My name is Yolanda McDowell. Daughter of the so-called ‘Loony Lovers,’ niece of Senator Evangel Athanasius Kane McDowell. Succubus of the Mahathallah clan, follower of Agrat Bat Mahlat. I’m dating a nice boy who was broken by the toy maker, and am going to school at Akamatsu University. Sometimes it felt like I was the only one still bothering to show up for class.
And now, little old me was stuck in the middle of the battle for Demon’s Gate.
I hadn’t planned it this way. Everyone in the city knew the Americans were coming, and it was obvious that they would strike at the Gates. Where else would they attack? But unfortunately, the ruins of Shendilavri—the ruins under which modern succubi had hidden their domains—were just a stone’s throw from South Gate.
I didn’t want to be here. I had no combat skills but some stupidly-designed guns left to her by my insane parents.
I was wrong.
“Hands above your head,” the man said. He was definitely American. He had a few patches on his camo-uniform indicating that he was a sergeant. Beyond that, I couldn’t say.
As I raised my hands, I found myself looking over his gun, trying to identify the model. It wasn’t a gun we got in Domina, but I still recognized a high-caliber military assault rifle when I saw one. Any demon fiend with up to date bullet resistance buffs would have a hard time surviving a burst from a gun like that. I, of course, didn’t have any bullet resistance buffs, so it would chew through me like tissue paper.
Another American, this one a lieutenant, stepped forward. He picked up the gun I had dropped on the ground and looked over it. “What’s this?” When I didn’t answer, he frowned. “I asked you a question.”
There wasn’t much fire in his voice, but I still flinched. I wasn’t good with confrontation. “’s a gun, sir.”
“I can see it’s a gun. What kind is it? I’ve never seen one like it.”
“…’s a McDowell gun, sir.”
“All right, fine. Nothing important. We’ll—”
“Nothing important?” I demanded, all shyness forgotten in the face of simple stubborn familial pride. “That is a McDowell MD91/5.0 ‘Snake Eyes-Shooter,’ a two-round 5.00 mm revolver. It was intended as a sniper’s pistol, and while no one knows what the Hells that means, it has found use as an excellent hold-out weapon. If I hadn’t been holding it when you found me, you’d never know I had it until I put a bullet in your skull! And while the width of the chambers are only enough to accommodate 5.00 mm caliber bullets, the length is larger than necessary, allowing for custom-made bullets that are longer than normal. Bullets with extra powder are common, as are shrapnel rounds and even exotic darts or battery bullets.”
The lieutenant, the sergeant, and the six privates all stared.
“I also have an MD90/3.0 ‘Pocket Sniper’ in my back pocket, and while I can’t get it out before you shoot me, it has also become a staple of the city’s arsenal due to its impressive concealment capabilities! It isn’t strong enough to beat even the weakest bullet resistance, but assassins who use it on a regular basis are known as ‘eye poppers’ due to their penchant for shooting their targets right through the eyes!”
The grunts circled around me, slowly, to keep an eye on me from all angles.
“And then of course there is the MD90/200.0 ‘Anti-Infantry Grenade!’ A shaped explosive strong enough to breach tank armor, it was, as the name suggests, originally intended as a weapon for use by infantry against other infantry! The shaped charge means that I could blow you up at this distance without so much as ruffling my clothing, sir!”
The lieutenant took a step back. “And you… have one of these on you?”
“No? Then why—”
A succubus walked up, completely naked.
“Hello boys,” she said, eyes twinkling with passion. “Would you like to help me out with something?”
The soldiers were completely and utterly gobsmacked. It’s hard to do anything when confronted with a naked succubus—a creature with a body as perfect as the toy maker can make it—and not just take a minute to stare.
The fact that she was pumping out enough pheromones to make a gay man straight didn’t hurt, either.
