Esfir sat back into her comfortable, swiveling office chair and glanced at her future sister-in-law.

She sighed inwardly as she watched the girl shrug off her short jacket and lie down on the couch near Esfir’s desk, each movement graceful and fluid like a trained dancer’s – which Nova was, in point of fact. It felt uncharitable and uncomfortably close to blaming the victim, but Esfir couldn’t help the thought that Nova would have been less likely to be harassed by that worthless playboy in the elevator if she had been wearing more modest clothing than this. The halterneck she wore underneath her jacket and the low-rise pants tucked into her knee-high boots hugged her form a bit too snugly for propriety. And it was rather obvious that Nova wasn’t wearing a bra today, either.

Esfir shook her head to free it of its wayward thoughts – even for her, despite her attempts to resist it and the few years of acquaintance that had somewhat inured her to it, Nova’s beauty was a potent distraction.

Now that she had welcomed her guest, Esfir got back to work on her computer, plinking away at the keyboard, while still leaving half of her focus on Nova to give her some polite conversation.Continue reading

[…Phineas.]

(That’s right. It’s me. I apologize for the delay, but…) Phineas looks down at himself. (I’m all better, now. Every bit of damage has been fixed.)

Right…

His soul was injured.

I’m not quite sure what he’s so proud of, though.Continue reading

plick, plick, plick…

Water, dripping down onto stone, one drop at a time, coming from somewhere.

I don’t know how long I spend listening to this regular sound, as if it’s ticking down the elapsing seconds. Probably very long. Long enough for those drops of water to erode the stone on which they fall, it even seems.

I feel Sanae nearby. She was probably standing guard over me while I slept.Continue reading

The next day, Nova was riding her motorcycle down the highway, heading for the capital that shared its name with their country.

Of course, she was too young to legally ride a motorcycle. Her driving license was a forgery, which her mother had given to her a while back. When someone had already proven herself capable of driving vehicles ranging from cars to bikes to APCs to tanks to helicopters to airplanes to boats, following proper regulations on the matter didn’t seem quite as critical anymore.

Nova’s motorcycle outwardly looked like an old-fashioned Triumph, but like almost every other motorcycle on this planet, it was powered by an electric engine – Aaron and Nova had retrofitted it together. Nova was a tad ambivalent on this particular matter, though. On one hand, the motorcycle’s new, modern engine was good for the environment, which was a definite plus in her book. On the other hand, she liked the roar of a combustion engine, and her sensitive body really liked the feeling of sitting on what was essentially a giant vibrator with wheels. Still, one couldn’t always get what one wanted…

At her speed, it took 3 hours to make the trip from Saltwell to Altera, then another before she finally reached the business district and parked in a miraculous free space right in front of Ryner’s company’s giant skyscraper.Continue reading

“…”

Nova opened her eyes and let out a mute yawn, squinting against the glare of the sun filtering through the window. Snuggling in the covers of her oh-so-comfortable bed, she glanced at the alarm clock on her bedside table.

15:39

For someone who was in the habit of getting up bright and early, this was a bit much. But after spending the entire night flying a plane into a foreign country’s airspace, performing a halo jump out of said plane, traipsing through a dark forest, shooting down a helicopter, then getting back to the plane and flying back home, this little slip surely was forgivable. Especially since their mission to recover the black box ended up in disappointing failure – the thing was nowhere to be found, in the end.Continue reading

Fortunately, finding Yuri’s team when it wanted to remain in hiding would not be an easy feat. Even using infrared sensors wouldn’t bring any results, as the suits concealed the body heat of their wearer from prying eyes – prying sensors.

After a few minutes of fruitless search, a man’s drawling voice cracked from a loudspeaker attached to the gunship, strident enough to drown out even the roar of the rotors. “Did that bitch Marian come here on her own or did she send her goons to do it? Whatever. I know you’re hiding in there, little snakes. Why don’t you show yourselves and make this easier on all of us?”

