"Duty Bound"

A quiet, abandoned factory lay dormant in nights enveloping darkness within the 7th district of Academy City. Only the sound of lovers can interrupt its silence as a young man and teenage girl sneak in through the front door. The main room was almost bare bar a few boxes. A few chairs and a control panel with an automated door next to it were the only other outstanding features. The girl stood a little over five foot and wore a beige high school woollen vest and white shirt with a tan skirt. The obvious difference separating her from any other teenager was a set of high-tech green glowing goggles on her head.

"Hey this place is pretty sweet, how'd you find it?" the young man asks the child. He stood just less than six foot and wore a tropical patterned shirt with black trousers and possessed an obscenely large backpack. The girl didn't respond for a few moments, she was moving things around the room, shifting the very little furniture present. She pulled out a guitar case from behind a pile of boxes and opens the buckles.

" "Work" MISAKA replies" she responded, talking in third person. She opens the guitar case and looks up to see the young man moving towards her. In a panic she pulls out a rifle from the case and kicks it away in the man's direction. The child then proceeds to lay a volley of fire on him. However, he stands still not even bothered by the hot lead coming his way.

"I thought you were a bit too easy. Coming on to me, bringing me to a secluded spot in the dead of the night... Ha. Well who put you up to it? What's the bounty?" A flurry of questions comes from the man who was not even fazed by a barrage of bullets. The bullets seemed to dance around him.

The shock expression on the child's face told the story of her inner thoughts; disgust, contempt and outright fear appeared in all their colours on the face of an innocent child, with the eyes of a war veteran. Out of ammo, she makes a dash for the guitar case and snatches a few magazines and a couple of stray bullets then proceeds to pour them into her pockets before receiving a blow to the head, shattering the goggles that were resting calmly on top of her brow on a few moments ago. The child riled in pain as the goggles' shards fall and impregnates the skin around her eyes.

"Well, lucky I never pack light, don't you say?" he commented, removing a tool-belt and grenades from the backpack along with some plastic explosives. All the while, the girl cries in pain in front of him until she notices the distinct sound of a pulled grenade pin. With all mustered strength, she moves an unwilling body towards her rifle and flees to a corner of the room, passing a few support structures.

The man throws a grenade in her direction, to which the child responds with evasive manoeuvres incapable of regular human beings, more or less a girl her age. Firing a few pot shots whilst retreating, she backs into a support structure she just past, but this time a feint ticking noise can be heard.

A sick grin develops on the man's face as he pulls a detonator out of his backpack and clamps on the trigger. Diving out of the way of the collapsing pylon, the girl receives a sharp pain in her leg; shrapnel of the previously exploded grenades had been forced into her leg from the last detonation. A dust cloud forms from the fallen pylon and the girl uses this time to remove the larger parts of the shrapnel and flees into the next room.

The next room seems much more technical than the previous; machines, storage boxes and fuel tanks populated its interior with other doors leading further into the factory, each accompanied with a control panel. Near that were more control panels similar to the one outside. More explosions are heard in the previous room as he yells for her to show herself.

The child moves towards a large cylinder in the corner of the room, limping from the shrapnel wound. Her head continues to bleed from the glass stuck around her forehead and eyes. Her vision beings to blur, her bloodied hand rests upon the cylinder and she squints to make out the writing on the abrasive, course steel. Receiving a slight glimpse at the words alone made a sickly smile appear on her face. She turned, awaiting her target with rifle equipped.

"Oh, you haven't bled out? You're going to be a bit more fun than I thought. Congratulate yourself." utters the shadow of the target, striding slowly closer towards the child. She returns him no words, but a smile that would shatter mirrors. He stumbles upon viewing her expression and mumbles the words; "O-Oh. You're awfully happy for a dead man, aren't you?"

" "I'm not dead yet" declares MISAKA as she reloads her rifle with tracer rounds." The girl responds with. She removes the magazine from the rifle, emptying the unused bullets from the cartridge and placing 3 red-tipped bullets in before reattaching the magazine to the gun. The metallic twang of the bullets hitting the concrete floor of the large room echoes an eerie silence throughout the factory.

"W-What is different ammo going to change? You still can't hit me with them" he stutters, reaching for a grenade on his belt. A bullet whizzes towards him, refracting around him. It hits a large box behind him and causes sirens to whirl. The doors shut close and "EMERGENCY" lights above them flash. The child's rifle barrel points straight from the bullets' trajectory. Her grin turns to a smirk.

" "Don't do that" warns MISAKA as she designates locations of interest around the room". Her finger points to large cylindrical vats around the room, much the same as the ones behind her.

"Those are-"

" "Hydrogen vats " interrupts MISAKA as she assumes your stupidity will make you look foolish and saves you from such a fate."

A wash of terror runs over the man as an understanding of his situation is bestowed upon him. The base of a tracer round is filled with pyrotechnics; pyrotechnics that will cause hydrogen to burn violently, sucking the oxygen from the surrounding air. This isn't even factoring in the amount stored in a vat or how well compressed it is. The child moves her gun to her chin. The short brown hair belonging to the child falls over her eyes and all that can be seen on her face is the trickle of blood and the same sickening smile reappearing.

" "What would be a more painful death?" Rhetorically asks MISAKA. "Death by gunshot, or a death by an inferno and lack of oxygen." " Quizzes the girl, taunting her opponent. "MISAKA knows from experience, but will let you find out on your own"

She moves the barrel from her chin and fumbles to grip it in one hand to point at the vat. The extra weight of the accessories attached to it makes handling with one hand near the trigger extremely difficult. As her arm wavers and the gun mimics, she fires a bullet into the vat. A loud 'ting' noise resonates as the bullet hits an inner support and bounces off, unable to penetrate the exterior. Her smirk disappears and she turns to find the man running at her with a plastic explosive in hand. With a tremendous blow, he knocks her to the ground and attaches the explosive to the lower part of her shirt. Taking a few steps back, the man removes a detonator from his backpack.

