"What do you mean," Scarlet blinked with a quizzical tilt of her head to the side, "'why do I have fox ears and a tail'?"
I wasn't sure how to answer that. On the one hand, she had the kind of tone that sounded like the kind of tone any sane person would take when replying "what do you mean, 'why do I have eyes and ears'". On the one hand, I had no idea how to react to the fact that Scarlet sported pointy, fluffy ears on the top of her head that resembled fox ears - orange in color like those of a red fox - and definitely didn't resemble human ears, the latter of which I could not find on the sides of her head. And it wasn't just the ears; Scarlet had a long, bushy tail that was definitely evocative of a fox, coming out of a slit in the back of her pants. There was a puff of white fur at the very end, but otherwise the appendage matched the color of her hair. And ears, really.
It wasn't just her either. The women I saw - the corpses that had been lying on the ground when I had first met Scarlet and then later those who had been shooting at us - all sported ears and tails of some description. Everything had been happening so fast, of course, and with bullets and lightning flying through the air, I had not been in a particularly inquisitive mood to either double-check their ears or ask about them. Now, however...
Now, I would like to amend my previous statement: I had not been transported to Area 51, but a goddamned anime. Not like I'd watched them, but I'd been surrounded by enough white Japanese fanboys in my life to see not-safe-for-work images as their phone wallpaper. That, or the government's genetic research and development program had suddenly gotten very interesting. Either possibility was terrifying.
Still, I was at least going to try to make sense of anything. With naive hope, I pointed more at her ears and tail, muttering, "Well, you know. Your ears are...different. And you have a tail." Such eloquent observations. The fact that I was pointing this out made me feel simultaneously silly and stupid. "Which is, uh..."
"Well, yes," shrugged Scarlet. "I'm a vulpis."
"Gesundheit." I couldn't help it.
The "vulpis" or whatever blinked. "Pardon?"
Sighing, a waved a hand at her in defeat. "Never mind. I'm not going to pretend I make sense of that." Not that my curiosity had been sated in any way. It wasn't some kind of hairband with fox ears that she was wearing; the fluffy things were actually making these small, twitching motions. As was her tail, swishing this way and that in a way that reminded me all too much of a real fox.
Scarlet studied me for a moment before merely nodding. "Exile?" she asked.
"From where?" I snorted, still staring at what - to me, at least - were extra appendages on Scarlet's body. "Westside? I wish."
Again, the only person with a gun in the room looked at me blankly for a moment before blandly saying, "Right." It seemed like this was her go-to reaction when she couldn't make sense of things but decided that I was keeping secrets or something. Admittedly, "Westside" wasn't the best of all explanations; maybe I should've told her my city. Or at least state.
Tragically, I was still too fixated on the fact that Scarlet has fox ears and a fox tail. Because seriously, they looked so real. "Is that even real?" I asked, reaching out for her ears like she was a fox at a petting zoo.
Except as soon as my hand got close, Scarlet suddenly snapped away, her eyes wide and her posture suddenly cautious. I jerked back my hand as if I had been shocked; Scarlet didn't seem alarmed enough to draw her gun - mostly instead looking like I had just tried to grope her - but the reminder that she had a gun suddenly made me go very cold, compounding the fact that I was suddenly feeling very contrite. I would've felt contrite even if she didn't have a gun, to be honest, but the gun really didn't help matters. What had I been thinking? How would I have liked it if some weirdass stranger had tried to reach out to touch my ears?
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I stammered quickly, hunching my shoulders in a bit both in fright and embarrassment. "I'm not sure what I was thinking. I didn't mean to offend."
Scarlet again looked at me with that blank look, trying to figure me out. Finally, she visibly relaxed a bit; mercifully, not once did she look like she was going to reach for her gun or even motion towards it. So I was still safe. "It's fine." A pause. "You're strange."
"Yeah," I scowled, trying to look like I had already gotten over my awkward, panicked demeanor at having possibly offended a girl packing heat, "well, imagine waking up two weeks ago and realizing that you've been kidnapped to some Area 51 place and being shot at with a lightning gun. Or plasma array. Whatever." That statement alone was crazy enough that I just buried my face into my palms, coming to terms with the fact that, yes, my life had truly gotten that crazy. "God."
For her part, Scarlet did look cautiously intrigued, if also a little confused. "Were...people here before?"
