – and it does, sort of; he snorts, then shoves me away. Even such a simple action throws me a good twelve feet, but at least my arms break my fall. Footsteps are scuffling on the dusty ground all around me as I push myself up to one knee, rolling the stiffness out of my neck – that'll be the rest of Kazuya's cronies arriving on the scene, circling me like vultures. They keep their fingers off their triggers, though, no doubt waiting for their boss to put me down first.
His shadow falls over me as I look up, squinting as the sun peeks out from over his broad shoulder. In the dark, his miscoloured eye seems to glow crimson from within. "I know you have information that's of great value to me, and I had hoped that we could arrange a deal peacefully. But I suppose you're not as bright as I thought you were." Letting his arms drop from across his chest, he draws breath and raises one leg up, to the point where his foot's aiming for the sky, ready to drop down on my skull like an executioner's axe…
No. Not today. I am not…I will not be treated like a victim by this bastard ever again.
Something raw and primal escapes from my throat as I push myself up, bracing the knee of his kicking leg against my shoulder and swinging my right arm around to crash against his jaw while he simply blinks in surprise. Before he can force himself free, I hook the arm around the back of his neck and – "Hrrrah!" – kick off the ground into a rough somersault, carrying him up and over. How big do you feel now, asshole? is what I feel like saying, but there's not enough time before we land, drawing a sharp cough from him and a thick cloud of dust from the ground.
There's shouting coming from the soldiers – this whole plan depends on them being unwilling to shoot at someone so close to their boss – hell, 'plan' is too strong a word, since even if I do put Kazuya down I'll be swiss-cheesed by their rifles a second later, but a few hundred bullets seems like a fair price right now for wailing on this bastard. Pressing my knee against his throat, I throw the hardest right and left crosses I can remember swinging in years – and even though it feels like my knuckles are cracking on solid marble, he grunts and squeezes his eyes against them. This is actually working. Now give me that arm so I can snap it in two, you overconfident, stupid –
"Guh!" His fist crashes into the side of my skull – dammit, should've tried for both arms instead of just one – and I roll off him, trying to absorb the blow as best I can. It'll give him breathing room, which I'd rather he didn't have, but it can't be helped; and as we both get back to our feet, I can see that aura of smug arrogance has bled out of him. He's worried. That makes me feel good. So good that I don't hesitate for a moment before rushing him.
This doesn't throw him off; he's a Mishima, like I said, and just as stubbornly tough and strong as the rest of that despicable clan…but frankly, I've had enough of being pushed around by those bastards. Just being born to some lucky bloodline – blessed with untouchable skill and power by the miracle of genetic accident – does NOT make Kazuya or anyone on his family tree invincible. And he's getting a reminder of it now; for every four of my strikes he parries or avoids, one breaks his defence, catching him in the flank or joints or stabbing straightened fingertips into his windpipe. Pressure-points can't drop him like they would on, y'know, a normal human being, but they are draining him. A fine sheen of sweat is dripping down his face and staining his collar, and his mouth hangs open constantly, gasping for breath. In turn, his attacks…well, they hurt like hell, no joke, but I've been around Kazuya a long, long time. Even when I haven't been fighting him myself, I've been watching, and by now I've got most of his style down. I know what hits I can afford to take, and what I absolutely have to avoid.
Like, for instance, that uppercut he's sending my way. I lean to the left and bat one forearm against his, making it sail wide of the mark, then raise the heel of my other arm's palm toward his chin. Ol' Kaz is a bit slow to evade, and I crack him on the nose instead, feeling it crumple under my hand before he stumbles backwards a few steps. A dribble of blood starts to leak down over his scowling lips as he leaps forwards again, and I crouch sharply a moment before the tell-tale 'swish' of a rapid whirling kick passing where my head used to be greets my ears. Knowing he'll keep spinning around into a succession of sweeps, I hop into a jumping kick of my own – which catches his head with a crack like a whip, sending Kazuya tumbling out of control. With my heartbeat hammering in my ears, I turn around to face him, catch him rolling onto all fours – screw it, let's live dangerously – and force myself to somersault into a Flip Heel Kick. The jarring impact of my spine on the ground is compensated by the yell he gives as my heel catches the back of his head.