"Now, now. Let's think this through. You move, I blow your body into tiny little chunks, understand?"

The child's face becomes expressionless for mere moments. She notices her rifle more than a foot away and with only one round left. She comes to a realization that her death via the explosion would kill him by igniting the vats in the room. From this thought, a loud forced laugh resonates from the girl.

" "You haven't quite grasped what you are up against" declares MISAKA as she laughs at your stupidity" the girl announces and moves towards the vat and rubs up against it, attaching the explosive to the vat. Her sweater attaches itself as well and she removes it, leaving it limply connected to the vat. She turns to find the man has fled towards the locked doors. The explosive threat was merely a ruse to try and buy him some time to escape. She gives chase after retrieving her rifle from the ground.

The man notices her presence and turns, taking a fighting stance. Leading with a rifle butt blow, following up with a kick the child knocks the man against a nearby vat. Sliding down to the ground he discovers the child standing over him. Her shirt and skirt wavers as hydrogen seeps out of the vat the man was slammed into. Embarrassment may have overtaken the killer instinct as her undergarments become dangerously visible. This provides enough of a distraction for the man to sweep her legs and put her into a choke hold. Struggling to breathe and slowly blacking out, the child reaches for the displaced rifle and kicks it towards herself in the struggle. Gripping the weapon and holding it to her face, she pulls the trigger.

BANG.

A lifeless, bloody corpse of the child lay on the concrete floor. The blood runs and pools underneath the vat. Unscathed, the man tosses aside her corpse and wipes the blood from his hands onto his trousers. Regaining his breathe, he examines the altered path the bullet took after passing through the child's skull into the wall aside of the vat. With the hydrogen still whistling the man proceeds to the door trying to force it open. Unable to do so, he scans the room for an alternative exit with increasing haste. A locked room and a deadly gas isn't a pleasant situation.

With great fortune he discovers a window within reach of storage boxes piled on top of each other. He makes his way towards the window and shatters the glass with his already bloodied fist. Looking down from the window at the height of the drop, he notices a series of plastic explosives stuck on the wall. The fluorescent blinks are a dead giveaway, even for a civilian.

Then he spots it, the same girl as before at the bottom of the building giving him a somewhat intrusive look. He checks back at the vat to see the girl dead in a pool of her own blood and doubles back to the exact same person at the bottom of the building.

From the corner of his eye, the man views a sharp glint. Following said glint, one by one the explosives begin to detonate creeping along the building's wall until finally exploding underneath him.

From the glint's source lays an enormous sniper rifle, its barrel smoking. Standing above it staring blankly into the night sky stands the same child from inside the factory and at the ground outside.

" "MISAKA 4598 reports target has possibly been decommissioned" says MISAKA as she requests confirmation on targets status"

" "MISAKA 3490 reports that the target fell within the pre-determined kill-zone and is requesting backup from MISAKA 3009 and MISAKA 5560 who are within deployment radius" "

"LAST ORDER detects-detects a cease in functioning of unit 7443. Unit is within infected "CANCEL ORDER" batch, so MISAKA is requesting-requesting that you confirm that unit's status along with target"

A conversation occurs between the girl and unknown entities through what seems to be telekinesis. The girl from the sniper's post begins to dismantle her weapon and departs into the city night whilst the girl near the site of the detonated explosives moves to enter the factory and is met with two identical beings. The three of them, armed with identical rifles, goggles and clothes to the child inside the factory as well themselves, move to enter and discover the remnants of the battle held within. Explosion craters, a destroyed support structures, gunpowder residue and used ammunition scatter the main room.

One of the three girls approaches the terminal for the doors as the other two search the room. She lowers her goggles and they begin to glow a dark green. Placing her hand on the terminal, electricity begins to spark from her hand and the door's mechanism burst open.

Within lay both the explosive munitions man and the child. The child had long been dead; her blood had darkened and became hard, the gun barrel and handle covered with the darkened blood. A grovelling image of the man is also identifiable. The girl with her goggles already equipped moves towards the man, who only just realises their presence and tries to scurry away. Held down by the girl, she smiles to the others who are busy placing the dead child in a body bag.

" "Remember me" asks MISAKA as she greets you friendly." This girl, as well, speaks in third person. The man's face turns to shock as he tries to grasp his words to respond to her question. " "MISAKA told you, didn't she? You have no idea what you were up against" says MISAKA as she revels in your horrified expression."

The girl in her goggles places her hand on the man's heart and begins to generate electricity in it, sending the voltage into the man. He convulses due to the current surging through him, only to be left with a horrific expression engraved on his face.

" "Target is confirmed dead, unit 7443 fatally wounded from combat. Preliminary forensics determines suicide." informs MISAKA, as she moves her attention to transporting the unresponsive unit."

With the man dead and the dead girl in a body bag for transport, the three girls leave the factory. On the way out, with one of the girls carrying the dead girl on her shoulder they come face to face with a boy. He was sulking and dragging his feet until he fell with a loud thud, as one should when they take such an approach to walking in the dead of the night. Scratching his head and mumbling something along the lines of "just my luck", he turns his attention to the 3 girls who are almost in front of him. He stares blankly at them and they return a similar gaze. Without a word they continue away from the location, redirecting their attention towards a distant destination and move off into the darkness.

Left speechless, the boy returns home. Thinking what he saw was just his imagination; he had no clue of the battle he faced ahead of him in the coming days. This is Academy City, the city where science has taken a new form and has become an uncontrollable, malignant and destructive force.

"Duty Bound"

END