"I don't know. You've been the only person I've seen since I got here. Aside from this stupid Roomb...!" I scowled, pivoting around on one foot as I attempted to deliver a sharp kick to that stupid Roomba that was still rapidly flashing lights in my eyes, as it had been doing for maybe the past half hour. Tragically, the space Roomba swiftly slid away well outside by kicking range - not that my landing that kick was highly probable to begin with - and continued to both watch me warily like a cat on its guard and flash that stupid light. "Get back here, you dick!" I vented my frustration at the space Roomba, only to notice that Scarlet had flinched a little at my outburst, and was now looking at me in muted bewilderment. That made me instantly awkward again as I muttered, "Sorry."
"I don't mind," Scarlet said mildly. It was great that she could tolerate my frustration and that bloody space Roomba, although she started looking between the two of us, as if expressing obvious wariness at my antics, or just being around the two of us - me and space Roomba - in general.
I, in the meantime, was too busy trying to chase the space Roomba down, albeit with only a quarter of my previous enthusiasm; in despite of my simmering anger, I was totally aware that it traveled faster than me, could disappear into slits at the bottom of walls, and otherwise had successfully evaded every single previous attempt to capture it. Or punish it. Either was fine to me. And indeed, the space Roomba was backing away in circles, so my following it while muttering swear words under my breath meant we were literally going in a circle around Scarlet, who just watched on awkwardly. "If you're going to follow me," I finally snapped after about half a minute of futilely catching that blasted thing, "at least go get me some food!" Then, as an awkward afterthought, "Oh, and, uh, for Scarlet as well."
The space Roomba, of course, stayed rooted to where it was, flashing its light in my eyes with silent persistence now that I was no longer trying to kick it into the upper atmosphere. Or, at least, that was what I thought would happen. Instead, after a moment of seeming consideration, the space Roomba suddenly spun around and darted into one of the slits under the walls that I at this point suspected were service corridors specifically for those little shits.
"Wow," I blinked, not actually sure how to react to this. "That...worked?"
"It...seems like it," Scarlet offered, sounding just as incredulous as me.
"That thing never actually listens to me."
Scarlet sent me a look that borders on alarm. "It's not supposed to."
At least Scarlet was more familiar with these space Roombas - or servitors, whatever - than I was. "Well, I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth."
Right, English idioms might've been something unfamiliar to someone who didn't speak English as a first language. "I'm not going to get pissy about little blessings here and there I can get in a pile of shit."
Again, Scarlet stared at me for a moment of muted confusion before simply stating, "Right."
I felt like I really lucked out. That for a girl with a gun and clear familiarity with how to use it to kill people, she was being remarkably patient. If she was, in fact, keeping me around so she can sell me to Eastern European sex traffickers or whatever, then at least she was being awfully nice about it. I hoped she wasn't an Eastern European sex trafficker. Her accent sounded like it? I didn't know. I certainly didn't think that Eastern Europe had any foxgirls.
But already, Scarlet was moving on, striding in a direction that I thought was in the general direction of "away from the people who were shooting us". She didn't motion for me to follow; perhaps she assumed that I would just tag along without being told. In this, she was probably right. "We should move deeper into the arkology," she declared. Then, after a moment, she suddenly stopped and swiveled around on her heels, and I almost crashed into her. "No, we should've taken the firearms from those idiots I killed." She looked at me and shrugged. "I didn't expect to...be with anyone else here."
I nodded agreeably, although there was one bit of concern I felt obligated to raise: "But, uh, the space Roomba is getting food for us. Shouldn't we wait?"
Scarlet blinked at me again in that inscrutable way people do when they think you're crazy, an idiot, or both. "The...servitor knows where we are. This is an arkology."
It was my turn to blink, right up to the point where I nodded along and replied, "Right, I'm going to pretend I understood what you just meant. Lead the way, I guess."
And so she did, retracing her steps through the corridors of stainless white panels and gold highlights, navigating the twists and turns that rooms with multiple doors presented. Or at least I thought she was retracing her steps. Even if I did have a good sense of direction and did remember the rough path we had taken in our escape, there was a period a time after the whole "getting shot" thing that had been excised from my memory. Or perhaps it had failed in even registering in my memory in the first place, so blind had my panic been.
And so it was after about five minutes of incessant walking that I finally worked up the courage to ask, "Do you know where to go?"
Scarlet's answer was as curt as it was surprising: "No, of course not."
"Oh," I blinked, my sense of concern swiftly rising. "Well, you seem like you do."
