She's A Pass

May 6th, 2019
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  1. Fog is a rare sight in Iron City. No more than once a winter does the thick damp settle over the streets, creeping its way in to every nook and cranny. Footsteps are muffled as people scuttle through the narrow alleys of the world around them; staying close to the walls lest they disappear in the spaces between. A girl breaks away from the scarce groupings in these angular pathways, heading towards the barren Factory grinders. Though her heavy coat and boots cover most of her narrow frame, wisps of blonde hair occasionally escape her hood. She hugs the alley walls, trusting the fog to keep her hidden. She pulls the dark bandanna a little higher over her nose, to fend off the same fog filling her lungs. Not far now. Her hand finds its way under her coat, feeling first for the deadly edges of the knives hidden there. Their cloth-wrapped handles are a comfort in the oppressive chill around her. Her hand drifts deeper, until it touches the slick holo-plastic of her newly pressed ID card. She fumbles for a moment before pulling it out; seeing the sharp angles of her face and sky-blue eyes simulated in the portrait on the card. The identification numbers push her name to the very edge of the card: Anya. It shows the Factory’s priorities with Hunter Warriors. The orange glow helps keep the fog at bay as she finally arrives at the open loading zone. The low thump of the grinding rollers’ recursive cycles provides a steady rhythm as Anya moves towards a shadowy corner of the square. Still, this area of Iron City is better-lit than most.
  3. Anya finds a hiding spot behind a twisted pile of parts and rusted scrap metal and as she crouches down she runs over her plan again. Her mark will arrive; the cyborg-killer Stain. He will exchange whatever grotesquities are kept in the dripping sacks he carries with the shady contact he meets, just as he has done every Thursday. Once the contact has left, Anya will leap out of hiding, throwing her daggers at the fleshy torso which houses the lightning whips that have made him such a lucrative target. Once he’s down, it’s a simple matter of returning the head to the nearest Factory. It’s a good plan, she thinks. So, she waits, hands clenched on the hilts of her weighted knives until her knuckles turn white as the chill around her starts to seep through her coat. Minutes drip by like the flow of gutter oil and she wishes desperately that she could check the time; anything to break up the unbearable wait. Movement could mean exposure though, and exposure surely means death.
  5. Finally, muffled footsteps break the monotonous rhythm of the rollers, and Anya watches as a shape appears through the fog. Though the figure’s tattered cloak covers much of its body, the dripping from the bag it carries, and the width of its shoulders- twice as wide as Anya’s own- confirms it as Stain. The cyborg-killer waits in the middle of the square, tapping his foot as he scans the area for the contact. The fog has slowly started to lift, and as Anya watches she properly notices his height, or rather, lack thereof. Most cyborgs tend to choose to be taller when they get their rebuilds. Just between where the cloak ends and his hair begins runs a silvery glint of metal. It’s too far away to see in detail. Her leg muscles twitch as they beg for a release in the tension. She grits her teeth and waits, and finally the scuttling of mechanical feet on concrete indicates the arrival of Stain’s contact.
  7. The exchange they have is brief, with the contact’s body blocked by Stain’s wide frame, leaving Anya struggling to catch a glimpse of him. The clink of credits being passed across and the watery thump of a sack being dropped indicates the end of this deal. Anya cringes at the sound, but before her mind can spiral in to imagining the kinds of horrors Stain carries, the scuttling returns and she watches as Stain makes his own way back down the alley. With the fog clear she sees his face; unevenly cut dark hair frames a squashed nose and jaw. She takes a shuddering breath, feeling the adrenaline surging through her veins as her heart pounds in her ears. No hesitation now. She launches out of her crouched position, immediately throwing the two knives in her hands. Her lips open in a bellowing war cry, and she sees surprise drawn clear on his features. Her hands are a blur as she lands; two more knives fly from their holsters set across her ribs. The street below her is slick, and her boots catch on a wet patch, leaving her momentarily off balance. She hears a curse from the cyborg-killer as the dull thud of a knife finding its mark reaches her ears. Finding her feet, she looks back up to Stain. The first knife she threw is buried in his right shoulder; a dark crimson patch spreading around it. Through the adrenaline of the fight she feels a prickling confusion as she notices three further holes in his cloak. It seems as though the knives passed straight through his torso. His face is twisted in a snarl as he wrenches the knife free from his shoulder and throws off the cloak. Her heart falls as she realises her mistake. Stain’s bare torso is far narrower than it seemed; his wiry arms sit before a group of eight snake-like mechanical tentacles which made up his illusory bulk. Each of them is tipped with a three-pronged spike, and as they twist Anya sees electricity crackle over them. The infamous lighting whips. His snarl twists in to a wicked grin as he rolls his shoulders, seemingly relishing in the pain of his wound.
