What follows is a collaborative effort by the Cyborg Central Gunslinger Girl Forum. It features multiple authors writing with little or no knowledge of what their fellow authors are doing, with one writer/editor assembling the story.
As of today the story is incomplete and open for submissions. If you are a writer interested in participating, pay us a visit on the forum.
Hunters in the Dolomites
By Prof. Voodoo
Spring had come to Alto Adigein the foothills of South Tyrol. While the high mountain peaks to the north had not yet given up their snowy caps the lowlands were abloom with grasses and wildflowers enjoying the return of vernal sun.
Through this idyllic landscape Marisa scrambled from rock to rock, at times getting a little further ahead than her handler would have liked. If she were not so easily distracted the young cyborg would have outdistanced her Master by kilometers by now. "Mari...slow down a bit," Elio called ahead to her, "the map says we're getting close."
"I can see the house!" she reported back, "And Triela & Mr. Hillshire too."
"Well get down then, if you can see the safe-house they can see you too!"
Not likely thought Marisa, but she kept that sentiment to herself. Elio was always giving her the business about not being careful enough and she didn't feel like getting that lecture on such a nice day. The Padania safe-house was still over a kilometer away and any lookouts would have to be using a pretty impressive set of binoculars to spot her on the grassy hillside. Further away she could see two figures approaching from the North, Triela and Mr. Hillshire right on schedule. Mari crouched down and held onto the rocks to stabilize herself and make the most of her enhanced vision. "Oh my gosh...Elio! Come up here! You have to see what they're wearing!"
"Never known you to be a fashionista," grumbled the handler, catching up with his charge at last, "you must be spending too much time around Kara." He sat down on the rock where she was crouching and took a mouthful of water from the leather bag around his neck.
"Seriously Elio, you gotta see this" she insisted, raiding his backpack for the binoculars and thrusting them into his hands.
Much slower than she would have liked, Elio focused the glasses and scanned the hillside until he picked out the other fratello moving down the trail. A snort of a laugh escaped Alboreto's lips in spite of himself. "Marisa, normally I would tell you not to make fun of what other people choose to wear, but in this case I've got to agree with you." He pulled his Agency satellite phone from his pocket and dialed Victor Hillshire.
"This is Hillshire."
"Victor, you look like an extra from The Sound of Music."
Elio could hear Triela's voice in the background; "We look like what?" No cyborg had any difficulty hearing a mobile phone speaker from meters away and her disdain for musicals was well known around Section Two.
The German was quick to defend himself. "I'll have you know this is authentic Bavarian Tracht, and it's the perfect outfit for this kind of hiking."
"I'll take you at your word for it" chuckled the older man, "just remind me to get a photo of you & Triela in leather shorts and braces to show around the Agency."
"I have no reason to be ashamed of my national heritage" Hillshire retorted.
That drew even more teasing from his colleague. "Victor...you're from the Moselle Valley, not Bavaria! That's like Fernando wearing a cowboy hat just because he's a Yank!"
"Alboreto, aren't you running low on mobile minutes yet?" grumbled Hillshire.
It was with this jovial attitude that the two fratelli zeroed in on their target...a relatively soft target at that. There were reportedly five Padania agents holed up in a safe-house north of Merano. Normally this would not have merited the deployment of two fratello teams but "business" had been slow lately and as most of Section Two was home on compound the Agency could easily afford the extra girlpower. With Alboreto approaching from the south and Hillshire coming down out of the northern hills they planned to hit the safe-house from two directions.
Both teams were in position; the cyborgs would attack the front and back doors while their handlers stayed behind to provide fire support should any Five Republics Faction agents escape. Crouched behind some rocks Marisa gave her Kel-Tech RBF a last minute check and stuffed a few extra magazines in her cargo shorts. "Doubt I'll need these" she commented but Elio was quick to correct her casual attitude.
"I know this is a milk run, but that's no reason to get complacent. Easy missions get cocked-up very easily."
"Yes sir" she replied with a nod to affirm her focus. For his part, Elio was setting up his H&K G3/SG1 on a bipod. Marisa noted that he was trying out a new scope and could not resist pointing it out. "So...easy missions are a good opportunity to try out new gear?" she asked rhetorically. Elio did not quantify her remark with a response.
Hillshire was still on the line. "You two ready?"
"We're both ready," Alboreto confirmed, "lets switch to radios and get a comm check."
Triela & Marisa already had their headset radios on and once the handlers had donned their own all four ran through a quick equipment check. "Everything sounds good...Victor, you give the go signal when you're ready."
From opposite directions the two cyborgs sprinted out of hiding, covering the last 150 meters to the safe-house at Olympic level speed. Even at this torrid pace Mari could not resist a little comm chatter teasing of her elder sister. "Are you gonna make it to your door on time or should I just kill all five before you get there?"
"Big talk short stuff...but I promise to leave one alive for you so you don't feel bad about going back to compound with a big zero on your score-card." Both handlers keyed their radios to chide the girls for casual chatter but they hit their buttons at the same time, thereby canceling out both transmissions.
With longer legs and a more powerful Series One body Triela had an easier time of covering the sprint across rocky ground, but Marisa's dogged ferocity and competitive streak would not allow her to be beaten to the chalet. Both girls arrived at the same instant and without losing an ounce of momentum crashed through their respective doors. Aware that there were an odd number of targets to be split between them, neither cyborg was willing to end the day with a lesser score than her sister.