"I'm making some guesses," she admitted. "You begin to get a feel for the patterns these arkologies are built in, usually around your third or fourth expedition." I imagined that was a nice way of saying she was making educated guess, which I supposed was still significantly better than any uneducated guess I could make.
Thankfully, although it took somewhere in the realm of half an hour - and although there were a few moments involving hesitation and backtracking that made it seem like Scarlet was losing her way just a little - yet another set of doors before us opened...
...And we were rewarded to the sight of half a dozen space Roombas.
It was almost a comical sight, watching a bunch of these disc-shaped robots zipping around left and right. Then I noticed that this was indeed the same room where Scarlet had shot dead the three women that had already been lying as corpses on the ground. You know, the same room where Scarlet had almost blown my brains out. Half the space Roombas had attached cords to the bodies and were apparently dragging them away. I wasn't exactly trying to look too hard, but just as I had thought, all of them had fluffy ears coming out of the top of their heads and tails from the rear. The remaining space Roombas, meanwhile, were gliding over the trails of blood coming from those bodies, cleaning it away and leaving the floor behind them almost startlingly pristine clean. That part was less comical and more like something from a dystopian movie, where all signs of screwed up violence were eradicated to give credence to the image of a "perfect" society.
There was also the fact that they seemed to be trying to take away the guns that were on the ground as well, though, leading to Scarlet dashing ahead to pick them up off the ground away from the space Roombas reach. After a futile attempt to chase after their targets, the three space Roombas turned towards Scarlet - now carrying about five different guns - and seemed to stare for a moment, as if trying to say "what gives". Then they decided that cleaning the blood was more important, and simply rolled off.
For me, cleaning the blood was an important thing too, because the weapons were still stained with blood from the pool it had been lying in. Unfortunately, Scarlet didn't seem particularly perturbed by this, and even more unfortunately, she gave each gun only a cursory rub against her trousers - leaving semi-dry stains - before handing one over to me. Trying not to hesitate for too long, I gingerly took what seemed like a handgun in between two fingers, trying to hold it where it wasn't stained with the blood of bodies that were now being dragged out of the room. The space Roombas passed through the sliding doors before they closed, and that was the last time I saw of them.
It was another moment before the fact that there were multiple space Roombas completely settled in. I mean, this was a giant place, so somewhere deep down, I had always assumed - without ever really thinking about it - there was going to be more than on space Roomba cleaning up the place, but I had only ever seen one at a time. Now that I was confronted with this fact, though, I wondered whether or not the space Roomba that tormented me was among those that had dragged away the corpses and cleaned away the blood. Whether or not it was the same space Roomba, in fact. Or if those little bastards were all in on it and took turns messing with me.
I didn't have a lot of time to think about it, though. Even as I was trying to figure out which parts of the handgun were less bloody and thus sanitary - and non-gross - for me to touch, Scarlet was looping gun straps around her shoulders where applicable, shoving a smaller gun into a spare holster, and hiding another gun into a bag. "How good are you with a gun?" she asked.
"I've never fired one before," I admitted. I had never been comfortable with them.
"That is unfortunate," said Scarlet in the kind of tone that suggested she somehow expected this to be the answer. "It's a useful skill for a hacker to have."
"I'm not a hacker," I pointed out. I was increasingly unsure from where Scarlet was getting this impression. "I'm a mechanic."
"Ah," Scarlet allowed, looking quietly thoughtful for a moment. Finally, she concluded, "It's still a useful skill to have. Do you know how to shoot one?"
"Point, pull trigger?" I shrugged helplessly, still looking at the handgun between my fingers like it was toxic or radioactive. Or both. "I'm not trying to be a smartass, I'm trying to express the degree to which I know."
"Right," Scarlet said, slipping in behind me with such casual grace that I didn't even fully realize she was suddenly pressing up behind my back until her arms had slipped under my own and her hands had slid the gun into my own hands, apparently trying to push me into a proper firing posture that I might've paid more attention to were it not for the fact that, first, this felt incredibly awkward and maybe even embarrassing, and, second, Scarlet smelled kind of nice.
Which was not exactly the kind of thing I really wanted to be noticing when there were corpses here just a moment ago and my hands were probably now stained with blood from the spots Scarlet hadn't bothered to give a thorough cleaning to, but.
