Rain fell as the streets of The Citadel began to clear. There were many people pushing past one another to get out of the rain. From an alleyway there was a young man. He had just started to smoke a cigarette, but now the rain ruined it. He signed heavily as he threw the cigarette to the ground. The young man waited until the streets were empty before he moved. The young man entered a bar. There a bartender and a little girl greeted him. The bartender called the young man John. She knows this is not his real name, but it was the name he told her and she did not pry for his real name. The little hugged John and then went upstairs. The bartender filled John in on what has happened since he went into ICE headquarters. There has been a bounty placed on his head. The person who placed the bounty didn’t even bother hiding his name. Pierce Shanks was his name and everyone knew that. He was a big player in The Citadel. For years he has been very open about his polices. He showed no love for the poor and desired The Citadel to be a place only for the rich and powerful. He wasn’t alone in his sentiments. There were other political figures like him who don’t say anything public, but they also share similar interests. Shanks is a petty man. He desires to have control over all trading in and out of The Citadel. Independent trading has been dying out and those who were independent to start did not stay that way. John was among one of the last traders who roamed the lands trading on their own. Shanks has tried to obtained move into the coffee trading business for awhile now, but it seems that many customers are only interested in buying them from John. There was something about John that attracted people to him, something unexplainable. With what had recently gone down at the ICE headquarters, Shanks was given a chance to take out his competition. John had nothing to do with the murder of the CEO of ICE, but it pissed off the officials in the area that he was there in general. The higher ups of The Citadel had no love for John, but at the same time they did not mind him there. He would usually deal with The Citadel’s problems, but at the same time he also caused problems for the men in power. The officials turned a blind eye this time when Shanks placed a bounty on John. The bartender informed John that when the bounty hunters that frequent her bar saw the new bounty, they all laughed. Some cheered and others paid no attention to it. The hunters at the bar knew to some extent of John’s survival and fighting abilities. They usually would take any bounty that was put up, but John was a special case. They were almost friends of John. Still, this did not meant that John was out of danger yet. There are many enemies that John has made throughout his journey. There was no doubt in John’s mind that Shanks also hired the best hunters that money could buy. At that moment, the doors of the bar burst open and a cloak figured was standing in the door way. Behind the figure was a group of men. They weren’t cloaked, but they were armed with stun weapons. The figure moved to the side and signaled the men behind it. From the looks of the weapons of the men, John figured that Shanks wanted John taken alive. John looked around the bar and saw that it was empty other than John, his friends, and the hunters. The bartender looked over the John and wished him luck. John smiled and with quick motion, threw a flash capsule into the air. It was so quick that the hunters did not have time to react. The capsule went off and a blinding light began to shine. By the time the flash stopped, John was gone. The only ones left in the bar were the bartender and the hunters. The cloaked figure was also gone. Outside John began to make his way to the rooftops of the buildings around him. Right behind him was the cloaked figure. John ran and jumped from building to building and so did his pursuer. As he ran, John saw a rooftop that could be accessed by jumping off some loose sheet metal from the roof. He used the sheet metal that immediately fell to the ground as he used it to propel himself to the next building. The cloak figure found another way to access the rooftop, but it would take it time to reach it. John used this opportunity to throw a few knives at the cloaked figure. The figure quickly reacted and dodged most of the incoming knives. The cloaked figure used the cloak to absorbs the knives that it could not avoid. There the figure was revealed to be an augmented doll. The insignia of the old government was on her chest. John had a run in with dolls like her before. Only they were older and seemed to retain some form of their humanity. This doll was different. She looked young and her eyes were cold. She was emotionless. Experimentation on human dolls was outlawed years ago, but it looks like some people were ignoring that law. This was no surprise to John. There was almost no law out in The Desert. What John wondered at the moment was why this doll still had the ouroboros insignia from a government that was disbanded long ago. He didn’t have much time to think because the doll was getting closer to him. John knew what he had to do next. He had to get out of The Citadel. Shanks might want him alive, but if he sent a doll after him, John knew that this doll would do anything in order to complete her task. Killing others was no problem to the doll as long as she finished her mission. The dolls were created to be obedient to whoever controls them. Each iteration of the dolls saw less and less of a human, and more and more of what can almost be described as a robot.