Rolling back away from him, I spare the G-Corp soldiers a smirk; they're still dithering around waiting to be ordered to do something. "Ya know, Kazzy, if our roles were reversed, I'd be telling these guys to shoot through me just to kill you," I snark at him as he pushes himself up with heaving shoulders onto unsteady feet. Figure I've been generous enough with this little break, wouldn't you say? Stepping forward, my left foot lashes out firmly and catches –
Shit shit shit he caught it – and then the world seems to fall away as his fingers tighten around my calf then pull, forcing me up off my other leg, before being spun around limply like a ragdoll taking the brunt of a child's temper tantrum…then the grip relaxes and for a second, I'm flying.
Then there's a wall against my back. "AAAGH!" I tried not to scream there, I really did, but if that wasn't the bricks I heard cracking…I don't wanna think about it. The ringing in my ears blocks out all other sounds as my knees hit the dirt, and I brace my palms on the ground to stop myself from flopping all the way down. Screwing my eyes shut, I chastise myself for being so careless, and I know, I just know I've blown my only chance at taking Kazuya out…but I force myself to stand back up again anyway. It's not like there's any way out of this now.
He's standing a good twelve feet away, folding his arms again, suddenly looking none the worse for wear. Is he just putting on a show? Or was he toying with me all along, deliberately giving me an opening just to test me or make some kind of point? I don't know, and I don't care; I just want to rip that dumb glowing eyeball out of his face before I die. It's not much to ask.
"You're boring me now, woman," he drones idly, taking a half-step back as I make a swing at him which even I'll admit was sloppy. For the next one I sober up a little more, and even when the shot misses I keep the momentum going and turn into a spin-kick, but he ducks it – oh, dammit.
…it's…hard to describe how that fancy punch of his feels. That's partly thanks to the way his chi expresses itself as an electric shock; it basically renders you numb right as the knuckles connect. So the pain only really hits home a second later, after you've been knocked up into the air and landed in an undignified heap.
But rest assured, it hurts like a motherfucker.
His footfalls on the dusty ground are faint as he approaches, but I listen for them as hard as I can, just so my mind doesn't choose to black out on me. I can feel my arms and legs, but they don't want to move right now, and my head is just a jumble of 'ow', 'ouch', and 'oh god make it stop'. The one piece of good news is that by sheer luck I had my mouth hanging open when he hit me, so my jaw's not broken. Even so, my teeth slammed together so hard I expect some are threatening to fall out, and my mouth's filling with blood from my gums. Can't afford to swallow it now, I'll just choke on it.
Then his fingers clamp tightly shut around my neck, and not choking becomes a whole lot harder. I think my stomach gets left behind when he lifts me up off the ground, leaving an awkward feeling of empty space in my guts that's soon accompanied by the numbing sensation of miscued circulation to my feet as they dangle helplessly in place. At least I can afford to clear my mouth now – giving a feeble cough that dribbles hot, sticky blood over my chin and his fingers. He doesn't seem to notice, content to simply burn a hole through me with that freakish glare of his.
"If you are so determined to be obstinate…that is your choice to make. I have some of the best forensics scientists in the world on my payroll – I'm sure they can divulge your secrets from your corpse." He bares his teeth…and a chill passes through me as a faint, rippling aura grows around him, swelling out from within to wrap him in flickering flames. A moment later, a wide gash spreads across his forehead, revealing a yellow, sickly-looking third eyeball – it's the Devil Gene, something ancient and terrible that I can only pretend to understand on a scientific level.
So, through a fog of pain and considerable panic, I do something that's not scientific in the least – swing my arm up and jam my thumb into that third eye.
