This work is fiction. The work is presented under fair protection where applicable.
Feedback will be read, processed, and if it’s a flame it will be given the finger, then I will burst into hysterical laughter. Constructive feedback, be it criticism or praise, will be read, processed, given a smile, and filed away. To contact me, please send an email to socom.seal@(SPAM)yahoo.com. Remove (SPAM) for a valid email.
You should not read this if you are not of legal age where you reside. This work can contain rape, BDSM, cannibalism, and probably anything else my sick, twisted mind can come up with.
The rising sun was just beginning to peek through the window as the first figures entered the small kitchen, one grabbing a small package and busying itself with a device. Two others found seats and collapsed, waiting for the first to finish and walk over to join them.
“Thanks, Marcie.” One of the figures took the offered cup and took a deep gulp. “Ahhhh. I needed that.”
“You’re useless, Tom.” The second figure took their cup and raised it slightly in a toast. “Thank you.”
The original raised theirs slightly and pulled up a chair, the three silently drinking their coffee while the sun slowly illuminated the room.
“Say, Tom, when are you going to learn to use the coffeemaker yourself?” Marcie gently sipped her brew. “Or at least get Gina to learn.”
“Gina doesn’t need to learn how to push a button.” Tom gulped the last of his cup. “Besides, you’re always here for me.”
“And when I get rotated back to active tomorrow, what will you do then?” Marcie smirked. “Go without? You’d never wake up before the cadets.”
“Alright, that’s enough.” The other man smiled slightly. “Tom’s laziness is not on trial.”
“Fuck you, Alan.” Tom muttered into his cup.
Alan and Marcie shared a chuckle while they finished their drinks. Tom silently watched out the window for a few minutes before he stood and threw his cup into the trash. “Well, I’m going to go make sure the scenario’s set up correctly. Who’ve we got playing civ this time around?”
“Some of unit B. Landon’s group, I think.” Alan replied.
“Hey, I know him. Trained with him last month. He still have that Milktit as his Alpha?” Tom’s eyes gleamed.
“Who, Heja? Yea, as far as I know. Why?” Alan finished his own cup and threw it away.
“I was thinking of putting a few OpFor in the civs. Heja oughta be a nasty surprise.”
Alan snickered while Marcie slowly shook her head. “You’re evil, Tom. I like it. Make it happen.”
“Aye.” Tom pulled a half salute before walking out.
“Isn’t Heja the one with the Everstone earring?” Marcie sighed when Alan nodded. “Shit, she stands even with most regular operatives.”
“That she does. Think it’s too much?”
“For this class? Hardly.” Marcie grinned. “I’ll let my girls know our allies once Tom’s set it up.” She shivered in anticipation. “I love the live fire final.”
“Mmhmm.” Alan jabbed his thumb at the window. “So, how many cadets do you think overslept?”
Joshua slowly opened his eyes, stifling a yawn. The morning sun peeked through the barracks window and played across his Ingenue’s hair, picking out her deep purple instead of the black he normally saw.
“Good morning, Master.”
Joshua stifled a curse and gently turned to his side so he didn’t wake the still slumbering pokegirl on his chest. “Shina. Fucking hell, stop doing that.”
The Sidekick was perched on their windowsill, her casual half-mask barely fluttering as she breathed. “I don’t require as much sleep as you or Kiara, Master. I apologize for being awake before you.”
“That’s not what I was talking about.” Joshua carefully lifted Kiara off of him and lay her on the bed beside him, accompanied by sleepy grumbles from the Ingenue. “I meant sitting on the window like that so I don’t see you until you say something.”
Shina’s mouth was hidden by her mask but the slight pause before her response and the lilt to her words made it clear she was stifling laughter. “I would never do such things to you intentionally, Master. I just was watching the others leave for the day.”
“Yea. That’s as see-through as your current state of dress.” Joshua snorted and waved a hand at the Sidekick’s lack of covering. “You know very well how those windows are nearly transparent in their own right.”
“Even if someone was watching, Master, I am yours. There can be no confusion about that.” This time the smug smile was clearly reflected in Shina’s eyes.
“Mmm. Did you hear? You’re not the only second tier here anymore. Ricky bought his bunny an Ice Crystal.”
Shina let that hang on the air for a few moments before shaking her head. “He would have done better losing her pokeball.” Her eyes widened when she remembered who else was in the room. “Master, I’m sorry, that was-“
“Something I completely agree with.” Joshua cut in. “So don’t feel bad about it. More importantly, what’s going on today?”
Shina gazed at a notebook beside her. “Open mess until 0900. All hands must be checked in with their fire team leaders at the field by 0915. Exercise begins 0930.”
“What time is it now?”
“So we’ve got about an hour.” Joshua slid out of bed and grabbed his shower bag. “Wake your sister up and get ready. I want both of you in uniform by the time I get back.” He scowled. “Cleaning cycles are cheating, but damn if they aren’t convenient.”
Shina nodded her understanding, waiting for Joshua to figure out the door handle and vanish into the hallway before sliding down and padding over to the bed.
“Wakey wakey.” She giggled, shaking the headboard slightly before diving over and impacting against the unconscious Ingenue.
Kiara’s eyes snapped open and she began coughing, her chest heaving as her mind took in the rush of information. In a flash she had rolled to her feet and returned the favor, slamming Shina to the ground amidst a chorus of laughter from both Pokegirls. They struggled for a few moments before Shina pinned the weaker Ingenue, holding her face inches away from Kiara’s grin.
