NBA Chapter 2

Holy Sh*t

It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. So much had happened, changed, in one day, they expected the world to be different. For it to acknowledge, mourn alongside them, or shift. But it was the same. The same warm sunlight touched their skin, the same birds sang among the highrises. The same false serenity. 

Well, there was one noticeable difference— A red pair of dusty boots. They sat out of place, neatly together, in the middle of the wide concrete road. 

They stopped and stared at the boots. By now, things appearing out of nowhere was not something new. After they chased off the bot, it happened several times. But at least they had made sense before. Food, water. And wood that one time. Had it noticed they avoided the food and water but used the wood? And moved on to random things?? For some reason???

James shook his head and led them in a half-circle around, he left a wide breadth between them. Just in case. But boots definitely made for an odd bait. 


Kayla stopped and surveyed the roadside. They had begun to leave the center of the city, and the buildings had gone from towering highrises to regular highrises, but there were no buildings with under six floors yet. And that left ample places to observe them from. That bot had to be somewhere. 

Bunbun paused and turned his head around, “Kyuu?”  

She swept her eyes over the windows of the nearest building, then jogged to catch up. Aside from last night, and when they first met, it hadn’t shown itself. If it weren’t for these strange… gifts, they might not have realized it followed them. She supposed they had made it clear it should stay away, and keep away, but she hadn’t expected such stealth. 

It looked like most ghosts. Metallic, clunky. It had a humanoid form, similar to the X-ers, which she supposed was rare, but it was small, shorter than her. And frankly didn’t seem that intelligent. 

She kicked a rock forward. It wasn’t even made with the reinforced white alloy some of the more advanced ghosts had, yet she couldn’t stop thinking about how it lifted that concrete block over their heads. 

And James said its eyes had been red. It concerned her the most— Only X-ers had red eyes— But he had seen it… She walked to James, leaned closer, and lowered her voice so as to not frighten the kids.

“Are you sure it had red eyes?” 

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes and gave a small nod. But it wasn’t enough to sate her doubts, “Absolutely sure?” 

He sighed, “Yes…” 

“But… It hasn’t done anything.” She waved her hands around as if to punctuate the abstract absence of bad things happening, “Maybe you saw wrong?” 

James’ steps faltered and the now perpetual frown on his face deepened, “I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.” 

There was such heaviness to the words, Kayla didn’t know how to respond. Then the moment ended. And he continued to walk forward. 

She slowed and watched his back. 

He had always wanted to be like Seth. Even back when they first met, when they were just ten and eleven, he had acted all tough and made sure she knew he was older, and definitely more mature— She almost rolled her eyes at the memory— But there had been this underlying childishness; The way he tried to prove himself, repeatedly challenged her only to lose, or later joined her and Bunbun’s shenanigans in the name of supervision. 

Now it was as if he had aged 10 years overnight, or turned into a grumpy old man. He certainly looked the part. His skin didn’t bruise like hers, but after a night of little to no sleep, even he appeared haggard. His new grim outlook didn’t help either, the way those shoulders bowed under an invisible burden.

“Ugh, uwu..”

A large fallen tree blocked the road, its lush leaves green and vibrant despite half of its roots uprooted. Bunbun had crossed it in one jump, but Tara struggled to climb over it. And as Kayla watched James go and help lift her, she decided she was probably too harsh. Barely a day had passed— She nodded to herself— He had the right to grieve. 

She supposed he reminded her of herself. How it had been like those two years she was on her own after everyone, her whole pack, got wiped out. How it was to fall into survival mode. How you had to be strong, because you had no one to rely on but yourself. But he wasn’t alone. And neither was she, not anymore. 

She climbed the tree trunk and let her legs dangle off the other side. Bunbun had waited for Tara and greeted her with his usual chatter as James put her down. Her eyes moved to the road ahead, the leaning clock tower had come into view at some point. Just a bit more, and they could leave this city behind. 

“Kayla.” James met her eyes and gave her the signal. 

It was time. She jumped down and clasped her arms around herself, dropped her ears for effect, “Oh my~ I’m sooo very cold. I wish I had a scarf. If only SOMEONE could bring me a scarf, brrrrrr.” She gazed woefully at the sky, as if she was about to succumb to the cold at any moment, then hunched over and shivered. A sublime performance indeed.

She waited a second, then turned to the others. And was met with three incredulous stares. No wait, why did James have the same look on his face as the others? He was the one who told her to! Did she get it wrong? 

Tara looked her straight in the eyes and deadpanned, “It’s summer.” 


She furiously blushed. Bunbun and Tara, she could understand, they didn’t know of their plan, but James? That look hurt. She had just tried to think of something hard to find, it was not like the bot was smart enough to care anyway. 

Kayla opened her mouth to defend herself— James swooped up Bunbun, the heavier of the two, and turned to run— And her mouth snapped shut as she remembered. She grabbed Tara and followed. 

He went for the old subway, it must have been the reason he chose this place. It was a good way to lose it, but the absolute worst idea. At least his recklessness remained intact. 

Once there, James put Bunbun down and let him take the stairs himself. She continued to carry Tara. Though it slowed her, it was faster than if Tara ran on her own. They made their way down the dilapidated stairs into the dark, and Kayla regretted more and more that she hadn’t spoken out against it. 

Fortunately, it never got pitch black, and as they entered she could see why. In the center of the station, there was a large circular roof window where light streamed through. Normally she would have attributed the hole to collapse, but the blue tinted glass, or plastic, or whatever material it was made of, had held up and was still in place. The small metal plates around it, not so much. 