Already, with all the grace of a master pianist, Scarlet's fingers guided my own to the different parts of the handgun, first at the level behind the trigger. "This is the safety," she explained, clicking the mechanism up and down. "When you think it's super unlikely for you to run into anyone hostile, click it to safe like this. Never put your finger in the trigger guard, this circle here," she guided my finger along the metallic loop that surrounded the trigger, "unless you need to shoot or prepare to shoot. Now when you need to shoot..." She trailed off for a moment, a thought seemingly occurring to her, then asked, "Are you dominant in your left or right hand?"
"Right," I answered, like the ordinary schmuck that I was.
"Alright," Scarlet nodded, readjusting my hands around the gun, which was my first clue that the foxgirl behind me was probably left-handed. "Hold the gun in your right hand. Pull back your right foot just a bit..." and here Scarlet's foot reached out and pulled my right foot back, causing me to assume a slightly sideways slant even as my arms continued to be angled and bent forwards, "...and bend your knees a little. Take your left hand up to your right like so."
It was - in my completely inexpert opinion, formed through the course of watching cop or spy films while on lunch break - a pretty simple stance, nothing particularly special or fancy. Still, having been made to assume what I was assuming to be a proper shooting position, I still felt pretty badass. Like I was actually some kind of super capable superspy instead of someone who had twice within the last few hours tried to run away screaming like a little pussy.
"When you shoot," Scarlet concluded, letting go of me and stepping into my field of vision before gesturing to her boobs, "aim for the chest area." She looked at me for a moment, as if to make sure that I was maintaining a proper position even after she had let go, and nodded in satisfaction. I felt a bit irrationally pleased; despite being underutilized, underappreciated, and undervalued, I did work in a somewhat physical, precision-demanding technical job. I knew how to hold a proper position at awkward angles. Scarlet returned to my side, sliding a finger to a button just beneath the safety. "This releases the magazine," she explained, allowing the magazine to slid out from the grip of the handgun before sliding it right back in, "and you just slide a new one in like this. Easy."
"I guess," I shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant rather than confused. I was almost certain that there was much more to shooting a firearm - this was supposed to be something that soldiers trained months for, if not years - but as a one-minute crash course, it was...sufficient. It was easy enough to understand, even if I knew that, realistically, all of that was going to fly out of my head faster than flying bullets when the bullets started...well, flying.
There's also something hilarious about the fact that I was trapped in a secret giant military-like technology facility with foxgirls running around in special forces outfits, yet with the one obvious exception of an lightning gun or a plasma array or whatever the shit, guns were still guns that shot bullets.
It was right around this time when a slit at the bottom of the wall opened, and - ignoring the fact that Scarlet and I whirled around in preparation for being attacked by people with guns again - the space Roomba suddenly appeared, a tray perched atop its "head" with twice the amount of packaged food as it had carried previously. Somehow, through no rational explanation I could provide, I knew - distinct from the half dozen space Roombas we saw dragging away corpses and cleaning blood just minutes before - that this was the space Roomba that had harassed me for all this time.
True to form, the space Roomba skidded to a stop a few feet away from us, allowing the tray to slip off itself and across the floor, coming to a near-perfect stop just inches from our feet. Then it remained a few feet away, as if furtively watching for any sign I was going to try to kick it again.
And since the tray was now off its head: Of course its light was still flashing irritatingly.
Scarlet was still staring at the space Roomba for entirely different reasons, of course, looking mutedly as if she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. After a moment, her hunched soldiers finally relaxed a little bit as she bent down to pick up the tray. "It...seems to be cautious of you," she allowed eventually, as if trying to find something relatively polite to say in the middle of her disbelief.
"It's a little shit," I sighed, even as I began to make a short sprint to the space Roomba, such was my annoyance with its badgering. "Stop. Flashing!" I screamed at it, even as I delivered a swift kick in the area where the space Roomba once was. I knew, of course, that it'd safely retreat another ten feet back like a cautious housecat. I didn't really think I'd be able to successfully send it flying in the first place. Sure felt like the point needed to be made, though. After feeling a bit annoyed at my predictable failure and feeling a little embarrassed when I turned around to see Scarlet staring at me, I coughed and made my own attempt to find something relatively polite to say. "So how many bad guys do we have to shoot?"
"The Fortune's Wings was carrying about a hundred, although probably a fifth of them or less are going to be crew."
"Oh." So that's about eighty-ish people. Which was not so significant a downgrade from a hundred that I was feeling in any way better about all of this. "That's...a lot of people we have to shoot."