The effect is immediate. "EEEEYAAAARGH!" Kazuya screams – really screams, like I've never heard him do so before – and twists around so sharply I nearly get a headrush and oh he's let go –
"Guh!" The dusty ground catches me like a speeding car again – Kazuya didn't so much 'let me go' as throw me away…and as I skid along, I find myself slipping onto cold, flat concrete again. Back in the garage. You've got a chance, one chance – look over your shoulder, there's a gun on the little equipment trolley you didn't put back in its box earlier. The trolley falls over when I clumsily tug on it, and the gun – a Colt M2014, standard US Army issue – drops into my lap. With shaking hands, I level it towards Kazuya, just as he turns to face me. Our eyes meet again, and the moment seems to drag on for a whole minute…I could put one slug right through his head from here. Probably. Figure my aim's still okay even after all the knocks. But. He doesn't look scared. He can see the gun and he just doesn't give a damn. Maybe he's trying to psych me out, maybe he's just incredibly arrogant…I just don't know.
And I can't take the chance.
The recoil jolt travels all the way up to my neck, making me strike the ground with the back of my skull as the shot hits home – and the control panel on the wall fizzes, sparks – then lets the reinforced shutters drop down with an echoing clang, sealing me off from Kazuya and his flunkies, for now at least. I'm a coward, I know, but shut up. I'm hurting here.
Groaning with every strain, I push myself up…slowly…feeling the distinctive, sharp stab of a broken rib or two whenever I flex my abdomen. And that's to say nothing about my head, which feels like it's trapped in a vice. Still, could be worse. I could be trapped, alone, inside a fortified garage with only one exit, which I just broke the controls for. Oh, wait. Ahaha.
Krasshh! The shutters rock from a heavy impact – more than likely Kazuya simply trying to punch his way in, guy has a one-track mind – but stand firm. There's some assorted shouting going on from his soldiers, probably planning on fetching C4 blocks or acetylene torches to try and force their way inside, but their boss' voice drowns the others out. "Running like a coward, Williams?! You used to at least have the courage to stand your ground before your betters – or has my son let some of his bad habits brush off on you?"
Keep talking, you pointy-haired freak, I want to shout back, but…who am I kidding, I've locked myself in a concrete box. Even with all the spare firepower around – I stare longingly at a rack of slightly dusty P90s, but know they're about as much use as a hiccup against a Mishima. The sound of sharp crackling makes my head jerk around; they must be torching the door, but they've not burned all the way through yet. That gives me time, to, to…
…to die in a blaze of glory? Sounds about right. At least that's technically a mission complete, even if no-one'll ever know. And I'm not gonna kid myself into thinking I'd be able to resist interrogation indefinitely; sooner or later, Kazuya's goons would make me crack, and then the world goes to hell in a hand basket all thanks to me. Although really, it's not so much the stakes that worry me as the thought of losing to him. It actually gives me no small sense of inner peace to know that whatever I do next, I won't have to put up with his smug attitude any more…
…okay, girl. Okay. Deep breaths. You knew this day was coming – nobody in this line of work gets a cosy retirement, and if you deal death to others on a regular basis you've got no right to be surprised when it comes looking for you. Just be brave and do what you've got to do.
"Or maybe figure out what I've got to do first," I mumble to myself, hobbling around on the spot, looking for something to inspire me. Frag grenades aren't enough, I need something with a little more explosive kick. My eyes are drawn back to the jeep under the tarp – if it's got a full tank, maybe I can rig it to blow on command; that'll splatter me into enough pieces they'll never be able to put me back together again. My ribs flare up again as I reach out and pull the tarp away, but –
Wait. That's not a jeep.
"Oh…baby, baby…" A giggle slips from between my lips as I stumble closer to the machine squatting in the centre of the room, the light from overhead gleaming on its polished black steel armour. Four pistoned legs lay curled beneath the bulk of its malformed body. Dulled crimson eyes stare towards the shutters from over a fixed, leering jawline. As my fingertips touch its surface, I can feel warmth and gentle vibrations – this thing's been running on standby for days, if not weeks, waiting. It's one of the NANCY units – heavy-duty battle mecha that, so I'd heard, had all been committed to the front lines and summarily destroyed over prolonged combat. Honestly, I'd always thought the things were stupid, lacking in mobility and making for very easy targets to enemy air support, but finding one here, expressly for my own sake, makes me want to cry a little.
