The Hunt

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  1. Alita sits perched on the edge of the old Cathedral in the market district of Iron City, scanning the crowd for her target. The berserker body hums softly. She sits still, unnaturally so thanks to her cyborg muscles. No one sees her here, with shadows flitting across her face. The hunt is always sweeter when the veil of night falls over the city. Her target is a hybrid named Valka. A slight fellow, though augmented with cybernetic legs. He’s fast, and cunning too. It’s not east to survive in Iron City’s underworld without your wits about you. Still, Alita relishes the hunt. She steels herself as she watches him sneak his way through the alley below her. The count begins in her head, waiting for the perfect moment.
  2. One thousand.
  3. Two thousand.
  4. Three thousand.
  5. Four th-
  6. The target steps into the center of the alley for just a moment. Alita jumps, feeling the nanomachines making up her woven artificial muscles contract and release. Though Motorball brings a kind of joy, nothing compares to the thrill of the hunt. Alita was made for this; she feels it deep in her soul.
  7. -ousand. Alita lands, softer than the weight of her body should allow. She’s learned how to use it like the weapon it is made to be. The target turns, the shock on his face reflected in the silvery war-paint on Alita’s own. She steps towards him, blade ready to strike. Her voice is as cold as the winter winds when she speaks.
  8. “You will not escape me. I offer you the chance to lay your weapons down and die a quick death. If you fight me, you will die suffering.”
  9. The target’s face twists in to a sneer as he faces her.
  10. “Ooooh yes very threatening. You’re such a big scary Hunter Warrior whatever shall I do? Pleeeeease give me your mercy.”
  11. The target bends over, finishing a mock bow. Alita notices him fumble with something hidden just behind his ragged cloak.
  12. “This is no threat. Simply a fact.”
  13. Alita strikes, lighting fast. The target matches her however, and as he tumbles aside throws a small grey cylinder to the ground. She barely has time to cover her eyes before the alleyway flashes white-hot. A split second later, Alita feels a warm fog rise towards her. Her eyes and throat begin to burn. Tear gas. She flips backwards, eyes blurry and burning with an intensity that leaves her breathless. She wipes her eyes, cursing their continued crying. As she steadies herself she hears too late the scuttle of cybernetic feet on the ground near her. She’s hit in the stomach by a flying kick. Hard. Alita crashes in to the alley wall and slides down on to the trash bags on the ground nearby. Frustration rears its head as she finds her face still burning.
  14. Focus.
  15. She can feel the training of centuries past click in to place as she gets up. Snippets of a voice long dead echo in her mind.
  16. ‘… when one sense is gone, another must take its place…’
  17. Alita closes her eyes and readies her blade. She listens, emptying her mind of all other senses. The alley is deadly silent; it’s far from the main streets of Iron City. She breathes, ignoring the ragged pain in her airway.
  18. Wait.
  19. There.
  20. The slightest scuttle comes from her right. She hears it getting closer and closer until-
  21. She pivots, throwing the Damascus blade right at her target. The wet sound of metal piercing flesh meets her ears, followed by a dull thump. Alita opens her eyes, and though her vision is blurry, she sees the outline of her target’s body pinned to the far wall of the alley. Slick blood drips from the hilt of the Damascus blade, lodged so far in the target’s face that it sticks him to the alley wall. Alita wrenches the blade free, and with one swift move, severs the target’s head. The nearest Factory is a couple of miles away. The full moon looks down on her as she hops back up to the rooftops. It’s the easiest way to travel, if you have the strength to make the jumps. She certainly does.
  22. -///-
  23. Alita walks back to Ido’s practice with the bounty credits in tow, still feeling the residual sting of the gas in her eyes and throat. At least the sniffling finally subsided, she thinks. She opens the latch to the gate in as softly as possible, cringing as it creaks. Ido keeps saying that he’ll oil it, but she thinks he likes the sound. It tells him when someone is coming. Even though she knows better by now, she still hopes that Ido has gone to bed. Yet, as she suspected he’s fallen asleep on the couch again, a book draped across his face as he quietly snores. She can’t help but smile as she sees him lying there. It wouldn’t be home without him. Like always, he manages to wake up as she’s rummaging in the cupboards for a post-hunt snack.
  24. “Alita! Thank goodness you’re safe.”
  25. Every day he looks a little older; a little more tired. Still, the fire never leaves his eyes. The love for her.
  26. “Ido, you know I can take care of myself. Besides, this was an easy hunt. That guy Valka. You know the one.”
  27. Alita turns around with her hard-won snack: dried candied orange slices. Ido’s half-smile is there, but disappears as he sees her red-rimmed eyes. He rushes over to her, the urgency in his voice unmistakable.
  28. “What happened to your eyes? Are you ok?”
  29. She brushes his hand away from her face and drops in to an armchair next to the sofa.
  30. “I’m fine! It’s just a bit of tear gas.” She smiles, though there is a tinge of sadness in her voice. “It looks worse than it is because of my eyes. Another reason they’re inconvenient.”
  31. Alita looks down, resolutely chewing on an orange slice as she does so. Ido sits back down on the sofa. His face softens, and he takes
  32. her hand. She looks back to him, bloodshot eyes dark as the sky outside.
  33. “My dear, your eyes are absolutely perfect. Every part of you is. I could not ask for a better daughter.” His voice wavers, and then settles. Serious. “But you must take care of yourself. I almost lost you once before and… I couldn’t bear to lose you again.”
  34. Alita feels the affection and care for Ido swell in her chest until it feels like she could burst.
  35. “Thank you father. I promise I’ll be more careful next time.” She releases her grip on his hand. “Now go get some sleep! I’ll be fine on my own.”
  36. Ido gets up and gives her soft kiss on the forehead, before making his way up the stairs to the bedrooms. As he’s climbing the stairs he looks back briefly and speaks.
  37. “Oh and Alita; I invited Koyomi around tomorrow for breakfast. Maybe you two would like to make something together afterwards? Apparently she has a surprise for us.”
  38. Alita waves back at Ido.
  39. “That sounds perfect! See you tomorrow.”
  40. Alita sits, slowly eating her orange slices as she listens to the humming of the machines in standby near her. Maybe it would be nice to take the day off. It’s been a while since she had that. She drops the bounty credits in to the safe on Ido’s desk and makes her own ways up the wooden staircase. Tomorrow would be a good day.

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