Short story: Sprinkler, Bicycle, Nose

Two predators were chasing after one prey. The first was sitting on top of a suburban train running at top speed, with a loaded pistol in his grip. Somewhere among the skyscrapers within three kilometers radius from the first predator, the second predator–a long-range sniper–was also lying in ambush.

Their prey, an unidentified mercenary, had recently hacked into the electronic vault of their billionaire clients and stolen millions in stocks. The target was female, young, likely in her teens. She was unguarded and was riding on an electric rental bicycle. Due to the heavy traffic in the area, the target took a shortcut through an alley which crossed under the overhead railway.

There was an opening, a momentary window in which the sniper could have a clear line of fire on the target from his position. The confirmation went through. There was no mistake. It was morally reprehensible even for a professional murderer like him to kill children but he had to shoot this child lest he should be shot himself.

The unsuspecting target emerged from beneath the railway as the train, on which the gunslinger sat, was passing by. He was trained to hit a fly using his pistol from a moving vehicle. He aimed his gun at where his prey would emerge from behind the buildings. He knew exactly where she was due to the locator embedded in her rental bike. Both men squeezed the triggers at the same moment. Both bullets struck the target and the girl collapsed to the ground.

Just before the assassins could verify their kill, a blackout took place. The street where the girl fell down and all the nearby buildings became shrouded in darkness. The train, on which the first mercenary sat, ground to a slow halt half-way to the nearest stop.

The first man smacked his tongue and switched his goggles to night vision. He leaped off the train and swiftly descended into the alleyway. He noticed his tracker had gone black alongside the power outage. The scent of fried electronics and an abnormal degree of heat emanated from the broken device.

He felt a knot in his gut. The outage, the destroyed electronics, the girl who could hack into the most sophisticated electronic vaults in the world; all signs were hinting at one conclusion.

Just as he had suspected, when he arrived at the crime scene, he found no dead body there, only the heat signature of an electric bike whose electronics were also in ruins. The mercenary surveyed the area using his night vision goggles. He saw it, a figure dangling under the railway bridge, attached to what seemed to be a rope of pure heat.

The man gulped his saliva and slowly leveled his pistol and cocked the hammer.

“Gack!” he yelped as the pistol was forcefully yanked from his grip and snapped his index finger like a twig. He heard a metallic clang and the sudden discharge of his gun when it dropped to the ground. His night vision goggles flickered and finally went dark. He had to cast it aside before it could burn his skin.

A flash of lightning erupted from the figure and struck the place where the night goggles landed. That confirmed it. The intel was correct. His target was no defenseless support-type mercenary. But, never in his life could he imagine it would be the infamous designer child, the Emperor-class electrokinesis mercenary of the East.

The Raijin.

Without the goggles, he could not see anything in the dark. The enemy was in front of him. He heard it when she dropped to the ground but since then it had become awfully quiet.

Out of the blue, both of them heard a soft click nearby. A lightning bolt jumped from the Raijin’s fingertip and punched a hole in the asphalt where the sound originated. A split second later, multiple 7.62mm Russian rounds embedded themselves into the arm and shoulder of the enemy mercenary. The girl let out a scream of anguish and quickly dodged out of the way. All subsequent rounds from the sniper rained furiously upon where the target once was.

That was right. Even an Emperor-class mercenary would be defenseless against hidden foes. If they killed her here, the two of them would make it to Archduke or King-class even.

A few more scattered shots rang out nearby. The Raijin had learned her lesson and refrained from responding to the provocations. Little did she know that these gunshots were masking the first man’s footsteps. She had no clue where he was. Meanwhile, he could hear the sweet sound of his prey’s labored gasping clearly. He tightened his grip on a ceramic knife that would not be detected by a metal scanner and slowly approached his prey.

Without a sound, the man plunged the blade at the mercenary’s head, from which he could feel the warm breath that was touching on his skin originated. But before the knife could touch her skin, an intense electrostatic discharge jumped from her nose to his hand. The shock disarmed the assassin and through the very brief flash, he saw her lips curled into a victorious smile.

A flurry of gunshots rang in response to the very minute flash. But, this time, the sniper’s rounds found purchase in his partner’s paralyzed body.

It was all quiet for a while before the sniper saw something flashing on his scope. He reflexively fired three shots in rapid succession at the target. Immediately, he sensed a tingling sensation and saw through his scope a lightning fork jumping through the air towards his location.

His enemy had scattered the rounds he had fired in his general direction using electromagnetic propulsion and channeled a lightning fork through them. When the sniper fired his shots, the incoming rounds created new conductive bridges so that the fork could jump one step further.