“Hey, twinnie.” Kiara giggled. “What’s up?”
“Master needs us both in uniform, lover girl.” Shina chuckled. “You’re first.”
Kiara made a face and clambered to her feet. “Ick. Please tell me I get to-“
“Get dressed. Cleaning cycle.”
“Ugh, I hate rushing after a night of taming.” Kiara grumbled and began pulling on her clothes, picking them from where the night’s activities had scattered them around the room. “I can never get over that icky feeling.”
“I can scramble your brains a bit while I’m at it.” Shina teased. “Make you forget.”
“Thanks, no thanks. I’ll get over it.” Kiara carefully fastened her blouse and turned in front of their full length mirror. “Am I missing anything?”
“Your cute little hat, but that’s not standard, is it?” Shina smiled slightly. “Alright. Here we go.”
She triggered Kiara’s recall and placed her pokeball in the wall unit before unfastening her casual face mask and carefully folding it away. Taking a moment to admire the better - in her eyes, at least - version of the body she and her sister shared, she flexed, watching as her muscles tightened in response to the movement.
“We’re going to win today, Master.” She whispered to herself. “I’m not a weakling anymore. I’m not going to let Nallu win. Never again.”
She would have stood staring at the mirror for hours if not for the sound of a distant shower door slamming; quickly grabbing her own uniform she nearly fell into it as she secured the complicated lattice of straps and buckles that made up her middle layer before pulling on her uniform over the top.
Joshua walked in a minute later, vigorously scrubbing his hair to dry it. “Shina, you ready?”
“Waiting on you, Master.” Joshua lowered the towel to see the Sidekick carefully staring straight ahead at attention with her pokeball in her outstretched hand. “Kiara is awaiting the cycle in her pokeball.”
“Thanks.” Joshua snagged the ball and paused, his eyes darting over Shina’s shoulder before he tossed the towel on the bed and stepped in. “Hey, lower your right shoulder real quick.”
Shina obliged, using the opportunity to stare at her Tamer’s nudity while he pulled at a part of her harness. “Is something wrong, Master?”
“You got one of these twisted... not a vital piece, but it might have dug into your skin later.” Joshua grunted as he fixed the offending strap. “I’m glad you finally listened and started wearing these underclothes, even a small mistake like that would have hurt like hell without the padding.”
Shina rotated her arm experimentally when he stepped back and nodded. “That feels much better, Master. Thank you.”
“Anytime.” Joshua raised her pokeball and triggered the recall, dropping the ball in beside Kiara’s and beginning the cleaning cycle before he busied himself with his own clothing.
It didn’t take much longer than the cycle for him to be dressed and he retrieved the two pokeballs before exiting the room again. At this point there was much more activity in the common area, various humans and Pokegirls dashing around as they got ready. As Joshua reached the exit he heard hooting and turned to see a beet red woman sprinting through a throng of milling Tamers, her Slicer dashing along behind her with a face reddened from rage instead of embarrassment at the treatment of her Mistress.
“Alright, QUIET DOWN!” Joshua yelled, glaring around the room before giving the naked women a half salute. “Mornin’ Lucy.”
“Shove it up your ass, Josh!” Lucy yelled back before vanishing into her room, her Slicer quickly following and slamming the door shut.
Joshua chuckled to himself as he left, falling in with a few other Tamers on their way to the mess. The conversations never got too detailed, each Tamer focusing on the exercise ahead. For most, it was a normal day. But for Joshua’s class, it was much more. For them, performance in the live fire exercise could mean the difference between success, failure... or death.
“Joshua! Good to see you.” The grizzled man that had been acting as Joshua’s fire team leader gave him a winning smile from his position at the side of the prep area. “You’re my last to arrive. Had a good sleep? Full meal?”
“Yes Sir.” Joshua snapped back. “We are ready for action.”
The man slowly shook his head. “Twenty laps. Loosen up. You need to be relaxed, Josh. Not tense like this.”
Joshua blinked and nodded. “Yessir.”
“Oh, run with your girls!” The man yelled as Joshua started to jog away. “That dark one is good for your health.”
Joshua snorted and thumbed the releases on his belt. “Shina, Kiara, we’re running laps. We have...” he trailed off and glanced at the clock nearby. “Shit. Twenty in twenty minutes. Let’s go.”
“That’s a pretty relaxed pace, Master.” Shina gradually matched her pace to a jog. “Only 4K in twenty?”
“I want us done in ten, cooled down in five more.”
“Yessir.” Kiara slowly began pulling out in front of the group, her strides measured to match her sister’s increased pace. “What’s our deal today, Master?”
“Don’t know.” Joshua leaned into the first turn, straightening as they rounded the bend. “Look around. There are only a few groups outside.”
Shina swiveled, transitioning to running backwards as they passed the staging area. “Masters Benjamin and Jeaki are the only ones I can see.”
“Some are probably late. But I think we’ve missed something.” Joshua muttered. “Remember what they did the second week?”
Kiara frowned, unseen by the other two. “When they gave us incorrect directions on purpose, Master?”
“Yea. A staging area is nice, but having it out here by the field? There’s no buildings here. Nowhere for the class to hide.”
“If that’s right.” Shina turned back to facing forwards. “What do we do, Master?”
“I don’t know.” Joshua stared at the slightly larger group that stood around the track. “A few other Tamers have shown up...”
“Master, only fire teams Beta and Gamma are here.” Kiara cut in. “Where are the others?”
