Chapter One: Gamayun Sniper

Here is the first chapter of the ‘Perpetual War’ series. This story follows the life of Natalia Ludmila through the horrors of a war that has engulfed the world for centuries. Those who saw the beginning have long since died of old age. The war is a way of life and everyone has grown to accept it.

I want to give special thanks to the patrons who’ve supported me thus far:

Hypermice, Sean Young, and Mister Artorias

 

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Gamayun Sniper

The distant whistling of an artillery shell soaring through the air echoed over the town, its explosion far in the distance. The town stretched out from Natalia’s vantage point, an assortment of buildings extending in either direction with roads crisscrossing in between. Many of the buildings had cracks, holes, and entire sections missing, the concrete foundations and shingled roofs barely holding from the destruction surrounding them. Glass littered the uneven cobblestone streets below, plants gray from a thick coating of dust, the innards of shops littered about.

She turned away from the windowsill, pushing herself against the corner of the barren room. A cold breeze came through the window, rays of sunlight revealing specks of dust kicked up into the air. The only noticeable feature of the room was the pair of gaping holes through the ceiling and floor. Scratches and black marks on the wooden floorboards where furniture once stood reached down through the hole to the floor below. Snow caked the edges of the room, having escaped the sun.

The sound of shifting rubble caught her attention. Moving back to the windowsill, she spotted a glimpse of three men adorned in dark brown uniforms walking across an intersection. They vanished a moment later behind a building.

Sitting back into the corner she sighed, the tension in her easing away. Taking her leather gloves off, she placed them to the side neatly folded and began rubbing her hands together. Bringing warmth to her fingertips, she undid the button to a pocket on the side of her dark gray trench coat. She produced a flask, unscrewed the top, and took a sip of the dark liquor inside, its spicy warmth tingling down her throat. She closed the top of the flask, placed it atop her gloves, and shifted to the canvas pack sitting to her left. Unbuckling the flap, she reached in for food. Unwrapping it she numbly began to nibble on the tasteless dry texture of a biscuit. Closing the flap, she reached into a side pocket of the pack and pulled out a piece of paper. Placing the paper on her leg she unfolded it and began to scan the words on the inside.

Natalia huffed as she reached the end of the text and began to read it over once more. Reaching the end again she stared at the word written before her name. ‘Gamayun’. She sighed. A magnificent Gamayun. How excited Brigadier Voss was to give the title to the great Natalia Ludmila. Though honestly, I’d prefer I didn’t get the promotion. I get the feeling that man believes I’d be safer for my age to be alone away from the worst of the frontlines, and yet here I am behind the enemy.

Natalia leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes in thought. It seems ridiculous that I’m out here on a hunch that the infamous tank commander Alexander Doxul of the festering Yenvark Union would actually take his remaining tanks and escape to this insignificant town. There is nothing left here but ruins and what few Union guards are still holding here. It’s hardly worth defending in its current state, practically suicide to try to hide tanks under our artillery fire’s range. Natalia shook her head and folded the paper back up, looking out the window at the gray, dismal clouds high above, the sight of a hawk flying overhead. She took another absent-minded bite of the biscuit, stopping to take another swig from her flask, savoring the warm sensation. If the 33rd Armor Battalion had just done their job and surrounded Doxul, I wouldn’t even be here. As usual, I’m stuck fixing others’ mistakes. But what do I know? I’m just a simple sniper for the grand army of The Derdainia Imperium, just following the Duke in all his holiness. She smirked.

Finishing the biscuit, Natalia licked her fingers clean of crumbs and rubbed them together. Satisfied, she took up her gloves once more and took a final swig from her flask before placing it back into its pocket. Placing the pack behind her, she laid against it and closed her eyes, listening to the breeze outside moving over the roofs of the silent town. Natalia brought a hand up to her chest to the tip of her braid, playing with the strands. She looked down, noticing the specks of dirt staining her blonde hair. She shrugged and flicked the braid back over her shoulder, closing her eyes once more.