The sight that greeted them upon bursting into the alpine chalet was not of five heavily armed Padania terrorists. At first count Triela saw at least three times that number...milling around casually, preparing food and watching a tennis match on TV. They looked at both gun-toting girls with surprise, and for a few shell-shocked seconds everyone in the room was so completely silent that it was possible to hear the commentary on the television clearly. Hearing no shots, Hillshire's voice broke the quiet. "Triela, Marisa, report...what's going on?"
"Get them!" yelled a grizzled, one-eyed veteran, reaching for a Škorpion sub-machine gun.
"Oh shit..." Triela muttered, and let loose one deafening blast from her shotgun before diving into a defensive position behind a sofa. Marisa rushed the kitchen, blasting the area with a full magazine of 7.62mm before making a face first slide behind the counter. She rolled over, and after a quick check to make sure the two Padania men lying beside here were in fact dead and not just covered in ketchup, ejected her empty magazine and slammed in a fresh one.
"Hillshire, we got bad intel!" yelled Triela over her radio, "This place is crawling with Padania...at least 20...more coming out of the bedrooms!"
"Copy, get yourselves out of there!" barked her handler in response.
Triela got up on her knees and fired two more shells. "Did you hear that Mari? Bug out!"
"Kinda busy right now!" the redhead answered. She was backed into a corner, trying to defend two vulnerable firing vectors at once.
"Both of you, get low and crawl out!" ordered Elio Alboreto. From his position 150 meters away he began firing at any target that appeared in his scope, shattering glass windows & doors. Hillshire followed his lead, pounding the building with suppressive fire in the hopes that it would give the girls a chance to reach an exit.
Inside was a scene of chaos. Very few of the Padania soldiers had actually stood to fight. Unclear on the size of the force attacking them most were grabbing weapons and supplies and running for the doors. Cars poured from the garage...more than it seemed could reasonably fit inside the structure. Elio & Hillshire had set up specifically to mop up any escapees like this but with their partners in danger they had to concentrate their attention on the chalet.
"Hillshire! Mr. Alboreto! Hold your fire...I repeat, hold fire!" demanded Triela.
The two handlers locked their weapons down and began a fast advance on the house. Their pace was not nearly as rapid as that achieved by the cyborgs but adrenaline pushed the two middle aged men quicker than they normally would have gone. Upon entering the chalet they breathed a sigh of relief.
Save for Triela & Marisa, who had suffered nothing worse than a few bruises and splinters from flying wood, the house was empty of living souls. Seven lay dead but the rest had escaped. Triela stood up from her hiding place and gave voice to what was on everyone's mind; "What the hell just happened?"
As soon as Hillshire & Alboreto checked in SWA headquarters became a madhouse of activity. Triela's assessment had been correct; bad intel resulting from the simplest of decoding mistakes. At the center of the storm was one miserable intelligence analyst. Poor Genco Ribisi had only been with the Agency a few months, a low level desk-agent under Priscilla's command. Upon learning the secret of Section Two he had fallen in love with the job, regularly staying late after to help the cyborgs with homework, act as referee for their games or just listen to them talk about their days. The thought that his simple decoding error...mistaking 50 for 5 on an encrypted Public Safety intel dispatch...had placed two of them in mortal danger was devastating to him. Ribisi sat despondently in the corner of the conference room, looking as if he had aged a dozen years in only one day. His supervisor stood next to him with a re-assuring hand on his shoulder, but there was little Priscilla could say to ameliorate the gravity of his screw-up.
Surrounded by a whirlwind of activity, Pieri Lorenzo strode into the conference room. He wasted no time on formalities. "Ladies & gentlemen, we just got really lucky...perhaps twice. The Padania could have dealt us a costly loss today but they missed their opportunity. Furthermore, we can still pull out a big win here. I've just been on the phone with the Minister of Defense; she's got Carabinieri & regular Army sealing off all the main roads in the area. At least 43 remaining Padans are trapped in a reasonably sealed-off area...it's up to us to go in and mop them up. Time is of the essence, people. We can nail these bastards if we work fast.
"Ferro; you and Jean set up a remote command post. Doctors Donato & Bergonzi will join you in the mobile command RV as soon as Olga can get it up there but I want you to go by helicopter. We'll be sending every available fratello into action.
"Jean; you'll be in charge but don't keep Rico out of the action, she's too valuable in the field. If you're stuck running things at forward HQ send her out with another team.
"Priscilla; set up a high speed link with forward HQ and start decoding every Padania transmission from anywhere in the world. Priority goes to anything intercepted by the field teams but don't let other messages sit around, even if they seem low-priority. Anything could be important.
"The choppers on hand can only carry half our teams so split our force in two. Giuseppe, I want you in charge of the mobilization for the second force...co-ordinate with your brother about who's on the first & second wave. Buona fortuna everyone."
With a nod, Chief Lorenzo signaled he was done talking. Before he left the leader of Section Two paused to address Genco. "It was a tough break, Ribisi...mistakes happen. I need you to put it behind you though. There's a job to do and I need every member of this team focused on the job, not past mistakes, capito?"
"Yes sir" Genco replied, forcing an affirmative smile onto his dour face.
"Good," Lorenzo told him, "providence willing we're all going to remember these next few days as a success, not a failure."