  9. “You shouldn’t have come here, little girl.” The voice is scratchy and nasal. “I’m a bad man.” The words drag out as suddenly the whips extend, shooting towards her in blurs of an impossible-to-follow pattern. Anya curses as she draws her last two daggers. These ones are thicker- made for hand to hand fighting. She doges sideways, striking at the tendrils as they slam in to the concrete around her. She barely has time to land before they shoot out again, the vicious sound of the pneumatics powering them sending a chill down Anya's spine. She rolls forward, cutting under the segmented mass; moving to strike Stain down. Too late though she notices two of the whips held in reserve, and she’s forced to sidestep their attack as Stain quickly movies out of range. Her breath comes in short gasps as she realises now that a single mistake will cost her dearly. Her mind races as she tries desperately to figure out a way to get close. A third barrage of attacks shoots towards her, and she twists, arcing her back in a pirouette to avoid the tendrils. The ground betrays her again though as she lands; the wet surface causing her balance to falter. She lands heavily, and before she can even blink she feels a stinging pain as one of the prongs finds her shoulder. The next moment leaves her breathless as fire runs though her veins; the electricity from Stain’s cyborg modifications twisting her face in agony. Her muscles lock up and she can barely think for the pain running through her body. The cyborg-killer steps closer to her, and she feels the harsh edge of the current fade slightly, though her muscles remain locked in place. The same sadistic grin splits his face as he speaks again.
  11. “Too slow, little girl. Now it’s my turn to have some fun. I do love my girls helpless.” He leans over her and with a thick-gloved hand pulls the bandanna covering her face down. Anya trembles as he strokes her cheek; his filthy breath assaulting her nostrils. “And you’re a pretty one too. My lucky day. Let’s see what your tight body looks like under those rags.”
  13. She feels nausea rise in her as his other hand roughly yanks her coat open. Tears form in her eyes when she feels his hand move towards the clasp of her belt. Though she rails against the paralysis gripping her body, she cannot even close her eyes. Jumbled thoughts whir through her mind, clawing at her restraint before suddenly a long whistle pierces the air, cutting through the panic. Stain stops his assault and looks to the rooftops nearby. She hears him curse, and miraculously the tendril withdraws from her shoulder, leaving a final spike of pain as it does. Anya can only lie on the ground, her muscles quivering and twitching as they try to function after the abuse they have suffered. With an extreme effort she manages to turn her head. The sight before her leaves her breathless. A cyborg stands on the edge of the roof parallel to where Anya lies. Her gleaming purple body is wrapped in a leather catsuit, with a perfectly cut beige coat over the top. However, it is the flawless face with its pair of silver streaks down the cheeks that confirms the Hunter Warrior before her. The Angel of Death; Alita. In the angel’s hand is a wicked-looking sword, though as Anya strains to get a better look at it suddenly she finds that she’s watching the angel leap off the roof of the building, landing on the slick concrete below with a grace that would leave the greatest ballet dancer envious. The angel’s voice is flat when she addresses Stain.
  15. “Ignatius Stain. I offer you the chance to lay down your weapons and die painlessly. If you fight you will-” her words trail off as she notices Anya trembling on the ground nearby, her pants half dragged-down by Stain’s vile assault. The angel’s face hardens, and when she continues the icy fury in her voice cuts like a rapier.
  17. “Sewer-trash like you deserve no mercy.”
  19. A guttural roar erupts from Stain as the lightning whips shoot towards the angel; the same blurry pattern which had caught Anya before. Anya feels her stomach drop as she desperately wills her body to move. To help. She can barely dare keep her eyes open as the whips close in on the angel, but to Anya’s surprise, the angel merely steps once to the side; her blade whistling through the air around her in a practiced response. Three of the prong tips drop to the ground with a clatter, as the other attacking whips shoot straight past her purple body. For the first time in their encounter, Anya sees fear on the face of Stain, as he tries to backpedal while the whips retract. The angel does not give him the chance. Before Anya can blink, the angel appears in front of Stain, slicing through the remaining defence with a disdainful ease. Her mouth is a hard line as her free hand is quickly wreathed in a blue glow. Anya gasps as she recognises it; she’s heard the rumours of the Angel of Death’s magical powers. Stain stammers as he tries to plead for reprieve but before he can finish the first word she shoves her glowing hand under his rib cage, in to his chest. Stain’s voice turns in to a shrill shriek and Anya smells the burning flesh in the air. The cyborg-killer collapses to the ground, a blackened hole in his abdomen as he keens in agony. The angel leaves him in his anguish, instead running over to Anya. She leans down to check on the new Hunter and the light from the grinders behind her make a scattered halo around her floofy hair. Anya smiles weakly as she hears the angel speak. The voice is caring and soft; a far cry from the words before.