This war is never going to end. I thought it was stupid growing up. I wanted no part in it. Who’d think I’d get sent to training by the age of eleven? Reaching into her coat she pulled out a locket. Inside was a black and white picture of three young girls. I remember growing up hearing about the war all the time, terrified of having to go fight like my older brothers. I remember finding out that girls don’t go to war unless they volunteer. It was nice to know I’d be safe. What a terrible day it was then when I found out that, among my entire school, I would pass the ‘Esper Test’ with flying colors and get forced into the draft like all the boys. I miss you two so much. Natalia bit on her tongue, holding back her frustration as she closed the locket and hid it back inside her coat. A few more weeks and I should at least get some time off to return home, to see them and mama. It’d be brief, but it’ll be bliss.

Natalia perked at the sound of an engine buckling with effort, treads moving across the stone street. Figures command has to be right this time. Guess I have to get to work. Grabbing the rifle to her side, she brought it forward for inspection. Its smooth wooden frame was adorned by the metal barrel going down its length and a bolt handle sticking out the side. The scope was thin, with two small dials to adjust for elevation and wind. She pulled the bolt handle back and looked in the empty chamber, confirming its cleanliness. Loosening her coat, she reached along her belt for a leather pack and opened it, revealing two rows of bullets. She pulled a single bullet out of its strap and slid it into the fixed magazine of the rifle, repeating the action in a methodical manner. The sounds of the treads grew louder, beginning to fill the entire town with noise.

Loading in the fifth bullet she pushed the handle forward, sealing the top bullet into the chamber. Crossed legged, she kept the rifle in her lap and rested her head in her hands. Eyes closed, she listened to the movement of the treads coming closer.

After a few more minutes passed, she pushed herself to a crouching position by the windowsill and poked her head up. To her right she had a perfect angle past several smaller buildings and remains of others towards the main street of the town. The building she sat in was along the road that intersected at a perpendicular angle the road the tank now drove on. She caught glimpses of the tank between buildings until it finally reached the long stretch of clear view she had towards the intersection.

The tank was a narrow structure of angles which gave it a clean and elegant appearance for a tank. The turret was also angled, melding to the main body with its barrel extending beyond for long range. Its armor plating was painted a sickly green, faded by the caked-on mud and numerous scratches and dents. The command hatch was open and a man sat inside looking back at the engine compartment that was puffing out billows of black smoke. Several brown-uniformed soldiers trailed behind and to the sides of the tank, rifles and machine guns at the ready.

The loud bang of the engine buckling again echoed into the town as the tank stopped abruptly. The man in the command hatch lurched back, his peaked cap falling off his head. The man turned around and reached for the cap, visibly moving his mouth in shouts aimed at the crew in the compartments beneath him, his voice lost in the distant breeze that moved through the town. The surrounding soldiers shifted around the still tank, a couple moving to the engine as the driver’s hatch in front of the turret on the tank opened to reveal two crew members climbing out.

Adjusting herself into a comfortable position against the window, Natalia positioned her rifle along the sill, looking through the scope. Scanning the scene, she brought the scope to the tank commander, grimacing as she looked over him, the thick, gray, curled mustache obscuring part of his frustrated face. What a waste of time. That’s not Doxul, though it’s definitely one of his tanks, she thought, moving her scope to the emblem on the side of the tank, a white circle with a smooth single white wing extending from it.

Pulling away from the window, she lowered herself back into the corner and sighed. May as well report back to command. She placed her rifle to the side and reached into her pack, digging through the contents. Going to be such a pain having to sneak back through, though if I go fast enough I’ll get some shut-eye back at base before having to report. Finding the small metal transmitter she was looking for, she set it in her lap and pulled the antenna up. Opening the lid on it, she adjusted the sliders and dials within to the appropriate encryption and closed it back up. Once satisfied she set it on the floor before her and began to tap the small knob against the metal plate, creating short bursts and long pauses between hits.