But Scarlet corrected, "We don't. Over the next few days, or so I hope, they'll be too busy stripping out everything that isn't bolted down. They'll have to come deeper and deeper into this arkology if they want to break even with everyone they've hired." She plucked a packaged food bar from the tray before passing it to me when I finally got back within arm's reach of her. "We should pick some things up along the way too. But we wait for them to stretch themselves a little thin, sneak past them, and get back onto the ship. Preferably when we start detecting voidwaves."
"'Voidwaves'," I repeated slowly, even as I took the tray, set it down on a nearby surface that wasn't quite a table insomuch as it seemed like a metallic block that was part of the architecture, but which served fine enough as an ad hoc counter. I was, of course, trying to seem nonchalant - unwrapping my own food bar and taking casual bites out of it - about the fact that more bullshit words were being thrown around, and I was continuing to feel like the biggest idiot in the room. "Right. So what happens when we start detecting the 'voidwaves'?"
"Well," Scarlet explained in between bites, "the arkology begins its transition back into voidspace. At which point we need to get off before our innards get splattered across the walls." She shrugged. "Or worse."
This was a conversation I wish we had before I started eating. "There are...worse things than getting our innards splattered across the walls?"
"Theoretically, we could also have our innards stuck inside the walls."
The next few days were actually remarkably uneventful and stress-free, if one discounted the fact that we were - as far as I knew, anyways - perpetually within a mile of people with very dangerous guns. So it wasn't exactly an entirely stress-free environment because of the lingering background radiation of my current life that was suddenly being shot with little to no warning, but humans are good at coping.
Still, it was mostly just a matter of waiting for the aforementioned "voidwaves" to appear, or something. I didn't exactly know what it meant or how to look out for it, Scarlet didn't explain it because she thus far had the impression that I wasn't as dumb as a brick and I didn't really want to change that, and I figured I'd just start running when she told me to.
So in the meantime, we waited. Hours blended into each other, marked only by the clock on what looked like Scarlet's super-advanced phone. One meal arrived after another from the space Roomba, which wisely maintained a cautious distance from us. Light conversation was made, even though I got the feeling that both of us were maintaining a respectful distance from each other, at least until we figured each other out. Which was something that was still being relegated to the distant future, perhaps. I mean, Stockholm syndrome or no, I tend to have my guard up around anyone with a gun. I blame my mother.
Scarlet wasn't terrible company - she remained polite and helpful and astoundingly tolerant for someone who didn't bat an eye at killing people - but she also didn't really offer much about herself either. She mostly talked about what to do if we were to run into anyone, how to properly fire my handgun, how to stay behind her whenever possible, so on and so forth. It felt like she was one of those survivalists who had their own show on Discovery or National Geographic, the kind of people who stocked up on guns and canned food in the middle of the woods, waiting to duck into their bunkers at the first sign of nuclear armageddon. And speaking of Discovery or National Geographic, Scarlet reminded me in a way about something I had probably learned from one of those wildlife shows some time back, talking about the differences between "domesticated" and "tame" animals, where "domesticated" animals such as dogs were bred through the generations to be hypersocial with humans, whereas "tame" animals largely tolerate the presence of humans but are still fundamentally "wild". For all Scarlet was polite and patient, she didn't seem like she was in all that much a hurry to get to know me or introduce herself. It was surprisingly professional for two girls surrounded by a lot of people with guns.
But maybe some people are just like that. Maybe people would've describe me like that too, an anti-social, frigid loner bitch. Gunfire, I suppose, was bringing out the clinginess in me, which was pretty pathetic, to be completely honest. That, or I still hadn't gotten over the fact that this was literally a foxgirl. Did I mention that I'm stuck in a sci-fi military base of some description with a foxgirl? I felt like that was really worth repeating. Because the past two weeks needed to get even weirder, apparently.
Still, I was entirely willing to just follow her lead, where she's move from room to room, picking up little trinkets and pieces of equipment here and there before shoving it into her knapsack, sometimes removing something she had picked up before to make room for something new. Sometimes she'd stay in one place for a while, even hours at a time, making some obligatory small talk with me about nothing in particular, telling me the ins and outs about a potential threat we might face. We'd find the increasingly familiar futuristic beds, bathrooms, and showers. We'd sleep in shifts. Then her ear would twitch, as if she heard something, and then she'd stand up and say that we have to move. This happened a few times, although there was at least one close call, where we evacuated from one room just a bit too slow, and as we reached the door on one side, the door on the other end of the room slid open, revealing a quartet of armed women on the other side. I did manage to spy more animal ears and tails, but I understandably did not make out that many more details on that front, in no small part because my attention was far more fixated on the guns slung on straps around their shoulders.