The telltale crackle-hiss of a blowtorch getting to work on the shutter dissolves my euphoria like a glass of acid, but that's okay. I've got this well in hand now. Moving around to the mecha's front – wincing as I accidentally send another trolley clattering to the floor – I pry open the latches over the service panel with trembling fingers, then crouch down as the dirt-encrusted monitor lights up. A flickering laser runs over my right eyeball before everything turns a reassuring shade of green. Text starts to form across the screen, one agonisingly sluggish character at a time…
"Active," I say aloud, knowing the fancy voice-recognition software will understand me.
"Williams, Nina." Hurry up you colossal sardine tin, I don't have all day…
"Exfiltration over five miles, no pursuers. Weapons free."
The screen switches itself off, and from somewhere within the robot's chassis I can hear heavy gears and pistons thump into life. The red optic lenses mounted on its garish head glow brightly, and joints left unused for months creak as they flex. Slamming the access panel shut with a grin, I reach up and – just – gimme a moment – ugh, pull myself up on top of the machine, bracing my legs on its weaponry as I go, before shimmying around to face front and laying as flat as I can. Suffice to say the NANCYs were never meant to be troop carriers, but I'd rather not be on the ground when it gets going…
I swear the concrete cracks under its foot when it takes that first step. The torch, already 2/3rds of the way through cutting a man-sized hole, stops abruptly, and though I don't hear them I can imagine the G-Corp soldiers backing away in concern. Probably not backing away far enough, though…
"Whoa - !" My stomach lurches as the robot suddenly rises up on its rear legs, smashing its own head and shoulders into the ceiling and sending a cloud of dust and broken masonry chips down over me. I squeeze my eyes shut against it – and then don't see but feel the machine lunge forwards, with the impact on the shutter barely sending a tremble through its immense frame. A dozen or more voices cry out in alarm and confusion before being drowned out by the whine of rotating Gatling barrels, and I open my eyes again just in time for the fireworks. Brilliant orange tracer rounds the size of my fist fly from the mecha's left arm at 1,200 per second; the soldiers caught in the line of fire don't so much die as explode, losing whole limbs and heads to a single bullet, their torsos catching enough flak to turn them into a fine red mist. The ones who manage to run farther are tracked by red lasers before guided missiles erupt from the machine's shoulder pods, leaving thick smoke plumes in their wake as they bear down on their targets and detonate at their feet, sending shattered, torn bodies flying across the square, crumpling against walls and smashing through windows.
Too much smoke now, I can barely see – didn't notice Kazuya anywhere in amidst the ruckus –
"WILLIAMS - !"
Oh, great! The voice comes from behind my right shoulder; I roll to my left and a moment later, Kazuya's red-gloved fist crashes into the robot's armour plating, actually leaving a dent in the shape of his knuckles. He's clinging onto the side of the NANCY with his mouth twisted into an animal's snarl, trails of blood still leaking from the ruined third eyeball. I send a kick his way that catches him firmly on the chin, but he doesn't budge; trying again just gets me a pointed elbow crashing against my calve, drawing a short yell of pain from my throat. God, why won't this bastard just die?
An iron grip fastens around my leg, and my own fingerhold is overpowered as I'm pulled down onto the side of the machine, barely hanging on with my feet perched on the oscillating limbs – "Guh!" – a snap-jab to the face redirects my attention forwards in time to see Kazuya winding up for another. I block that hit with the one arm I can spare, but I can't do anything about the following kick to the gut that leaves me winded. "WHEN WILL YOU LEARN, YOU FEEBLE WRETCH? YOU ARE NOTHING TO ME! NOTHI – "
Crunch! He gets cut-off in mid-yell by a titanic steel claw clamping shut around his entire head; I see a note of panic in Kazuya's one human eye before NANCY flexes and peels him off its side like a pesky tick, and then slams him into the ground with an echoing thud.