Tapping away, she came to the end of the message and began to pack away the device when a loud whirring sound caught her attention. Buckling the pack closed, she poked her head up to the window and looked towards the tank. Her eyes widened at the sight of the turret turning towards her, the whirring sound getting replaced by a higher pitched sound as the turret’s barrel began to lift. You’ve got to be kidding me! How do they know I’m here? She pounced towards her pack and rifle, grabbing both, and began to race for the hole in the floor. They must have a spotter. But of all places, why here?

She reached the hole and dropped down to the second floor. Landing onto a rotting cushion, the pack in her left hand caused her to lose balance as she rolled off the pile of junk to hit the floor heavily. Rising, she heard the loud blast and quickly darted for the blown-out window to the alleyway below.

The blast hit the floor above her with devastating effect. Its shockwave sent her flying out to smack against the wall of the next building. Falling back, she landed on the ground a floor below with a loud crack against the concrete. Looking up she could see rubble falling off the building, several chunks landing near her.

“This is ridiculous…” she muttered, slowly lifting her head up. Any normal person would be dead after that. She spat to the side, noticing specks of blood. Staggering to her feet, Natalia leaned against the wall of the building. She took deep, shuddering breaths. She surveyed the damage of the building above, the majority of the third floor now gone. Lucky me.

Grabbing the pack off the floor, she pulled the two straps over her shoulders and picked up the rifle, checking it for any damage. Satisfied with its condition, she brought its strap over her head and reached to her side beneath her coat. She pulled out a revolver and scanned it for any damage from the fall. Seeing none, she looked in either direction of the alleyway she stood in. A spotter did find me, which means they’ll be sending soldiers over to search for me. She took a deep breath and leaned back against the wall. I need to go. Natalia glanced down at the crack in the concrete where she had landed, spotting the blood where her head had been. Running a hand over the back of her head she shivered at the feeling of matted hair. Her gloved hand came away bloody, and she grimaced. Placing her right hand over her heart, she closed her eyes and felt a healing presence wash over her.

Opening her eyes once more, she took the revolver in both hands and began to set off to her left, away from the direction of the tank. I just need to get out, then I can better deal with the injury. Turning a corner, she headed down another alleyway, keeping her pace steady, her feet light on the ground.

Thin layers of dirty snow lined her path between the red and gray-bricked buildings surrounding her. Her vision began to blur, the maze of the alleys she traversed forcing her to stop for breath several times, her focus staying on the path ahead of her. A throbbing in the back of her head began to grow, her body shaking as the chill seemed to begin to encroach past her coat.

A loud distant bang caused her to stop and look back towards the direction of the tank. A moment later the sound of treads starting to move along cobblestones began once more.

“Shit, they fixed the engine,” Natalia muttered under her breath as she turned to keep moving. A weakness washed over her a few steps later and she stumbled to the floor. Extending her left hand out, she hit the floor, a dizziness catching her off guard. Forcing herself to her feet, she reached the end of the alleyway and poked her head out towards the street beyond.

The street was littered with the debris of ruined cars and other rumble, its concrete cracked and ruined. Seeing no movement in either direction, she kept to a low crouch and moved across the street towards a two-story building that appeared to have escaped the worse of the war so far.

Stumbling over her feet, she landed at the doorstep of the building, her breathing ragged. I guess I underestimated the wound, she thought, coughing up more blood. The internal bleeding isn’t stopping either. She slowly stood back up. Raising her revolver with one hand, she took hold of the door handle. The door opened without much force, one of the hinges missing. Pushing past the door she eased it back to its resting place and looked around. She stood in the entrance of a simple kitchen, snow covering large portions, a gaping hole in the wall. Moving past the kitchen into the living room she looked around at cushions ripped apart, the wood of furniture having been scavenged. She took care to avoid patches of snow littering the space, taking slow, steady steps, her revolver pointing towards every door she approached.

Reaching the staircase, she made her way up, her eyes viewing the top with a focused gaze. A throb of pain shook through the back of her head, causing her to pause momentarily before she could keep moving. Coming to the top, Natalia moved down the hallway, checking each bedroom until finally reaching the last one. The room was mostly barren. The only piece of furniture was a worn bed, dull, blue paint peeling off to reveal rust on the metal frame. Marks on the floor hinted at other furniture, long since taken away for whatever purpose. A large pile of snow decorated the top of the bed and windowsill, a thin layer of snow dusting the rest of the room. She settled into a corner away from the window and faced the doorway.