Joshua blinked and searched for the leaders as they ran by. “Shit. You’re right.” He quickly glanced back. “Shina, where did you get your information?”
The Sidekick frowned. “Gamma Leader handed out assignments yesterday.”
“They weren’t posted. Hand delivered.” Joshua cursed at her nod. “We’re being played.”
Over on the sidelines the two fireteam leaders were watching their respective charges mill about when Gamma Leader saw Joshua abruptly cut across the track and begin sprinting back to the main compound. Beta Leader sidled up beside him with a smile.
“Looks like one of yours figured it out.” He muttered, glancing around the chatting Tamers. “That makes what, two for you?”
“One for you.” Gamma shot back. “But we’ve still got ten minutes before it starts.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Beta shot him a grin. “I mean, we’ve already started.”
The compound, which had been bustling with activity half an hour prior, was a ghost town. As they ran Joshua rattled off strategies, sounding them between his Pokegirls.
“Armory first, obviously.” He hissed. “We were told the exercise starts at half past. We need to retrieve our weapons before then.”
“We have no direction, Master.” Shina shot back. “If the fields were a ruse, where are we meant to go? The training sites? Which one?”
“Worry about that when we get there.” Joshua slowed as they approached the armory. “For now, get your gear.”
Just like the rest of the compound the armory was eerily empty. Not even the quartermaster was there to stop them, and the racks seemed freshly looted. Joshua grabbed one of the pistols that still sat untouched and checked it, making sure the mechanism was functional before offering it to Kiara. The Ingenue slipped it into her holster, but not before loading it with a staggered pattern of elemental rounds and sliding a regular bullet into the chamber.
“Is this really okay?” Shina grumbled as Joshua tossed her her own pistol. “Maybe we should have-“
“We’re doing it, and I will take responsibility.” Joshua replied. “Load up. Grab your knives.”
Shina grumbled her assent and padded over to the other side of the room, pulling a few long combat knives out and sliding them into the sheathes crisscrossing her body. “Master?”
“I’m good.” Joshua was fitting a grip onto a short barrel SMG. “This is what we’re supposed to be doing, Shina. Trust me.”
The Sidekick gazed at her Tamer before bobbing her head and hopping the counter, disappearing into the usually locked back room. She emerged a minute later with a collection of round objects in her arms that she spread across the counter.
“Something weird is definitely going on. These aren’t dummy versions like we train with, but I’ve seen a real flash. This isn’t one.” She held up a stunted version of a stun grenade.
“It’s the same with the ammo and guns.” Joshua raised his SMG and opened the slide to show her the modified feed. “That’s why I think we’re correct. This is usually stocked with real stuff.”
“My knives…” Shina pulled one back out and tested the edge. “They’re not exactly blunt, but I don’t think these are the regular ones I use…”
The three turned as voices started echoing from outside and after a moment the door slammed open to admit two figures, both of which freezing when they saw who was inside.
“Josh?” The first stepped forwards, waving the Slicer behind her. “So, you realized too?”
“Hey, Lucy. Yea. Misdirection. The whole place is empty, save for what appear to be modified weaponry.”
“Simunition.” Lucy snatched a rifle and cycled the bolt, grabbing the bullet as it exited. “Yea. These will hurt like a bitch but shouldn’t kill you.” She thumbed the casing and frowned at something only she could see. “Probably.”
“Regardless? We’ve got two minutes before the thing starts.” Joshua turned and scooped up a few grenades. “Any idea where we go?”
“It’s here, idiot.” Lucy sighed at the blank look she got back. “The compound has been evacuated. The exercise is here.”
“Oh.” Joshua’s eyes widened when the implications hit him. “Then we’re at ground fucking-“
Both Tamers whipped their heads around as the air raid sirens began to blare. They were all that could be heard for a few moments before the low rumble of an approaching engine began thumping over the noise.
“Jessebel, grab whatever you can and GO!” Lucy screamed, scrabbling to attach an optical sight to her rifle. “Josh, get your girls out of here NOW.”
“You heard her, MOVE!” Joshua screamed, sending simulation grenades flying across the counter as he grabbed for whatever he could carry. “GO! GO! GO!”
Kiara was first out from her position by the door and she almost froze in the doorway before Joshua shoved her forwards. He could see a trio of helicopters flying low over the horizon, each unlike anything he’d seen before.
“Shina, get back in there and find a launcher!” He yelled to the Sidekick, prompting her to turn back and vanish into the back room. “Lucy, where are you?”
“It’s 0930.” Lucy pushed out and stared at the formation. “It’s begun.”
“Shina, I need that launcher, now!” Joshua called back into the building. “Damnit!”
“Coming!” Shina staggered out into the main room, a massive tube over her shoulder and rockets spilling out of her arms. “I could only find dumb fires. The rest are gone.”
“That’s fine.” Joshua took the launcher from her and easily threw it across his own back. “Give me three, carry two. Lucy, what are you and Jess going to do?”
“This isn’t the only assault.” Lucy muttered to herself. “Where did everyone go?”
The group slowly looked around before Lucy shook her head and pointed. “I’m going to hit the mess, check on the cooking staff. Take care of those choppers and either rendezvous with me there or at the barracks.”
“Alright.” Joshua watched her and her Slicer slip off between the buildings before turning and beginning to run towards the incoming helicopters.