I knew to keep my eyes away from her. The pheromones were tugging at the edge of my brain, whispering all sorts of little promises that made me blush, but I kept my head. I was in a position to see when three more demons slipped out of the shadows. They came up behind the soldiers, slitting their throats before anyone even knew they were there.
I felt the pheromones cut off, and I took a deep breath of clean air while trying not to look at the corpses on the ground. “Thanks, girls.”
The naked succubus accepted a robe from one of the others. “No thanks necessary. It is the duty of all Daybringers to aid any succubus or incubus who may be in trouble. Besides, you did a good job distracting them.”
I shrugged awkwardly. “Honestly, I was just upset about what he said about my guns.”
“Ah, yes.” She bent down to pick up the fallen Snake Eyes-Shooter. It was inches away from the pool of blood expanding from the lieutenant’s body. “You’re that McDowell. I always forget. Still, good job regardless. Are you ready to come back to the domain?”
I nodded. “I don’t think I’ll survive much longer out here alone.”
She cocked her head, listening to the sound of gunfire on the air. “It seems like they haven’t quite reached Shendilavri yet, but it’s only a matter of time.”
“Are there troops defending it?”
She chuckled. “Of course not. That would just make it obvious that it was something worth defending. The hope is that people will just avoid it.” She shrugged. “The demons will, at least, but I don’t know about the hired Gravers.”
“I just want to get home. My boyfriend is down there, I need to make sure he’s safe.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. Shendilavri is a haven—”
“He’s not an incubus.”
“Oh.” She grinned. “In that case, I’m definitely sure he’s fine. Left alone with a thousand succubi… assuming his heart doesn’t pop from sheer pleasure, he’ll be right as rain by the time you get down there.”
I blushed, and all the Daybringers laughed. “He won’t… they won’t…”
The leader clapped me on the back. “Relax, kid. They won’t actually steal your boy-toy.” She sobered. “Especially at a time like this. They’ve got more important things to worry about.”
I stepped around the corpses of the soldiers, making sure not to look down. “Can we get going, then? I don’t want to stay out here longer than necessary.” There was an explosion from the direction of South Gate. “I really don’t want to stay.”
“I think that was Keller,” she said, not quite paying attention to me. “He always did like explosions. Hopefully he pointed it at those stupid echoes of theirs.” She noticed the look on my face, and smiled. “It should distract everyone long enough for us to get back. Come on.”
They headed out, and I followed, surrounded on all sides by Daybringers. Rather than focusing on what they were protecting me from, I tried to distract myself with their guns.
The leader—I still hadn’t caught her name—had a Crisis 08091945, named after the Nagasaki bombing. It was a 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun. It was overpowered against infantry, but it would get the job done.
Another had a Hiroshima Crisis, the 08061945. That was a 10-gauge single-barreled shotgun, with a good amount more stopping power. I had no idea what we could face that could need that amount of firepower. Maybe if there were any crazy warlords running around, that might be able to drive them off. Depended on what kind of ammo she had loaded.
The other two both had Hellion guns. Good and reliable, if a little boring. They sacrificed raw damage in favor of accuracy and magazine size. It took me a second to identify them as the 93-061 Assault, an improvement on the 93-060. There was a manufacturing flaw in the 060, a minor quirk in the barrel that reduced accuracy and range. The Hellions had released the fix within two weeks.
All their guns had suppressors, good ‘sarian made ones with the digital status indicator on the side. They couldn’t eliminate sound completely, but they were the best on the market. With the amount of ambient noise from the war right now, they were as close to perfect silencers as you could get.
Odd choices, all around. Soldiers usually preferred to have the same caliber so that they could swap ammo. The ones with the Hellions could do that, but the Crises couldn’t. It just seemed like a stupid risk to take, especially since we weren’t fighting anything that required heavy firepower. We could most likely all survive just by using the naked distraction trick a couple more times.
“How did you get grabbed, anyway?” the leader, the one with the 12-gauge, asked as we walked for a few minutes. “It’s not like these guys have a whole lot of patrols out this far. The Erlking is holding them pretty well at Demonia.”