John finally reached the rooftop of an abandoned building. It was a large rooftop and it was away from most of the population. The doll had just jumped to the building he was on and John used this opportunity to draw his knife and charged the doll. He knew how quick the doll was and hoped that the small window he was given during the landing of the doll would give him time to get in an attack. It was too quick for John to see, but for a split second, the doll drew a knife and blocked John’s blow. John jumped back. This doll seemed even quicker than the previous dolls he had faced. John raised his knife in front of him waiting for the doll to strike. Would she strike in front of him or to the side? Another split second passed and the doll appeared in front of him like a ghost. She did an upward slash with John only partially able to block it. She had wounded his right arm. The doll jumped back and the two stood still again. The wound was only a small one, but John barely saw what had happened. He was going to lose this fight if he was going to continue messing around. John sighed. He had no more time to evaluate this new doll and from his belt, and grabbed a round sphere. There was a small button on the surface of it. John pressed it and charged the doll with his knife. The doll was prepaid to parry his attack when suddenly the sphere detonated and an electric shock traveled through both of their bodies. John was in pain, but the sphere did its job. The functions of the doll slowed down. John used this moment to get away from the doll. The doll lost John and began looking around. The displays shown in her eyes were in a fritz. The electric grenade damaged her systems.
It was now night. John waited until the dead hour to leave The Citadel. It seems like the dolls still have no defenses against electrical attacks. It was a gamble, but it looks like it paid off. John escapes The Citadel. Nearby the outskirts of The Citadel John walked towards a ruined house. He moved a fallen pillar and below it was a trap door. John opened the trap door and behind it were supplies that John had stashed there. He had a few more stashes all around The Desert just in case he ever needed supplies in an emergency. He grabbed the essentials and a few packs of coffee beans and went on his way. He decided to head to a radio station a few miles away from the city. The radio station was ran by an old acquaintance of his named Fuse. When he arrived in the early morning, Fuse had just started her broadcast. She welcomed John and the two conversed. During his short stay they discussed what has been happening in The Desert. A bandit appeared at their doorsteps and the two quickly dispatched of him before calling a friend to pick up his body. John asked Fuse if she knew anything about the continuation of the doll project. She was surprised to hear that a doll was chasing after John. Fuse herself used to be a doll. She was a part of an older generation. It was John who freed her from that life. Fuse was empathetic to the doll. She was like her not so long ago, but she also knew that this was a different generation of dolls. They were more obedient. Fuse asked John if it was possible that he take the doll alive. The two sat in silence for a short while before laughing. They both knew the nature of this world.
Not long after their conversation, John waves goodbye to Fuse and departs. About an hour later another knock appeared on Fuse’s door. It was the doll. John had described what she had looked like to Fuse. She wasted no time and opened the door. In an almost robotic voice, the doll demanded where John went. Fuse stared at the doll and nothing stared back. Fuse stared at her sword for a moment, then the doll. She was tempted to take of this situation herself, but she knew John would not like that. Fuse had assumed that John knew he was still being tracked. She looked back to the doll and told her the direction John had moved in. Fuse wondered why the doll bothered asking her even though she obviously knew where John was going. She remembered that John had electrocuted her earlier and messed up her internal systems. Fuse had wondered if the doll had gotten repairs in that time, or did she continue to chase John with a faulty tracker. The doll departed quickly and Fuse closed the door. She wanted to contact John, but Fuse remembered back to her days being a doll. This was one of the tactics that she learned. The doll was likely waiting nearby for her to contact John and trace the call to his exact location. Fuse smiled and continued on with her broadcast.
It was now the afternoon. John hadn’t made much distance from the radio station. The sun was hot and it was affecting his speed. John rested in a nearby ruin of a gas station. He got out a bottle of water and started to drink when suddenly he heard a sound. He peaked his head from the ruins and saw a figure in the distance. It was the doll. She had already made her way to the gas station. As John suspected, he was being tracked somehow. The doll stopped in front of the gas station. John waited for the doll to rush into the ruins and capture him. He was tired. The journey in the harsh desert had drained him of energy. He waited and waited until finally he heard a voice. It was a male voice and he recognized it. It was Shanks. The doll was projecting his voice out from a radio device. Shanks told John that he and the doll knows he is here. John stood up and faced the doll. He saw the hologram of Shanks and it was looking right at him. Shanks told John that he just wants John to give up his life as a trader and to tell every customer he knew that he was out of the business. Shanks had asks John to do this in the past and he never succeeded. Even though John’s life was in danger, this time was no different. He laughed at Shanks an insulted him. Shanks looked irritated and made a new proposition. He said that everyone John knew would be killed if John kept opposing Shanks. John laughed at these words and still refused. Shanks did not expect John to be so calm in the face of death. Shanks repeated himself this time telling John that he was serious about killing all John had ever known. John tells Shanks that the doll is damaged and that she has not stopped for repairs from their previous encounter. Shanks insures John that the doll is functional and can still kill him even in her state. John still hadn’t regained his energy, but he tasks the risk of moving anyway. Nearby there are ruins of a factory that lay waste and John makes his move. He deploys some smoke grenades as Shanks was still talking. The doll reacted quickly and charged John in the smoke. John was relying that the doll’s display was still damaged, and made use of the smoke. The doll lost John in the smoke, but spotted him heading towards the factory ruins.