Opening her pack, she found the banged-up metal transmitter within, its hammer shattered in pieces. Placing it to the side she reached deeper into the pack. She brought out a small plastic container and quickly ripped both of her gloves off. After rubbing her hands together for warmth, Natalia opened it to reveal rolled up strips of gauze and bandages within. Pulling the rolled cloths out, she rested them in her lap and reached into the container to grasp a syringe at the bottom.

Seeing the clear liquid within the syringe, she pulled the collar of her coat back and aimed the needle to the side of her neck. Closing her eyes, she held her breath and balled up her free hand into a fist. Injecting the needle into her skin, she used her thumb to push the plunger down, squeezing the liquid into her vein. Pulling the needle out, she released the breath she had been holding. If those damn Union soldiers actually chase me, I’ll make them pay for having to use a damn needle! I hate these things! She growled, tossing the syringe towards the opposite side of the room away from her.

Placing her right thumb onto the tiny hole to hold back the blood, she dug into the container again for anything else useful. The liquid washed through her body, the throbbing in her head beginning to fade away. Producing an antibacterial cream, she placed it to the side with the gauze, and closed the container, tossing it back into her pack. Ripping a piece of gauze, she dabbed it against the back of her head, finding the parts still wet with blood and dropped it to the side. Satisfied the blood had stopped from the tiny hole in her neck, she unrolled part of the gauze. Uncapping the small container of cream, she pushed out a small amount onto the gauze and placed it onto the back of her head. Unrolling the rest of the gauze, she wrapped it around her forehead. Satisfied the wound was covered with enough layers, she ripped the small amount left and placed it into her pack. Holding the end of the gauze on her head, she wriggled the bandage loose with the other hand and wrapped its stickier surface onto the end of the gauze and circled it around her head. She took care to hide the white of the gauze beneath the beige color of the bandage.

Her task complete, she tossed the remaining bandage into the pack and gently leaned her head against the wall. Wincing in pain, she adjusted to find a suitable angle that wouldn’t hurt her head wound. Natalia closed her eyes and listened to the outside world. The treads of the tank moving were nowhere to be heard, the sound having stopped at some point during her work. The breeze could still be heard moving across the town, starting to pick up with the potential promise of more snow this night. A distant whistling of artillery fire began, a volley towards an unknown target. Its rain of destruction ended only a few minutes after having begun.

Opening her eyes, she picked up the metal transmitter and opened the top to the inner workings of the device. Taking out the boards and wires with care, she secured them within her pack. She placed the empty metal shell to the side, forgotten by her as she picked up the revolver and rested it in her lap.

Could I risk hiding here until the night? Or should I leave now? She rolled her head back and forth. What a joke. My first mission as a Gamayun and I’ve nearly gotten killed. Getting on her hands and knees, she crawled over to the windowsill. Poking her head out she could see the town beyond, a similar sight from before. The biggest difference was the large government building sitting at the center of town, its once glorious domed top caved in. She spotted the building she had been in before, the front almost entirely gone, the back two floors still barely standing, sections teetering in the wind.

Looking further down towards the street she had crossed earlier, she spotted a half-dozen brown-coated Union soldiers moving through the alleyway, stopping briefly at the sight of her blood staining the floor. I left more of a trail than I thought… It’s incredible I’ve made it this far. Guess I have no choice, though. She looked either way along the street and over roofs to other distant streets, scanning for the tank. Not spotting it, she holstered her revolver and crawled back to the rifle sitting with the pack. Taking it and the discarded gloves, she returned to her spot, pulled the gloves on and took aim. A couple of shots to scare them back, then I need to move before the tank finds me.