Not that she had much time to admire the architecture. 

“Let’s split, meet up at the map mark!” James shouted back at her and jumped down to the tracks to cross to the other side. There were four exits in total, two on each side. The subway ran diagonal with the streets, if they entered through the west exit, James and Bunbun chose the east, and she went for north.

Her footsteps echoed as she ran, her pants harsh to her own ears. For such a small thing, Tara was heavy. At least her path was straight and clear of debris. 

The whole place was actually in much better condition than she expected. Nothing had collapsed, and there were no large ominous ceiling cracks. There were a few abandoned bags, but both the blue benches and trash bins were bolted to the ground, and hadn’t gotten thrown around. The sole damage was charred craters in the walls, left behind by phasers. 

By the time she got to the north exit, James and Bunbun had already left through the east. But that was fine. She grabbed the railing. The north exit was closer to the meet-up point anyway. The map mark he mentioned was the symbol this city had on Seth’s map, a leaning clock tower, it marked the road they had to take out of it. Or was supposed to at least. She had seen it earlier, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. 

Two-thirds up the stairs, it happened. She had begun to see the sky again, they were nearly out, then the roof ahead gave out. It rumbled down. Kayla missed a step, fell forward, and hit her knees hard. What she feared came true. She bent and pressed Tara’s head closer. Braced herself. 

Rubble rolled past them down the stairs, but the ceiling right above them held, and eventually it stopped. Tara´s small coughs sounded. Kayla opened her eyes, blinked them closed, squinted. The dust not only made it hard to breathe, but impossible to see. Both her eyes and throat stung. 

She stood— her arms tightened around Tara— and dashed up the stairs towards the light. It was careless, the steps covered in debris small and large, but she somehow managed to make it out. She leaned forward and coughed. 

This was why going underground was always a bad idea! She blinked her eyes, they wouldn’t stop watering. And as she hacked up a lung, she heard it. A robotic footstep. Aw, come on! All that, and they didn’t even lose it?

She blinked away the tears and lifted her head. Even out here the dust lingered, a faint gray veil cast over the world. It swirled around in the air, but did nothing to hide it from her, or her from it, from them. Her back straightened. Her blood pumped in her ears. Her body screamed at her to run. Instead she froze.

Not one, not a few, a handful, or dozen. Three. Three squads, it had to be— A platoon.[1] A platoon of X-ers. All color had left her face. 

The last time, the only time, she saw one…

An X-er walked forward. The ground vibrated with each of its heavy metallic steps, like the ticking countdown of seconds on a clock, and each one brought it closer to them. She had to do something, anything.

Its white body and blood-red eyes reflected in Tara’s watery eyes. She squeezed them shut. Curled up in Kayla’s arms. And let out a piercing, high-pitched, earth-shaking scream, “KYAAAAAAAAA—“ 

The X-er raised an arm, its long white fingers reached. Then, suddenly. With a whoosh of wind. A small figure stood in the X-er’s path. The sun gleamed off its metal finish. The nanny bot. 

It glanced at the X-er’s outstretched hand, looked up at the bot twice its size, and met its eyes,「Identification. State directive.」

The X-er paused, red rays scanned the small bot, and a shred of hope came alive in Kayla’s heart, then it swung its arm. And the small bot was sent flying. The action had been so easy, so callous, as if it simply swatted away a fly. Kayla pressed her eyes shut, she didn’t think it could get any worse, but then— 

“Tara! Kayla!” 

James appeared around the corner. No no no no no. Not him too. Perhaps he heard the scream, followed the bot, or both. But he mustn’t have seen the X-ers or he wouldn’t have exposed himself. He wouldn’t. With this many, even if he lured some away, there was no way they would be able to escape. No, not them. But maybe he stood a chance, he was far enough that, if he turned around and ran, maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t catch him too. 

But then another X-er stepped forward and raised an arm, only, this time, it wasn’t to reach. She watched with big eyes as the arm changed into a phaser. No. No no no. They couldn’t do this. They shouldn’t BE ABLE to do this. They hadn’t even scanned him— He was still fourteen— She opened her mouth to yell. She needed to yell. To scream he was a minor. Or even just to warn him. But nothing came out of her mouth. She couldn’t even move. She couldn’t do anything— Tears welled up in her eyes— She was useless. 

「Hostile intent detected.」 

The words rang out in a familiar voice. Nanny Bot stood back up, its left hand clenched around the bottle of fever medication in its hand, and before her very eyes, the blue orbs turned red. It lifted its arm, it unfolded into a phaser three times its size, and fired. 

Kayla shielded her eyes from the bright flash, and a wave of heated air swept over her. The light faded. She opened her eyes, they took some time to readjust, but when they did, she could all but gape. She looked over at James and saw the same shock mirrored on his face, and somehow, on Bunbun’s. 

The whole platoon was gone. Blasted away. Only the legs remained. They stood in place, smoldered, and sparks flew from the severed cables. Then one by one they fell over. Dom, dom, dom. Kayla let out a shaky laugh, paused, and finally found her voice, 

“HOLY SH* T!” 

[1] – In this story, a platoon is made up of three squads, ten bots each, so a total of thirty bots. An intact platoon is extremely rare. Now there is one less in the world. RIP.


Kayla: Holy sh*t!!? (・Д・)

James: Σ(゚д゚lll)No freaking way…

Bunbun who secretly followed after James: ((((;゚Д゚))))))) Kiiii! Kyuuuuu!?

Tara: (´⊙ω⊙`) …Howly sit?

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