Oh, my. Insulting Mom like this. Looks like someone is tired of living.

However, through her scope, Nova could see both the pilot and copilot clearly enough to distinguish facial expressions. And neither of them were talking.Continue reading

The months spent among the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants passed quickly. There was always something to do and people to do it with – most of it training of one kind or another.

It passed so quickly, in fact, that the 3 months Nova had been supposed to spend there for training had come and gone and transformed into 2 years. Of course, Nova hadn’t stayed at the airfield for all this time. She’d gone back to visit her family many times, and she’d also accompanied the PMC in some of their missions, a few taking place overseas. Her assignments had always been pretty peaceful, though, since Marian took great care to place her in the safest positions at all times.

Nova had inquired about what she perceived to be her mother being overprotective, but Marian had claimed that she just couldn’t risk anybody learning that Viper Nest was using an underage girl in a combat position, or the world would see them as outlaws employing child soldiers, and then nobody would ever hire them again. Nova was pretty sure this was nothing more than an excuse. But still, it was a pretty good excuse, so she hadn’t insisted.

Like Nova, the soldiers stationed in the airfield didn’t stay there 24-7. They rotated regularly as they went on and returned from leave in groups of ten, leaving around 30 of them on-site at any one time. As for Marian, she came around perhaps a week out of 3 to take part in the soldiers’ practice and generally see how things were going. The rest of the time, the training Viper Nest’s members went through was self-inflicted. Squad leaders would decide between themselves what today’s menu would consist of, then everyone would be forced to eat it, so to speak.Continue reading

*beep, beep, beep, beep*

Yuri woke up to the strident sound of her alarm clock and blearily slapped her hand against the switch on top to turn it off. She crawled out of the covers, and by the time she was on her feet, all traces of sleep had already disappeared from her face.

Her bedroom was small and stark, only decorated with a few pinned pictures of her husband and son on the full-height mirror on the wall, but simply the fact that she had it to herself made up for everything else. Compared to her days in the alteran army, where she shared a room with a dozen other recruits, Viper Nest’s accommodations were positively luxurious.

The pay, the gear, and the company were much better, too. Hiring herself was one of the best decisions she’d made in her life.Continue reading

This time, when the black car with the tinted windows came to pick up Marian for work, Nova hopped in alongside her, clad in dark-grey military fatigues adjusted to her small body size – probably not standard issue. The inside of the car was spacious, with enough room to stretch her legs. Flat screens were embedded in the headrests of the front seats, though both were powered off at the moment.

“Do you know where we’re heading?” Marian asked abruptly as they left the city of Saltwell behind.

‘Airfield.’

She nodded. “That’s right. We use the private airfield out of the city – which legally belongs to me, by the way – as our headquarters. From there, we can easily deploy anywhere we’re needed. That’s also where you’ll be living for the next 3 months,” she added after a moment with a malicious smirk.

‘With troops?’Continue reading

After getting her breathing back under control, Nova left her running shoes on the rack in the entry hall and headed downstairs. The gym in the basement was well-equipped – and well-ventilated, despite being underground. It had everything she might ever need to whip herself into tip-top shape and keep herself there. It even had a treadmill, actually, but Nova only used it when it was raining too much to go out. Otherwise, she preferred to run in the streets, despite the additional need for shoes.

Ignoring all the tools, Nova walked to the shallow mat in the center of the room and started stretching like she had been taught to do when she was young and had practiced dancing and gymnastics.

Flexibility was set at… 85.

Nova didn’t regret investing the points she had into this stat. It made her body quite easy to use, and quite hard to injure. Even with the rigorous amount of exercise she put herself through, the last time she’d pulled a muscle or twisted something she shouldn’t have twisted was more than 4 years ago. Even while training aikido, which kind of focused on putting pressure on people’s joints to immobilize them, she’d never had the slightest of problems on that front.Continue reading