Looking through the scope, she aimed the crosshairs over the group of soldiers coming to the end of the alleyway. Adjusting the dial on top of the rifle to a lower elevation to match the second floor, she then adjusted the second dial by a slight amount for the increased wind speed. Taking a deep breath, she rested the crosshairs over the soldier standing in the middle of the group. The man was young, barely growing a beard. Pulling the trigger, the bullet left the barrel with a thunderous roar to break the silence, soaring through the air to land with a bloody impact, causing the man’s face to become unrecognizable.

Pulling the handle of the bolt back, the shell flew out, a new bullet getting shoved into the chamber as Natalia slammed the bolt back into place. Shouts of ‘Alita’ and ‘Pran couvartu’ filled the air as the five remaining soldiers ran out of the alleyway towards the rubble and torn up cars. Aiming the crosshairs over the last soldier to emerge from the alleyway, she pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced the man’s right leg, causing him to crumble and slide past the cover he was aiming for, a cry of agony bellowing into the air.

The bolt was ripped back then pushed into place in an instant, the empty brass shell flinging off into the distant part of the room, the noise lost to her focused senses. The sight of movement out of the corner of her left eye caught her attention. Turning the rifle, Natalia spotted a woman standing up, her sub-machine gun raising towards the building. The bullet left the sniper rifle first, causing bone and brain matter to fling into the air, the woman’s body crashing flat on its back.

Moving away from the window, Natalia picked up her pack and pulled the straps onto her shoulders. Once secured, she walked towards the doorway, releasing the empty shell from her rifle as she went. Reaching for the strap on her belt, she quickly loaded three bullets into the magazine and pushed the bolt back into place. She distantly heard the clicking sound of a bullet secured into the chamber, ready for release. Slinging the rifle over her head, she reached the top of the stairs and un-holstered her revolver. A cry of pain from the man on the street echoed into the house, a chill shaking through her. Coming to the first floor, Natalia made for the back of the building, opening the door to a small courtyard with several metal chairs and tables strewn about. Moving across, she reached the restaurant on the other side of the yard, the contents within tossed about, already ransacked.

She paused at the entrance, the sound of moving treads catching her attention, more shouts in the distance. Looking back at the house she had come from, Natalia ducked out of instinct at the sound of a bang followed by an explosion. Glancing up, she felt a shudder wash over her at the sight of the bricks and wood holding the house up cracking and shattering to the ground, the entire second floor now missing. That spotter must have a good track on me. That tank responded far too fast.

Rushing through the restaurant to the other side, she stopped at the side of the large street beyond. Several lanes of concrete with a strip of cobblestone going through the middle as a break in the road filled her path. Looking either way she entered the wide space, her heart racing at the openness. She avoided the piles of snow, finding cover behind carriages and several torn-up cars. Moving through the maze of debris, she heard the treads moving ever closer. Sliding the few steps down a large crater she climbed out the other side, reaching the cobblestone strip in no time. Natalia twisted around at the treads, which were now reaching a cacophony of noise. She quickly ducked behind a large carriage, the horse that once pulled it blown to pieces by a shell, its remains mostly picked to the bone.

Peeking out from behind the carriage, she spotted the tank rounding the corner into the wide street, soldiers riding atop it. Three uninjured soldiers behind. Two will give chase while the other stays with the injured, four more atop the tank, the tank itself, and a spotter somewhere… What horrible odds. Leaning back into her cover, she reached into her pocket for the flask and unscrewed the top. Taking a deep gulp, she closed it again and got into position, her feet ready to push off in a sprint.

The spotter has a good lock on me at this point. As soon as I move they’ll know where I am. I can’t escape anymore. I just need to wait for the right moment. She listened to the tank stop, the engine continuing to run at a steady chug. The boots of the soldiers hitting the ground followed shortly after as they began to move out. Pulling her braid behind her shoulders, she slowly peeked out as little as possible to see the soldiers splitting up along the width of the road, two of them vanishing past her vision. Moving to the other side of the carriage, she peaked out to see the other two taking up position along the rest of the width of the road. Going to search across the entire road. They know I’m among the wreckage then, which means… She moved back to the right side of the carriage to see the tank pointing its gun in her general direction, the two soldiers starting to move along the road. The tank is ready to shoot, just slight adjustments depending on where I am. Not good at all. To make matters worse, I’m in the dead center, no building to escape to.

