Heroes can fall, devils can be redeemed. No one is fully good nor fully evil. Actions determine alignment but only just barely, intention speaks as loudly as action when viewed in hindsight. Change can’t be stopped, no more than stopping the suns from setting. Sometimes though, someone will walk not only toward the abyss, but dive right in, causing the Abyss to release someone who was trapped in there prior and wished to not be there in the first place. There must always be balance. Even if it’s because of a sea of Grays instead of black evenly distributed among white.
Echo had stopped short and startled Shade who sniffed the air and released a low growl. Alexi looked around, confused by the reactions. A hand near his revolver just in case, hoping he wouldn’t need it, but the gut feeling churning told him otherwise.
“What? What is it?” He whispered. Echo quietly beeped. The machine lowered itself to hide near Shade’s feet while Alexi moved slightly forward for a better look.
They stood tall, no doubt because of the canine like lower legs they were designed with, sleek gun metal black were those legs, feet adorned with claws, one extending up like a bird of prey’s. Hooked so that when it dug into it’s victim it would not be easily removed. The body- unsure if organic or synthetic, didn’t matter, the power of the legs was obvious due to the way they carried the owner. Each step was cautious but as the foot touched earth it impacted with calculated forethought. Outrunning these was a choice not many should contemplate, granted neither was fighting them. Fighting probably was worse. Once you got to their torso you wouldn’t miss it, a body fully built for stealth, speed and precise striking. These creatures were feared and admired by all who knew of them. Designed in Pre World era by people who wished to use them as enforcers, world changers and otherwise intimidating soldiers without weakness.
Their profile was gracefully designed and arched, long ears sticking straight up from their heads. Gracing them a nickname among those who somehow knew but had not fallen by them. Anubia. Named after some creature that would watch after the dead, protect tombs and roamed ruins of long abandoned human settlements. These however were not some creature like their namesake. They were efficient snipers, and practiced hunters. Working in groups but just as deadly alone. Their secondary and third sets of eyes were used to measure the wind, distance to any target, earth curve and projectile arcs all this while the primary eyes locked and focus on their targets. Behind the ears long bundle of braid designed cable tails were built in to act as a counter balance and as a tool interface with other machines they got their claws on. Quiet, reserved, wandering Dead Zones for any who foolishly wander into their kill boxes.
The one thing that Alexi remembered about the stories was people describing their sound. The Anubia barked but not like any wolf, dog or creature he had heard. No it was described to be a blood freezing, spine tingling, hair raising and sweat inducing scream. It could pierce the thickest armor and send the bravest warriors into terror if by itself. If in groups however, anyone hearing it knew a reaper was on their way to collect the soul who stumbled into that nest of devils. Alexi spotted on their hips hung kukri blades, from his guess two hung- one on each side. The blades were not normally practiced by many let alone mastered by less. On each back was strapped a sniper rifle, obviously custom made, no scopes. With the eyes they had- a scope would be overkill and simply a waste. Too much weight to carry unnecessarily.
The heads were a chrome finish with the accenting marks along it’s snout, jaw and above the eyes colored in a rusty red color. Over their torso draped sunset pink poncho like wraps, concealing their chest armor, looked like the same kind most security had back home, thick enough to stop most bullets, light enough to move in, lacking sleeves to allow arm movement. Some spots looked small enough to fit a blade between for a killing strike but with their weapon choices- getting that close was asking for danger. One had it’s jaw agape and Alexi noted that the teeth were a bright shining electric blue on the inside, the outside of them though was a bronze color. Inside the mouth- where the throat would be shone a bright light, it unnerved him as he wondered was it a helmet with a person inside or was this some unworldly being who emitted that light from it’s maw.