The engagement happened in a blink of an eye – one moment he was running, completely focused on his targets, and the next there was gunfire, a masked figure collapsing in front of him. Joshua skid to a halt and glanced over his shoulder to see Shina cradling her rifle. The two shared a nod and she stepped forwards, drawing a knife as she neared the body. Carefully she flipped it over, confirming the ruptured plates across its chest. “He’s down.”
“Thanks for the backup.” Joshua looked up to see the first helicopter almost above them. “Shina, Kiara, post up. I’m loading.”
The two spread out to watch their flanks while Joshua unshouldered the launcher and slipped a rocket down the barrel. His hands were shaking so the wiring took a few extra seconds but soon he had the helicopter in sight.
“EARS!” He roared, carefully holding his sights just in front of the approaching chopper and pulling the trigger.
The dummy may not have carried an explosive payload, but the propulsion system was real enough. The helicopter saw the launch too late and tried jinking, flares firing as the pilot tried to confuse what she thought was a smart missile. The dumb munition paid them no heed as it plowed into the bottom of the cockpit, engine still burning.
Immediately the helicopter began to list, the automated scoring systems registering a kill. Out of her hands, the pilot could only yell for her crew to brace when the helicopter took over, diving below the nearest building before disappearing, sending the crew crashing to the ground.
“That’s a hit!” Joshua quickly began loading the next rocket as bullets sprayed the walls behind him.
“They know where we are!” Kiara ducked out of sight of a second salvo. “They don’t have an angle, but they know we’re here.”
“Fall back, stay out of sight.” Joshua finished loading the next rocket and began crawling backwards. “Shina. Shadows, you are my eyes.”
The Sidekick nodded and focused, her form becoming effused with darkness and her face disappearing behind a grinning skull mask. She took a moment to orient herself before vanishing, appearing a few moments later in the shadow of the building across from him.
“Kiara, watch my back.” Joshua muttered as another salvo peppered the area they had just vacated. “I’m not going to be able to get the next one so easily.”
Kiara muttered her acknowledgment and watched the way they had came while Joshua settled himself once more. It didn’t take long before the remaining helicopters came into view, both randomly dipping as they flew. He waited for one to begin moving towards the crash site before focusing in, waiting patiently for the pilot to stop their evasive pattern and begin to focus in on the black plume of smoke that marked the downed helicopter.
“EARS!” He screamed again, sending the rocket screaming towards the rotors.
The shot was almost perfect, but foiled by both the pilot’s experience and her now alerted point defenses. As the rocket got close to the diving aircraft two explosions rang out, sending the rocket into a tailspin and harmlessly past the helicopter.
Still, it wasn’t a full miss. The pilot swore as her controls began locking up, the computer registering flak damage. She managed to wrestle the helicopter away from any buildings before giving up, driving the machine into a controlled crash. Instantly her crew piled out, each searching for the source of the offending rocket fire.
Joshua panted as he ran, Kiara just behind him and Shina somewhere nearby. He hadn’t waited around to see if his rocket had hit, instead abandoning the gear and retreating.
“I hear gunfire from the third barracks.” Kiara yelled, altering her course slightly. “FRIENDLIES, ON APPROACH!”
The two rounded a corner to see three Tamers hunkered down behind a wall, broken glass littering the ground. “BEN!” Joshua screamed. “WHAT’S GOING ON?”
“GET DOWN!” Ben screamed, followed by more gunshots as the windows in front of Joshua exploded. He dove to the ground, closely followed by Kiara, as the machine gun inside continued painting the wall above him.
“What’s your situation?” Joshua called. “At least one of the approaching helicopters are down.”
“Shit, that was you? Good shots.” Another Tamer crawled over and shook Joshua’s hand. “I see you’ve even got real weapons.”
Joshua glanced around and frowned at the lack of armaments. “What, you didn’t raid the armory?”
“We tried. Got to it too late, after the assault had begun.” Ben slowly sat his back to the wall. “Al’s girl is fatally wounded. I’ve got Rix, but she’s not great with precision.”
“Why do we need precision?” Joshua hissed.
“Hostages.” Ben sighed. “They’ve got shields in front of the machine gun nest. Looks like a handful of the catering crew, maybe a secretary or two thrown in for good measure.”
“Yea, I agree.”
“Not counting the eleven that didn’t avoid the initial attack, we have thirteen active agents and one inactive.” Tom paced around the hologram of the compound. “Counting Pokegirls in their force, they have twenty-two active and two inactive. Overall, they survived the opening salvo quite well.”
“What happened to my helicopters?” Marcie lounged back and stared at the ceiling while she listened to her radio traffic. “From what I’m hearing they’re all out of the fight. Two downed, one on search and rescue.”
“One of the agents-“
“Cadets.” Alan cut in. “They are still cadets, Tom.”
“Sorry. Cadets. One of them grabbed a launcher from the armory. He’s doing exceptionally well, even counting the vehicles as single kills. He and his girls have two confirmed, three overall.”
Marcie glanced down. “One Cadet took out two of my choppers?” She stood and walked over to the hologram. “Show me.”
Marcie watched as the replay showed the Tamer order his Pokegirls into position before taking the first shot. She nodded slightly when he retreated, watching as her helicopters did exactly as they were trained to, and so missed his movements completely. “Smart. He stayed moving.” She highlighted the nearby buildings and began laughing when she watched one of the advance units flick from alive to dead. “Missed one, Tom. Two and four.”
Tom walked over and raised an eyebrow. “How’d that happen?”