Easing the pack off her shoulders, Natalia set it against the carriage and closed her eyes, listening to the boots moving along the road, breaking up the constant engine noise of the tank filling the air. The rugged grip of the revolver in her hand pushed into her skin as she squeezed it tightly. I need to get back to the restaurant. Patience though… Just a bit more.

The sound of a pair of boots stopping abruptly gained her attention. Looking up she spotted the soldier just past the crater, scanning the area, his head starting to move towards her spot. Time to move! Launching forward, she raised her revolver and pulled the trigger. The hammer cocked back and slammed forward.

The bang punctuated the air, the bullet hitting the man’s right shoulder causing him to twist back, the second bullet landing squarely in his chest, and a third final bullet blasting through his throat. His body collapsed onto its back, a splattering of crimson blood decorating a pile of snow behind him.

Reaching the crater, Natalia slid to her feet, landing safely on the dirt and snow as the tank fired. The explosion sounded close by, dirt raining down on her inside the crater, her ears ringing.   Natalia shook her head, her hearing coming back, her heart pumping with adrenaline. Tank is reloading, which means I have a few seconds. Jumping out of the crater, she raised the revolver, firing off two successive rounds towards the furthest soldier by the restaurant.

The man ducked low, the bullets landing harmlessly in the wall behind. Rising to his feet, the man aimed his rifle and returned fire.

Natalia slid into the side of a wrecked car, the whizzing sound of a bullet going right over where her head was a moment before. Looking back, she spotted a third soldier reaching the middle of the street. Aiming her revolver from her prone position she fired the remaining two shots. The first bullet nicked the man’s leg causing him to fall to his knees, the second bullet catching him in the head as he fell. His body crumbled to the floor, motionless.

The sound of clanking metal echoed into the air. She looked at the tank to see its turret turning towards her position. Holstering her revolver, she took the rifle off her back and stood. She felt a sudden pulse of blood surge through her veins into her left hand. Spotting the soldier by the restaurant, she aimed her open hand towards him. Her vision focused as the feeling of incredible weight moved through her left arm, concentrating around her hand before extending outward. In that moment she could make out the trails of power sweeping through the air to encircle the man, and she saw his mouth begin to gape open in a scream, his eyes realizing his doom. Releasing her grip, the invisible force took hold of the man and crushed him into a ball in an instant. The tangled mess of remains fell to the floor with a squish, a pool of blood rapidly growing.

With the power released, a dizziness washed over Natalia. Shaking her head, she stumbled several steps, her vision blurring. A loud explosion of the tank firing caught her attention before a shockwave hitting close by sent her sprawling forward, landing heavily on her side and skidding a short distance further.

Lifting her head slowly, she saw the rifle sitting an arm’s length away. Taking it, she crawled the remaining short distance to the restaurant. Inside, she pushed herself against a wall in a hallway and took several deep breaths. Her heart was pounding. She felt blood dripping off a fingertip. Looking down at her left arm, she noticed the thin, metal shrapnel sticking through her sleeve and into her arm below. Resting her rifle to the side, she pulled the corner of her collar into her mouth and bit down on the fabric. Taking hold of the shrapnel with her right hand she ripped it out, the fabric muffling her cry of pain. Tossing the metal to the side, she rested her hand over the wound and focused her thoughts on the beat of her heart. She felt a rush of blood flowing into her left arm, the wound quickly scabbing over with the help of the fresh blood.

Releasing the hold on the power, she picked up the rifle and stood, making her way deeper into the restaurant. The loud whirring sound of the turret moving stopped, and a moment later an explosion sounded, followed by the foundation of the building cracking and crumbling. Stumbling into the courtyard, she looked back to see most of the restaurant now collapsed in on itself.