  21. “Are you ok? Here, take my hand. I’ll help you up.”
  23. The angel reaches out and Anya finally manages to meet the hand, though her own one shakes badly as she feels the firm grasp through the cybernetic fingers of the angel. She manages to rise, though she immediately staggers and falls on to the girl before her. Strong arms catch her, and with much support Anya manages to find her feet. It’s then that she realises her pants are still on the ground around her boots, and she quickly goes to pull them up and re-do them. A faint blush tinges her cheeks- why? Just seconds ago she was fearing for her life, she thinks. Now a blush? Thankfully the angel doesn’t seem to notice as she goes to introduce herself.
  25. “I’m Alita.” Anya nods before responding with a shaky voice.
  27. “I-I’m Anya.”
  29. “I’ve been tracking Stain for a while now but I got caught up tonight.” Alita cocks her head inquisitively before continuing. “Are you a new Hunter Warrior? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
  31. “Yeah I- I just got my licence yesterday.” She reaches around in her coat and manages to find it after the second attempt. Alita takes the licence and looks over it, nodding approvingly at its legitimacy. As she does, Anya steals a glance at man who was just recently tormenting her. His whimpers are slowly fading as the blackened patch on his chest grows, and she sees the abject terror in his eyes. Alita notices her look and turns to the fallen killer. Her face is impassive as she walks over to him and unceremoniously decapitates him. With the final wheeze of life gone from his headless body, the only sound in the square is once more the thumping of the grinders. Alita expertly wraps the head in a plas-lock bag taken from a coat pocket, and then moves back over to Anya. Anya’s mouth gapes at the casual brutality but she quickly closes it when Alita returns.
  33. “The nearest Factory is about a mile away. I’m happy to show you the basics of depositing a bounty if you’d like.” The offer is pleasant and professional, and Anya has to stop herself from bouncing as she quickly agrees.
  35. “That would be great!” Alita sets off at a brisk clip but before she moves out of reach Anya grabs her. “Wait! My knives.”
  37. Anya quickly scrambles to find her four throwing knives, and after a quick search scoops them up as Alita looks on, a small smile playing across her face. The two of them set off again, and after a few hundred yards of silence Anya realises her mistake.
  39. “Oh hey thank you for saving me by the way. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up…” Her voice is bashful, and Alita smiles softly before she responds. Anya feels butterflies well in her stomach and does her utmost to stamp them out.
  41. “You’re welcome. You picked a dangerous first target for your hunt. Cyborgs like Stain won’t hesitate to kill you if you slip up. Or worse.”
  43. Anya’s ears burn as she feels the chastising words hit their mark. Alita’s face is sympathetic, and she places an arm around Anya’s shoulder for a quick hug before continuing. Anya’s skin tingles where Alita’s fingers press in to it through the jacket.
  45. “The first time I fought someone with a chain weapon I lost my entire body. Your knives are beautiful, but you need to be smarter to survive as a Hunter Warrior.” Alita pauses for a moment, seemingly considering what to say. “Especially since you’re an Organic, aren’t you?”
  47. Anya nods, thinking about the snippets of warnings she’d received about trying to be a meatbody hunter. Apparently they had more truth to them than she thought. Her musings carry her through to the imposing Factory doors, and as the pair stands before them Alita turns to Anya.
  49. “I have more bounties to collect before the night is over. You should go home and rest. Find an easier target for your next hunt.” The words are not unkind, but Anya feels the embarrassment rise in her all the same.
  51. “Yeah, you’re right. I was stupid.” A silence hangs in the air between them, and as Alita is about to push on the doors Anya quickly speaks again. Her voice is hopeful, though not as steady as she would have liked. “Could you- show me how to fight like you some time? If you want to I mean I know you’re probably really busy…” She trails off, and desperately glances around for something to look at away from Alita’s intense brown eyes. It takes a moment for the angel to respond, but there is a surprising warmth to it when she does.
  53. “That sounds nice. Meet me at Doc Ido’s clinic; Saturday morning?”
  55. Anya smiles shyly at the invitation, and with at meeting organised, the two of them step in to the hall full of Centurions to collect the first of what would no doubt be many bounties.
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