“The Cadet in question is Joshua Banks. Twenty years old, been in the service of the Blue League for four years. Has two Pokegirls, twin sisters, originally Ingenue. One is now a Dark Sidekick.” Alan glanced up. “That happened because the Sidekick saw a target and took it down.”
Marcie raised her radio. “AU five-four, confirm cause of death.”
“It was all a blur, but hits register as knife and pistol. Two shots body, knife to throat.” The man shifted his position slightly to get more comfortable. “It was as if the shadows came alive, Ma’am. Terrifying.”
“Confirmed.” Marcie glanced around. “Sounds like a Sidekick to me.”
“Wait, this kid has a couple of Ingenue?” Tom shook his head. “How the hell did he make it into this program?”
“Had a couple of Ingenue.” Alan rolled his eyes. “Listen better. One’s a Sidekick.”
“If she can be trained to fire a rifle she’s as dangerous as most other weak breeds.” Marcie began pacing. “If she’s been trained by her sister, and participated in her Master’s deployments, there’s no reason to discount her. I wonder why she hasn’t evolved yet.”
“Who knows.” Alan glanced down and a small smile tugged at his lips. “Tom, add two more confirmed for our star student.”
“Here’s how it’s going to work.” Joshua half closed his eyes as he listened to the staccato bursts coming from inside the barracks. “Al, you’re useless right now without a pokegirl, and you also are impossible to stabilize. Kevin, you’ve still got your... what was she, an Amachop?”
“Ben, send Rix with Kiara and Kevin’s girl towards the front. Don’t engage, just draw attention. Shina will slip in and pincer, I’ll pop up when they’re distracted. Alright?”
“Sounds better than what I’ve got. Let’s do it.” Ben raised a pokeball and released a sullen looking Torch Chick. “Rix, follow Kiara’s lead.”
The flame chick glanced at the Ingenue and nodded slightly, a stocky girl joining them moments later.
“Alright. Front door, be CAREFUL. Go.” Joshua hissed. He waited for the trio to be in position before nodding.
Shina waited for the shouting and gunfire to shift to the new threat before slipping through the broken window, using her power to blend into the shadows. All eyes were on the front so she easily made it behind the machine gun nest, drawing her pistol and waiting.
Shina calmly shot the first gunner twice in the back of the head before shifting her aim to the second, ducking when he whirled towards the source of the shots. He had started to swing his gun around when a staccato burst came from the window, signaling Joshua’s entrance. The two gunners lay still, vital plates clearly showing death.
“Kiara, Shina, clear the building!”
Joshua vaulted into the common area and watched the three Pokegirls run by before he began checking the hostages. The other Tamers soon joined him, and together they made sure the huddled group wasn’t injured.
“Nice shooting, Josh.” Ben slapped him on the back. “Think we can take the armory? Get us kitted out like you and your girls?”
“I’m sure we could, but we need to protect these civilians first.” Joshua finished helping a limping Milktit to a seat and turned back to Ben. “We don’t know how many attackers there are, and it does nobody any good if they get taken prisoner again.” He stepped slightly to the side, snatching the Milktit’s arm away from his holster. “And we have no idea how many hostages are actually combatants.”
Ben’s jaw dropped when Joshua twisted, attempting to throw the Milktit to the floor. The girl resisted, freezing the two in a mockery of an embrace - the Milktit clawing at his pistol, Josh buried under her breasts as he fought to keep her arms from reaching his waist.
“A LITTLE HELP?”
The Amachop was the first to respond, quickly trapping the Milktit’s arms and helping wrestle the girl to the ground. The Tamers soon followed suit, pinning her arms and holding them in a lock while Joshua recovered.
“Fuck, she’s strong.” He gasped. “Please tell me she’s got a weapon on her.”
“Negative.” Ben sat up from where he had been searching the struggling Milktit. “Nothing but her clothes.”
“Your base is ours!” The girl spat, writhing under the weight of the three bodies. “One loss is nothing, there are more of us than you can count!”
“If she doesn’t have weapons, we can’t just kill her.” Joshua grit his teeth. “Damnit, we need restraints.”
“It’s live fire. She knows the risks.” It was Joshua’s turn to gape when Ben raised his hands and sent them crashing against the struggling girl, the impact slamming her head to the ground and stopping her struggles. “I’ll make sure she’s stabilized. Josh, you’ve got the edge. We’ll hold the fort here, get out there and find anyone you can.”
“What happened to taking back the armory?”
“Josh.” Ben gave a half smile. “Listen to yourself for once. You’ve always let others take the lead and followed along, being better than anyone else from the sidelines. We’ll protect these civilians. Go.”
Joshua still hesitated before nodding. “Ben, here.” He unholstered his pistol and handed it to the other man. “It’s loaded with a combination of elemental rounds. Change them around as you want, but it’s chambered with a regular.”
Ben took the pistol and caught the magazines Joshua tossed after. “Thanks.”
“Keep ‘em safe.” Joshua turned, exiting through the same doorway the pokegirls had gone through.
Shina appeared a minute later, almost running into her Tamer. “Oh! Master, we checked the building, no other hostiles in the area.”
“Where’s the others?”
“Kiara’s right behind me. Rix is gathering some supplies.”
“Alright.” Joshua gazed down the hallway. “Once Kiara gets here we’re rolling out. That helicopter we missed will be in the area soon so we need to rendezvous with Lucy before it can pick us off.”
“Understood.” Shina glanced over her shoulder and waved at Kiara as she walked up. “Ready, Master.”