And then does it again, and again, and again, Kazuya's limbs flopping around like a ragdoll with each motion.
If I wasn't choking on dust, completely exhausted and hanging on for dear life, I don't know how I'd stop laughing.
After a few more swings, NANCY dismisses its target – or gets bored, maybe – and tosses Kazuya away through the wall of a nearby house. Dead? Not likely, knowing him. But out of the picture for the time being. With a fresh gasp of pain for every motion, I pull myself back up on top of the robot as it steps over the carpet of bodies covering the square, following its orders in its own, clunky way.
Two down. Two to go.
... ... ...
Yeah, so…still at this. Slowly- reeeaally slowly – but surely chipping away at it. I mostly blame my job, like I do for most things, for sapping my creativity.
Anyway…this chapter. It's actually hard for me to really talk about it in full, since there were such long gaps involved in writing it. Unlike the last one, though, not a lot changed from the initial idea to where it wound up, save for the deletion of a middle chapter intended to bridge this and CH6. That would've been set on a boat as Nina took a ferry to Australia, and had generally non-violent meetings with King and Marduk. Ultimately I dumped it since it served little purpose, would slow me down even more, and there wasn't much to be gained from having Nina talk to those two besides maybe some silly jokes.
I think the overall violence level went up with this chapter, which was totally intentional, but my apologies to anyone who read it and thought, "Why is everyone using guns? This is Tekken, not Call of Duty!" That…should change if and when the next few chapters get done; Nina won't be taking on another platoon of soldiers anytime soon. Another thing I hope came across well is the physical toll of battle; although there will definitely be cheating shortcuts here and there, I do want to make no bones about Nina getting broken down and burned out by her ongoing campaign, and injuries suffered here will impact her in future chapters.
Now, Kazuya…I'm not totally happy with how he turned out here, but I can't find a way to really improve on him. I think I made it clear how powerful and dangerous he is, so mission accomplished there; it's just kinda hard to write dialogue for the guy that has range beyond 'confident'. In the games he's just so controlled he's practically an ice sculpture, so having him lose his temper and do a little Bond Villain posturing was a risk. For the record, I do like Kazuya, and I like him 100% capital-E Evil. I do not believe he 'loves' Jun on any level; his impregnating her was, to me, wholly the actions of the Devil, both ensuring its own survival by essentially splitting its essence into a second body, and taking no little twisted pleasure in corrupting such a of the smarter touches in the 2010 Tekken film, but I'll say no more on that subject here in case the wrath of the internet descends upon me…
Also, NANCY. It's a giant robot. I can't not love a giant robot. That's really all there is to it.
Now, my latest (er, relatively speaking) reviewer:
Aegis Khaos: I swear I'll get round to giving you more feedback on 'Kings & Queens' soon, man, really. :P I guess we are both bound to the same force of universal suffering or somesuch. And yeah, I knew you were gonna give me hell for Geoff! I didn't want to do it at first, but trying to launch a light aircraft from Siberia in the middle of a snowstorm would've been even more impossible than landing it there, and I wanted to keep shaking things up, so two chapters with the same plane-related intro would be dull. As for Zombie Richard…I really didn't actually think of making him a factor in Nina's fight with Dragunov. That probably would have made sense, and been interesting, but I guess I was trying to rush through that part so it never really came up. Derpy derpy derp me. Nontheless, there will be more Richard in future – heck, there's more in this chapter – and I'm sure his ghostly presence will continue to be a thorn in Nina's side.
Next time: Uhm…I forgot. Gimme a sec. *consults plan* Oh, right. Ahem. Nina's on her way to merry old England, but at a stopover in a French airport, she's reunited with – no, not Lili, she annoys me – her former comrade Eddy Gordo, now left with neither an employer nor a master, and itching to vent his frustrations on someone…also guest-starring someone I can't talk about!