A shout caught her attention on the far side of the courtyard. There she spotted two of the soldiers from before aiming at her. She kicked one of the metal tables to its side and took cover behind it. Setting her rifle aside, Natalia moved her right hand to the bottom of the table and focused her attention to it. A bullet pierced the thin metal, nearly hitting her. Several more bullets followed, each one denting, but unable to pierce the table as she felt the power coursing through her right arm. Hearing the end of the firing, she grabbed the rifle and poked above the edge of the table. She spotted the two soldiers already retreating, shouts of “Esper!” filling the air. She rested the crosshairs over the back of one soldier and fired, the bullet blowing the man’s back out through his chest.

The other man turned at the sound to see his friend lying face first in blood. He raised his rifle, cursing loudly, and fired in a heated rage.

Natalia pulled the bolt back, slammed it forward, and fired. At the same time, a sudden impact in her right shoulder caused her to fall back. The breath was knocked out of her as she lay stunned on the floor. The sounds of treads moving forced her into action. Standing up, she spotted the second soldier slumped against a wall, his head unrecognizable. “Lucky fool,” Natalia spat. Releasing the empty shell in her rifle, she pushed the bolt back into place, and looked at her shoulder to see blood staining the coat.

Listening to the treads coming around from the restaurant, Natalia heard the turret whirring as it prepared to take aim. Starting at a slow trot towards the road going along the courtyard, she felt her body aching as she moved. Reaching into a pack on the left side of her belt, she pulled out its only contents: a single vial of blood. Squeezing it in her left fist, she felt it shatter, the glass piercing her skin, the blood within mixed with her own. A sudden surge of strength flowed through her, her slow trot turning into a sprint. Leaping over the short wall of the courtyard, she ran into the road at the same time as the tank moved past the destroyed restaurant.

Jumping for the turret, her free hand gripped onto the handle of the hatch as she slipped, landing heavily on her side atop the turret. Quickly standing up, she aimed the rifle to the closed hatch into the depths of the tank. A wicked grin grew across her face, her teeth clenched as the power coursed through her entire body, her heart pounding fast, its hammering filling all her senses.

The top of the hatch opened with the man from before, his curled mustache matted with sweat, a pistol in hand aiming up. His eyes opened wide as he looked up at Natalia to see the wind causing her loose strands of hair and her coat to billow, making her appear large and monstrous.

“Pitiyun?” the man asked, his voice hoarse. His body shook in fear at her eyes turning red, the demonic gaze terrifying him. “Mercy!” he screamed in her language.

The trigger was pulled back, the bullet releasing from the chamber, fueled by a sickening amount of force as it pierced into the tank commander’s face and kept going. The man’s entire body exploded outward, coating the chamber of the tank and giving Natalia a view of the bullet’s grisly path. Deep within the tank she watched it shoot through a second man’s arm, amputating it entirely before landing squarely into the metal bottom of the tank.

Slamming the hatch closed, Natalia reveled in the screams beneath her before they were abruptly silenced by a loud concussive blast that shook the entire tank. Cracks appeared in multitudes of places, fire beginning to surround her as a maniacal laugh escaped her lips.

A yell of rage filled the air. Natalia turned to the fourth soldier from the main road, his shaking hands holding his rifle, aiming for her as she began to giggle. The bullet hit her side, flinging her off the top of the tank. Landing onto the concrete, she felt her vision go black.

Coming back into consciousness moments later, she rolled to her side, coughing up blood. Damn these Union soldiers for making me have to do this. The power is disgusting! She took hold of the rifle and crawled past the tank’s husk. Spotting the soldier moving towards her hiding spot, she rested the crosshairs over his chest and fired. He crumbled to the floor, crying out in agony. Loading another bullet into the chamber with the bolt, Natalia fired again, silencing the man.

Satisfied, Natalia rolled onto her back and closed her eyes. I’m covered in blood, my own and theirs. How many did I kill today? I wish I had killed none. Taking her rifle, she stumbled to her feet and moved past the tank, its fire growing to a steady blaze. I’m alive though. I just need my pack then I can leave this town, return to base, and die of exhaustion.

 

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