Demonia was one of the more formal names for South Gate. I had never liked it. Sounded too pretentious. Better than North Gate, though—some people called it Kemoia, and that was just silly.
“I think they were scouts. Or deserters, maybe. Anyway, I was running, and they found me. Then they saw my gun, and they freaked out. I don’t think I would have been able to keep them from shooting me for long. They’ve got it into their heads that anyone who uses the toy maker is the enemy.”
12-gauge spat on the ground. “Blame Soaring Eagle for that. She had their president’s ear for a while. Long enough to tell him all sorts of sweet little lies.”
“You think she’s still out there?” I asked.
“I heard she died,” one of the girls with the 93-061 Assaults said. “Isn’t that the reason for this invasion? Or his excuse, anyway. Straw that broke the camel’s back or whatever?”
12-gauge smiled. “I don’t know about that last part, but yeah, word is she’s dead. I heard it from some of my informants who work at some of the companies that talk with America. Rumor has it that it’s a Dominite that killed her, but then of course they’d say that.”
“Might be true,” 10-gauge said.
“Not by Butler’s order. And not any other warlord, either. Who would be that stupid?”
“The fey,” everyone said at once.
Everyone except me. “I don’t think they’d do this.” I blushed when they looked at me.
12-gauge nodded. “She’s right. We’ve all met Titania. She’s a little harsh, but not enough to start a war with America. I doubt the other fey are much different.”
“Have you met any?” one of the girls asked me.
I shook my head. “Just Titania.”
The other Assault girl cocked her head. “Oh! You’re Scarboy’s girl, aren’t you?”
“…please don’t call him that.”
“Right, sorry.” She smiled. “Thought I’d recognized you. Yeah, you spent a lot of time with the Matron. You agree with the boss? Not crazy enough to assassinate a wayward bird for no good reason?”
I thought about it. Would Titania do that? She had no connection to Soaring Eagle, other than the fact that the kemo had stolen a toy box. A toy box that the fey had already sold, and had no claim on. She wasn’t prone to revenge or flights of fancy anyway, and had been building up a reputation as a doctor. It would have been one of the Winter fey who did it. But no, it wouldn’t have been them either.
“Not flashy enough,” I said finally.
Everyone remained silent to consider this.
“Fair enough,” 12-gauge said finally. “We would have heard about a horde of monsters or people with wings or whatever. The fact that we didn’t means this was probably just a quiet knife in the dark. That’s not their style.”
“Might have been us, actually,” 10-gauge said, a little eagerly. “I heard that Soaring Eagle was actually—”
“Enough,” 12-gauge snapped. She glared at the other woman. She relented when her withering gaze caused her target to, well, wither. “Enough,” she said, more softly. “These are just rumors. We don’t need anyone spreading them around.”
The two girls with the Assaults leaned forward. They didn’t say anything, in case the other two remembered they were still there. Succubi liked gossip, and the Daybringers thrived off it.
“It’s not just a rumor,” 10-gauge said, a little petulantly. “I overheard Naamah talking to Agrat Bat Mahlat and Eisheth Zenunim. They were definitely talking about Soaring Eagle when they said that—”
“Enough,” 12-gauge said, firmer this time. “Not in front of the others.”
All three of us deflated a bit when 10-gauge frowned at us. Whatever secret connection Soaring Eagle had to the succubi, we weren’t going to discover it today. She was probably just a secret lover of someone important. That happened a lot, for obvious reasons.
“Come on,” 12-gauge said. “One of the secret entrances isn’t far. We’ll be back underground before you know it.”
No one else spoke, but I knew everyone could tell that there seemed to be more gunfire than there was a few minutes ago. And we were headed straight towards it.
Behind the scenes (scene 281)
Yolanda is an interesting character to write for due to her shyness combined with her love for guns. I need more chances for her to shine.