The crowd of Tamers all watched the figure in front of them with relief. Some had anger mixed in their expressions, some excitement, but all were watching intently. One slowly sat, exhaustion written on his face, joining a handful that had already collapsed. The figure continued, oblivious to the collapsed cadets. “You have each successfully completed your training here. Report to your barracks; fireteam leaders will be around to give you your performance evaluation and new assignments. Congratulations, cadets. Enjoy your free time. You’ve earned it.” The figure gave a decisive nod. “DISMISSED!”
Joshua turned to see Ben walking towards him, one of his arms wrapped in a sling. “Ben? What happened to you?”
Ben chuckled and tapped his working arm against his cheek. “Well, you remember that Milktit?”
Joshua blinked. “The one we subdued?”
“Yea, her. She broke my arm.”
Joshua started laughing. “When I heard the announcement that the exercise was over and OpFor had won, I wondered about the hostage groups. So, what happened? A raid?”
Ben winced. “No. We didn’t have restraints, so we tied her up with some ties, but she was stronger than we expected. She broke free when we weren’t watching and took us down along with some other disguised civilians.”
Joshua winced in sympathy. “That sucks. What do you think that did to your score?”
Ben shrugged. “Probably tanked it, but I don’t really care. I did the best with what I had.”
“Well said.” Both Tamers turned to see a woman approaching. “You should get that arm fixed at medical, cadet.”
Ben saluted. “Yes Sir.” He dropped the salute and waved. “See you around, Josh.”
Josh returned the wave before turning to the woman. “I haven’t seen you before, Ma’am.”
The woman smiled. “That may be so, but I’ve seen you, Joshua Banks. You’ve had a very impressive few weeks here.” She gestured. “Walk with me.”
“Well, I’m supposed to report-“ Joshua started before being cut off.
“I’ve already spoken to Liam. He knows that you’re with me.” The woman turned and extended her hand. “Apologies, I never introduced myself. I’m Marcie, I was one of the proctors for your live fire exercise.”
Joshua took it and shook. “Thank you for the experience, Ma’am. If you don’t mind me asking, what is this about?”
“My team’s waiting in front of the shooting range.” Marcie continued, deflecting Joshua’s question. “We’re just waiting for a few more before we ship back out. Some of them wanted to meet you in person.”
Joshua mentally shrugged and continued behind her. As they rounded the corner to the range he could see a massive gathering of Pokegirls and Tamers, most either hefting or standing next to bags of gear.
“ATTEN-HUT!” The group snapped to attention at the call, Marcie continuing at her regular pace with no more than a shake of her head.
“At ease, everyone. Nick, was that you?”
A Tamer in the middle of the pack gave a cheeky wave and cupped his hands around his mouth. “Jes’ showing my CO the respect she deserves!”
Marcie sighed and glanced back at Joshua. “Stay away from Nick. He’s trouble.”
“Hey, is that the guy?” A few of the assembled forces began muttering when Marcie nodded. “Yo, Brit! That’s the dude that shot you down!”
Joshua turned his head when two Pokegirls looked over at him and started walking over, a large group of assorted Tamers and Pokegirls following them. “You were running the helicopters?”
“I was. The BLSF hires out the proctors for the live fire every year, and encourages us to bring our own forces in order to keep the exercise fresh. We’ve long had an excellent partnership with Blue and so I brought my best.”
“Sir.” The lead Pokegirl saluted Marcie before turning to Joshua. “So, you’re the deadeye with the RPG.”
“Well, I-“ Joshua started before the pokegirl grabbed his hand and began pumping it enthusiastically.
“Man, I haven’t been killed in years.” She gushed. “That was perfectly clean. If it hadn’t been a simulation I’d be dead.”
“Um... thanks, I think.” Joshua stuttered, extracting his hand with some difficulty. “Were you the first, or...”
“The first.” The second pokegirl stepped up and extended her own hand. “That’s Brittany. I’m Hella. We were the birds you took down.”
“You were the pilots?”
Brittany began laughing hysterically while Hella just shook her head slightly. “No sir. We are the helicopters. Brittany and I are Mecha Musume. Our third, Mina, is hiding back in that gaggle.” She jabbed her thumb over her shoulder at the group clustered around them. “We just wanted to shake the hand of the cadet that took us both out of the action.”
“Oh.” Joshua took her hand and marveled at the strength of her casual grip. “I, don’t really know what to say to all that.”
“Your ‘thank you’ works fine.” Hella replied with a smile. “Shows you’re humble. That’s a good trait.”
Joshua was saved any further response by a new voice, a man pushing his way to the front and throwing his arms over the two Pokegirls’ shoulders. “Hey! Stop hitting on my air support and start talking. Which one of your girls shot me, huh?” The new Tamer immediately dropped his arms as the two Mecha Musume simultaneously stomped on his feet, each of the steel types landing a heavy blow that sent the Tamer howling to the ground. “AHHHHH! FUCK!”
Joshua backpedaled when the group burst into motion, a few surging forwards to ask him questions or just get close, while two Pokegirls broke off to lift the howling Tamer to his feet. He saw one with a red cross on her uniform grab his feet and begin healing until the yelling stopped.
“Alright, ENOUGH!” Marcie roared, sending the group mobbing Joshua back to their original positions. “Joshua, I apologize for my people’s rudeness.”
“No, it’s... it’s fine.” Joshua took a deep breath. “It’s just so weird, suddenly being the center of attention like this.”