Each successive round brought the lightning fork closer and closer to the shooter’s location. After just three gunshots, the hunter had become the hunted.

The sniper abandoned his two rifles on the window sill and activated a virus that would delete all his traces from the building’s security system. Minutes later, the fluorescent light in the room began to flicker ominously and electrical devices in the proximity, including the detonator of the time bomb he prepared to cover his track, began to fail.

He had only fifteen minutes before the hunter reached his location. The violent electromagnetic pulse she sent in his way had destroyed the ignition systems of vehicles in the area. The elevator had ceased functioning as well and he had to make his way down using the stairs, further hampering his escape.

As he descended the stairwell, an electric shock ran through the handrail into his body. He reflexively jerked back his hand and narrowly avoided death by electrocution. Impossible, he thought, the Raijin was already in the building and it had only been five minutes.

He paused to consider the paradox for a moment. He knew what the Raijin was capable of and fast travel was not one of her capabilities. Plus, she was injured. There was no way she could be here already. Confident in his own reasoning, the sniper ignored the electric shock pulsating through the handrail and continued his descent.

When he reached the lobby, he quickly learned that the whole building, including the shutter doors, had become electrically charged by a sustained, half-a-kilometer-long voltaic arc that melted through anything between the two poles the same way a welding rod did to metal parts. This was what the Raijin had been known for; devastating collateral damage and civilian casualties.

“Bloody crazy millennial…”

The sniper cursed and unpinned a hand grenade from his belt. He blasted a hole in the wall that was not electrically charged. Unfortunately, when he did so, the temperature-sensitive glass plugs inside nearby sprinklers shattered. Water immediately spilled forth and became an electrical conductor blocking off his escape path.

This, however, gave him an idea to defeat the Raijin…

A normal human would have died from this many bullet wounds long ago. But this much was only skin deep for a designer child such as the Raijin. With her complete macro control over electromagnetism, she could cleanly remove all shrapnel from her own body and disinfect open wounds in the midst of battle.

What she could not recover from was an explosion from a bomb such as the one the man in front of her was brandishing like a shield.

The Raijin let out a sigh.

“So which is it for you idiots tonight? Revenge? Ranking up? Or just business as usual? Depending on your answer, I might choose to let you die painlessly,” she said.

“Just business as usual at first, but a little bit of all three now.”

“I see. In this case, I must have you answer some more questions about the idiot that sent you. Yes, somebody will have to pay for the bike and that ain’t–”

The man shot her before she could finish her remark. However, his bullets all missed their marks as his pistol was jerked upward in the last moment and it flew into the magnetized sprinkler overhead. The sprinkler was busted open by the hit and water began to pour down on top of the girl.

This was his chance. She could not use her power without electrocuting herself too. Without her power, she was nothing more than a brat he could easily beat up with his bare fists. He landed a solid punch in her gut. She started coughing up blood and slumped down.

“Not so tough now without your lightning tricks, aren’t you?”

“You…suicidal inbre–”

He kicked her rear and stepped on her arm to stop it from moving.

“Oh? Did I break an arm? How about two? No more magnet tricks now.”

The ruthless man stepped on the girl’s other arm and broke it too. After that, he went to pick up his pistol, fired at another fire sprinkler to check the gun’s functionality and returned to the defeated mercenary. The girl was curling up into the fetal position and weeping in agony. She was kicked in the abdomen and forced to stare down the barrel of a loaded pistol.

“Please…I’m begging you….I’ll pay double…no, quadruple!”

“Sorry, kid. I don’t wanna deal with that brat’s firing squad. It’s been a good fight. Farewell, the Raijin.”

The sniper squeezed the trigger. But, he heard no gunshot and could not feel his finger anymore. His vision tilted, his body stiffened, his feet lost strength and he fell side-way on top of the girl. He had just received a high voltage, low current electric shock that caused involuntary muscle contractions akin to the effect of a stun gun.

Both of them were paralyzed by the shock. It was a truly last-ditch effort, a test of chance. Whoever could recover from the paralysis first would be able to finish the other off. Even if she was a designer child, there was still a chance he would–

No…

It was at this very moment that he realized his fate had been sealed. The Raijin could reapply the paralysis and reroll the dice as many times as she must until she came out on top. She had never been in a pinch; she only wanted to squeeze out any clue that would lead back to his client, even if the information had cost her both her arms.

This was what it meant to be an Emperor-class mercenary.

In this line of work, only the sly and the suicidal can survive. He had been bested, and for the defeated, nothing but death awaited.

 

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