Fortunately, they were also carrying all sorts of gizmos and gadgets in their arms - significantly larger pieces than the trinkets Scarlet was picking up, some as large as mini-fridges - and they did not expect to see us. Scarlet, on the other hand, was prepared, had both her hands free, and was faster on the draw.
I admit I didn't pay that much attention to the outcome of that brief shootout, because I was tripping all over myself in the opposite direction, panicking pretty much all the way, and by the time I managed to gather my wits, Scarlet had dragged me several rooms away before assessing that we were probably safe, and it was all I could do to laugh maddeningly a little and try to kick the space Roomba again for still flashing its stupid light. I didn't even remember the fact that I had a gun until some five minutes after I remembered how to breathe like a proper human being again.
But after two weeks of being alone and a couple of awkward days with Scarlet, things started to feel like they were settling into a sense of normalcy. That this was the new normal, a routine that I could get used to. The space Roomba constantly following us - or me, at least - even stopped flashing its lights at me after the first day with Scarlet was over. Things felt like they were going to be tolerable, calm, alright.
Right up until the point that the facility's klaxons started blaring again, red lights turned on, something on Scarlet's person suddenly started beeping, and I almost shat my pants.
"That's the signal," Scarlet announced. She was in the middle of examining yet another small pile of little gizmos and gadgets that I couldn't identify for the life of me, but she was suddenly alert and adamant after checking some kind of small electronic smartphone-like device on her forearm, and I was in absolutely no mood to contest this, even as the space Roomba began to incessantly flash its lights at me once again. "We need to go."
I merely nodded. I certainly wasn't going to follow the space Roomba again.
And so we ran. Dozens of minutes through a dizzying maze of bright corridors and splendid halls, where I remained in awe of Scarlet's ability to maintain a sense of direction, because I had no idea where we were going. It was scary, running around and fearing that we might eventually run into someone dangerous and hostile with a gun, but there was never a hint of anyone else. Just our echoing footsteps off empty halls. It lured me into a state of false complacency.
And of course, by "false complacency", I meant we passed through a hallway, reached the door on the other side, stepped into one of the rooms, and suddenly we were looking at a dozen people with guns looking right back at us.
A dozen people in similar garb and gear that Scarlet was wearing, that really weird combination of special forces and medieval knights, a combination of form-fitting suits of high-tech textiles, rugged scarves or jackets or capes, and scuffed-up metallic guards on the elbow or on the shoulder or on the knees or around the chest. A dozen people who - like Scarlet - had different animal-like ears and tails. A dozen people who swiftly spun around when the doors, shouting warnings as guns were raised, as I froze in place and Scarlet immediately pushed me in that thin space beside the corridor doorway.
The first time we had ran into a bunch of other people with guns, we had caught them by surprise. As in, they had seemed to be genuinely startled and had had to improvise a reaction. This time, they seemed utterly prepared. Not as if they were expecting us to come through the door in that precise moment, but the kind of expectation that we would do so eventually, and that they needed a bunch of guns, including our long-lost friend: The fixed lightning gun. The plasma array. Whatever.
In other words, we were being ambushed. I'm not sure how the dynamics worked or how it happened, but one didn't end up on this end of so many guns without them expecting us. Scarlet's prediction - that we would be able to sneak through while everyone was busy looting the place - was sadly off.
All I knew was that my world exploded in gunfire. And lightning, now that the plasma array was firing. It was hard to register anything or explain anything under this sensory overload and panic attack. All I knew was that I was stuck in a corner on the wrong end of too many bullets. I was only peripherally aware that Scarlet tried firing back a few times, but the hail of gunfire eventually got so bad that she, too, was forced to duck back with me. With the amount of bullets flying around, with the enemy approaching, it was all we could do to make slow, haphazard moves from cover to cover, Scarlet dragging me along at a speed slower than these people with guns were advancing on us.
I screamed. I cowered. I cried. I was certain I was going to die.
<Attempt #38145...SUCCESS. Neural handshake protocols established.>
What. The. F...