“You don’t like it, do you?” Marcie smiled at him. “You’ve consistently scored among the highest on every exercise, but never first. You strategize and form ideas but always allow others to suggest and execute them. Everything in your file shows you to be competent but not outstanding, an exemplary standard without going beyond. Hell, even your harem is bland. Two Ingenue? You couldn’t get any more normal if you tried.”
Joshua shifted uncomfortably. “Well, I guess that’s just... what I am. Competent.”
“Bull - fucking - shit.” Marcie was grinning by now. “You took down two helicopters solo without sustaining any casualties. Your Pokegirls, in the process, confirmed SEVEN kills before all three of you vanished, leaving the remaining helicopter to spin around helplessly, split between threat management and rescue. You did more than down one and disable another, you removed three helicopters, their crews, and at least a dozen ground units from an engagement, all on your own. And that was just the most recent example - I got a hold of your recordings, from the other exercises. Consistently you are the first to a solution but delay, finding an excuse or assisting an ally before finishing yourself. Take your survival segment. You were given false coordinates and figured them out instantly, but still visited them to, and I quote, ‘get some exercise’. And if you want to call that a fluke like you told Liam, fine. Yet you earned a spot in this training usually reserved for special forces recruits with a pair of fucking Ingenue as your partners. Fuck, even the weakest Tamers here have backups they were instructed not to use, yet you just have those two.” The smile was splitting her face in half at this point. “How long? How long do you expect to slip by? What’s your goal?”
“I’m just lucky.” Joshua mumbled. “I don’t deserve all this attention.”
Marcie watched him for a minute before shrugging. “Fine. Take this, if you change your mind.” Joshua glanced up to see her holding out a file. “We ship out in an hour. Make your choice before then.”
Joshua hesitantly took it and nodded, quickly turning and walking away. Nick sidled up behind Marcie as he left, a low buzz of conversation picking up behind them.
“You think he’ll come back?”
“He’ll be back.” Marcie watched the back of Joshua’s head until he had vanished from sight. “If only because he never got an answer as to who we are. His psyche profile promises that much.”
Joshua pushed through the throng of cadets, Marcie’s file still clutched in his fist. Why had she exposed him like that? He hated the spotlight. Always had. Working from the shadows, the sidelines, doing the minimum necessary to earn what he wanted. And she had just... pushed him up. In front of so many people.
He pulled open his door and tossed the file onto the desk before collapsing on his bed. Why had she done it? Who was she to do it?
Who was she?
He pulled the pokeballs off his belt and triggered the releases, not even looking at the two as they appeared. “Kiara, go find our fireteam lead, please. I want to get our assignment and start preparing.”
Kiara glanced down at her Tamer and nodded. “Did the ceremony not go well, Master?”
“It wasn’t a ceremony. It was a debrief. The ceremony is tomorrow, and we’ll head out to wherever they want us after that.” He glared at the ceiling. “I got cornered by some woman who claimed she was the proctor who provided the helicopters. That’s what didn’t go well.”
“Was she angry?” Kiara perched on the foot of the bed. “I would be, if my part was taken down by one Tamer. Even if it was my Master.”
“No, the opposite.” Joshua sighed. “She praised me. Introduced me to her entire force and praised me.”
“Owch.” Shina stepped over him to take her usual perch on the windowsill. “I bet you hated that.”
“Of course I did.” Joshua growled. “She even gave me some stupid file and made vague remarks about hiring me or something. As if I could do that. I’m sworn to the BLSF.”
“Have you read whatever it is?” Kiara giggled when Joshua shook his head. “Then how do you know she isn’t with the Blue League?”
“She said she’s always been good friends with Blue or something like that. So she’s not BLSF.” Joshua gestured at the desk. “The file’s over there if you want to look. I don’t really care.”
Shina looked down as Kiara stood. “You’re not curious?”
“I’m insanely curious. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m stuck here.” Joshua growled. “So knowing there could have been a stronger path out there would just hurt.”
“Master.” Joshua sat up at Kiara’s tone. “You really need to see this.”
“What, is there a big number?” He tried to joke but stopped at the serious look on her face. “Kiara, what is it?”
“These are just news stories and reports. But they’re all covered and stuff.” She held up a page that was almost half full of black marks. “They’re all about Team attacks and robberies.”
“Huh? Let me see.” Joshua rolled over and grabbed the pages Kiara was holding up. “‘Bank robbery ends with no civilian casualties, two suspects in custody’ ‘Team Rocket attack thwarted by local police’ ‘Suspected hideout found empty by SWAT - Police Chief refuses to comment’.” He scanned the rest. “Why did she give me these? And why are all the places covered up?”
“There was also this.” Kiara held out a smaller envelope. “It’s sealed.”
Joshua took it and peeled back the flap. “There’s more paper in here.” He eased out the packet, dropping the envelope and unfolding the first page.
“‘We work away from the prying eyes of the world. The places most can not go. The things most can not do. That’s where you will find us.’” He flipped over the short note and set it aside. “What the hell?”
Kiara reached over and eased a photograph out of the mess. “Who’s this?”
Joshua took it and frowned. “That’s the woman. But she wasn’t in this uniform when I met her, she was in a regular set of fatigues.” He focused in on her left arm. “I didn’t see that tattoo, either.” He paused. “No, she was wearing long sleeves. They all were.”
“All of the OpFor?” Shina called.
“No, just her group.” Joshua muttered, pulling another photograph out of the pack. “Look. Those two Pokegirls on the sides, those were the helicopters. Mecha Musume. And that guy, near the middle. He said his name was Nick. Who are these people?”