John ran inside the factory. He had lost the doll momentarily, but knew that it would not be long until he is found again. He spots a staircase nearby and climbs it. The staircase looked very old and damaged. John felt that any hard movements would bring the staircase down. He was right. As he was climbing, the staircase started to shake. When he reached the top he placed a detonation charge on the staircase. At the same time, the doll had just entered the factory. Shanks’ voice was still being heard. He was taunting John to come out and fight. The doll looked around the room. John attempted to avoid her line of sight, but failed. He was spotted and the doll quickly bolted for the staircase. John ran and detonated the small charge. He took out the staircase. The doll looked for another way to reach John. She found crates stacked on top of each other and used them to reach the second floor. John kept running and spotted a ladder. He climbed the ladder and found that the ladder was missing a spot where John could grab. He looked up and saw the next piece of metal he could grab onto wasn’t that high up. John breathed in, then out before trying to jump for the next part of the ladder. He managed to grab it, but realizes that the doll had already caught up to him. In this moment John climbed the rest of the ladder and reached the top of it. He was now on the damaged roof. There were missing parts of the roof everywhere. He did not see a clear way down. John had trapped himself. He ran back towards the ladder, but the doll had already reached the top of it. Shanks was still talking through the radio telling John that it was over. John had enough of hearing Shanks’ voice. He threw a knife at the doll. The doll evaded, but John used that moment to draw his revolver and fire a round at the radio. The radio was destroyed and Shanks’ voice could no longer be heard. John was relieved and sighed. It was now just the doll and him. The doll and John started walking in a circle. The circle grew smaller and smaller until they were at arm’s length. The doll drew her knife and John pulled another knife from his belt. The doll attacked John, but this time her movements were easier to see. The damage from the grenade earlier and slowed her down to a level where John could take her head on. John jumped back and fired a bullet. The doll used her robotic arm to take the blow. There was a dent in her arm, but the bullet did not pierce. John wasted no time for his next action as he was already charging the doll with his knife. He fired a few more rounds as he charged. Each of the rounds hitting her robotic arm, but none of them wound pierce. John lunged at the doll and the doll block the attack. The doll and John began exchanging blows. They were now cutting each other slowly. John managed to slice into the doll’s chests, but he was taking more damage from their trade off. John took out another small sphere. The doll was alert and retreated further back. What John pulled out was not another electric grenade, but a large marble. He had used his land electric grenade days earlier when he first encountered the doll. They were very expensive to purchase and even harder to make. John threw the marble at the doll. The doll took notice and evaded it. During this time, John loaded a bullet into his revolver. This bullet looked different from all the others. This was a special bullet designed to pierce thick armor plating. He was given this bullet by a raider who didn’t have any money to pay for his coffee. John did not want to use the bullet. He knew that he would lose his revolver if he fired it. The bullet isn’t so kind to the firearms that used it. The doll realized what was thrown was nothing, but junk. John was already charging the doll at this time. He didn’t want to miss and decided that firing point blank was a better idea. The doll reacted quickly and plunged her knife into John’s flesh. John had took the blow with his free hand. With revolver in one hand, he fired point blank into the chest of the doll. The revolver exploded after firing the round. The two stumbled away from one another. John was started to lose sight. The doll was still standing, but she was bleeding. John fell to the ground. He looked at the doll. It appeared that she was still advancing towards him. John’s eyes slowly closed. The last thing he saw was the advancing doll. After this, all that was left was sound. He heard a thud of sorts and some footsteps. They were lighter footsteps. It was not that of the dolls. He heard a voice and recognized it. It was a soft and feminine voice. The voice was warm, like a cup of coffee.