“I don’t understand, if I am able to see them, how have they not killed me yet?” Alexi wondered. Echo beeped quietly. “Wait what?” He asked, Echo beeped again, lower this time. The Anubia continued their actions without taking a moment to acknowledge the three who were still crouched and hiding. He reached up and stroked his chin pensively. Trying to figure out how they’d get around these things. Waiting was an option. Fighting wasn’t. Even with the other two with him, there was no way they’d take down all of them. Maybe two if they got lucky, but he wasn’t going to even suggest throwing away their lives for a direct fight. It nagged at him though, why hadn’t they detected him. They were the most dangerous snipers, how did they not pick up on them before he was alerted to their presence? Is it possible they were not as good as rumors said? No not possible, in his experience there was no such thing as luck and that would have been astronomically high level of luck.
“Echo, are you somehow jamming their sensors? Or something?” He asks. Echo doesn’t confirm, instead saying their sensors are experiencing static interference. It could be anything though might be affecting the Anubia as well as Echo. The next series of beeps chilled Alexi’s blood in his veins right there.
“So- you hear that they weigh hearts of those who come within their territory?” Alexi inquires. “I am gonna be honest. Not exactly a fan of that idea, I kinda like where my heart rests, don’t need them taking it out to weigh it.” He added. Standing up slowly he prepared to ask Echo to find another way around them or maybe backtrack a bit, wait out these things. A short breeze hit him from behind, too short to be natural. If the area wasn’t so dead quiet he wouldn’t have heard it but he was perhaps experiencing some of that non existent luck. He heard a faint step, just one directly behind him. The next thing he noticed was Echo wasn’t in his peripheral vision anymore. Suddenly he froze, feeling something was behind him. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes, preparing for this to be it. They wouldn’t spare him, they never spared people, all those who went out would never return if they encountered the Anubia.
A few moments feels like eternity when you’re afraid. Fear does the worst things to the mind probably, it changes the perception of reality in ways that a non fear induced mind would not imagine. From the simple we need to talk phrase all the way to suddenly feeling someone standing behind you when you know that someone near by is threatening and able to do you not only harm but could kill you. Alexi felt his heart pounding in his chest, threatening to explode from the pressure. His mind screamed to not open his eyes, but another part of him said that if he was lucky he could get one lucky shot off and take it out, but he ignored it reminding himself that it wasn’t one on one here. He remembered counting five or six when he first spotted them, but if this one crept up on them who knew how many more there were.
A gloved hand reached around him from the left, moving and resting itself on his chest, over his heart. It remained there, Alexi could feel the talon sharp nails on the finger tips touching his chest, probably preparing to rip into him and tear his heart out so to weigh it. It wasn’t expected but probably more so than he realized in the moment but he felt tears running down his cheeks, his breathing had increased and was shallow. His throat tight and burning he wanted to scream in terror, plea for his life, ask for it to end quickly and painlessly, but nothing worked. Echo had not done anything and Shade was silent as well, he wanted to make sure they were ok, if anything happened to them he’d gladly die to avenge them, protect them, buy them a second to run. It didn’t matter though he could do nothing. He never felt like such a coward- was this it? Did death finally catch up with him? Suddenly the noise Anubia made pierced his ears, sending a sharp pain into his head, directly hitting the brain as if it was prying into him and intent on destroying whatever it found inside. The noise was indescribable, every time he thought he could identify what it might sound like it changed.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” Could barely just barely be registered in Alexi’s mind, who was singing it though?
The hand finally released his chest and Alexi remained still, thinking that this had to be it, but it never came. No instead all he heard was footsteps then silence. Echo whirled to life again and nudged him gently causing him to open his eyes, seeing his little friend directly in front of him, whistling in concern. Shade curled up as his feet looking up with the same expression of worry toward her friend. Echo beeps in explanation that the Anubia had departed. Once hearing it Alexi dropped to his knees and then curled up on the ground, his eyes fixating on nothing as he crawled inside his own mind. The experience shook something in him. He was so prepared to die that he felt in a brief moment he actually heard someone saying he deserved it in his head but it couldn’t have been, could it? Had to have just been his anxiety hitting hard at that moment. Suddenly in front of him, gently wafting from the air a feather touched down in front of him. A feather? It made no sense, no birds were in the area, where did it come from?