Kiara peeked over his shoulder. “Why do half of them have their faces covered?”
“I. Don’t. Know.” Joshua hissed. “I hate not knowing.”
“Seems pretty obvious to me.” Shina yawned. “They’re special forces. I bet most of that is classified, so they’ve blacked it out.”
“If they’re special forces, why didn’t she just say so.” Joshua shook his head. “There’s something more to this. Why would she offer to hire me?”
“What else was in the envelope?”
Joshua glanced down and unfolded the next piece of paper. “‘Bank robbery’... hey, this is the other story.” He held it up. “But it’s not from a newspaper. It’s... an after action report?” He looked over at Shina and flipped the page around so she could see. “The date’s the same, but this lists one civilian casualty. The news story said there were none, with two arrests.”
“Find the one for the hideout raid.” Shina slid down and took the report from him. “This still has some information missing, but it lists first names. A couple of Pokegirls, the names of the robbers.” She blinked. “There were five taken into custody. Not two.”
“I found the hideout.” Joshua skimmed the report. “It says a strike team hit the place a few hours before the SWAT raid was scheduled. No prisoners were taken. All evidence and personnel destroyed.” He read further. “It says the person they were after was killed in the firefight.”
“Master, did this lady say she wanted to hire you? Were those her exact words?”
Joshua shook his head at Kiara’s question. “No. She said something about me hiding from the spotlight, and then when I tried to back off she told me I had an hour to make my decision.”
“It’s been at least half an hour since the debriefing, right?” Shina raised an eyebrow. “Then we don’t have much time to get answers.”
“Yea.” Joshua stood and gathered up the files. “Come on. She was by the firing range.”
As they were headed out they ran into Liam, the fireteam leader giving Joshua a jaunty wave as they passed. “Good work out there, Josh!”
“Thank you sir!” Joshua called back. “I’ll be back in a few for my assignment.”
“No, you won’t.” Liam replied cheerfully, laughing at Joshua’s look and continuing on his way.
“Come on.” Shina grabbed Joshua’s arm. “Obviously he knows about all this.”
Joshua muttered his assent and let the Sidekick drag him out of the barracks and to the firing range, where the massive crowd had dwindled slightly. Marcie turned at his approach and smiled. “Joshua! So, have you made your decision?”
Joshua pulled his hand free of Shina’s grasp and came to a halt. “That depends. Who are you, and what do you want with me?”
Marcie chuckled and nodded at the scrambled file he had under his arm. “I see you read that. I’d like to recruit you, Joshua Banks. I think you’d make a fine operative. You don’t need to worry about the BLSF - I’ve already processed the paperwork for a discharge. All it needs is your signature.”
“That’s all great, but you still didn’t answer my question.” Joshua scowled. “Who are You.”
Marcie grinned and pulled out a small badge holder. “Major Marcie Richard with the DSA, specifically the Anti-Terrorism Unit. We specialize in military solutions that are too big for the general police, but too sensitive to involve any league organized military. We’re just like you - professionals who prefer to stay out of the public eye. Not like some of the folks with InfoSec, but secret enough.”
“DSA. Like, the Planetary League Council DSA?”
Marcie smirked. “Yup.”
Joshua stared at the badge. “And you... want me.”
“To join the DSA.”
“Can... can I take a minute?” Joshua stuttered. “I don’t really know how to answer.”
“Sure. You’ve got ten.” Marcie jabbed her thumb at the group. “First wave’s already left, and second will be gone in a moment. If you’re not leaving with the third you’re not leaving at all.”
Joshua nodded slightly and watched Marcie return to the group and begin talking. “Shina? Kiara? What do you think?”
“It doesn’t matter what we think, Master.” Kiara giggled. “It’s what you want, so it’s what we want.”
“You’ve always been indecisive outside of combat.” Shina grinned and wrestled her Tamer’s head beneath her arm. “I’m supposed to be your counterpart. You’re being stupid. DO IT.”
“I don’t know…”
“This is bigger than anything you could ever achieve in the BLSF.” Shina let him go and turned him to face the dwindling group of people. “There’s no question. You can’t pass this up, Master. Say yes.”
Marcie looked over when Joshua walked up. “Well?”
Joshua glanced back at Shina, smiling slightly before turning back to Marcie. “I accept.”
He heard a whoop from the group, watching as Nick separated himself and ran over. “HELL yea! Say, do you have a nickname?”
“Nick…” Marcie sighed.
“Uh-“ Joshua started before Nick cut him off.
“See, my name’s Nick, so it’s only proper I give everyone a nickname.” Nick laughed, avoiding a jab from Marcie and beginning to stroke his chin. “Now, you’ll probably get one during the training week, but if you got one now… hmm…”
“Where’s Donna?” Marcie looked around. “Get out here and control your Master, for gods’ sake.”
“ROCKET MAN!” Nick whooped. “After your performance with that launcher, there’s no other option, is there?” He began shooting finger guns at Joshua as an armored pokegirl separated from the group and began wrestling him back to the group. “Rocket man, rocket maaaaan…”
Marcie was holding her face in her hands and slowly shook her head. “I’m sorry, Joshua.”
Joshua shook his head and smiled. “That’s alright. I appreciate his enthusiasm.” He took a deep breath, turning back and pulling his own pokegirls forwards. “I think we’re going to fit in just fine.”
“Then let’s get moving.” Marcie grinned. “Welcome aboard, Agent Banks.”