“Ever fought a witch, kid?” The sergeant glanced up from her rifle, giving her subordinate a once over. “You definitely don’t look it.”

“I got out of training six months ago.” He winced, looking through a slit in their bunker. “I didn’t think it’d be like this.”

“You’ll get used to it.” She looked through the slit as well, cursing quietly as distortions began to appear in the distance. “We’re just here to distract, let the big guns do the work, yeah?”

He nodded, pulling out a set of binoculars to take a closer look. Far beyond their fortifications, the air had begun to boil, with a single figure at the front of it. He’d been trained as a scout, but even then, his training on witches was limited. He’d seen a few, making official visits at the base school, but never talked with one. All he knew was the stories: terrifying people, simultaneously less than and greater than human, wielding the power of the universe to wipe out whole battalions. They made FTL possible, and their doll accomplices could navigate where regular folk would be driven mad.

“Transmitting coordinates now.” His fingers tapped rapidly on an analog transmitter, dialing in the witch’s exact location. “Coordinates have been confirmed. On your command, ma’am.”

“No point in hiding. Make it happen.”

Thunderous cracks filled the air, followed swiftly by the eruption of earth and fire in his binoculars. Nearly a hundred artillery encampments lit up the valley, an unending torrent of explosive shells setting everything alight in a cleansing flame. When the noise finally settled, he blinked, refocusing his view. The witch stood admist all the devastation, a cracked ward flicking around them. Another shape emerged next to them, stepping forward out of a rift. A combat doll, clearly equipped for flight.

“They have aerial support,” his voice cracked slightly. “Two more rifts opening… I’m not familiar with that configuration.”

The sergeant took his binoculars, looking towards the witch’s reinforcements and growing paler by the second.

“Don’t lose your cool,” she murmured, picking up her radio. “Ward looks to be minimal. Full volley.”

“Negative,” the reply crackled back. “The cannons are jammed.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.”

The corporal looked back down the range, now able to make out the dolls by eye alone. Two of them, moving incredibly fast, barely humanoid in appearance at all. Their arms looked to be little more blades, and they were heading directly to the bunker.

“Fuck.” The sergeant lofted her rifle, the corporal following suit. “Center of mass, single shots. Blow out their cores and it doesn’t matter won’t matter how sharp they are.”

He nodded, doing his best to still the panic. No sense in it. He could do this. One shot at a time.

He tapped the trigger, a shot piercing out from the bunker and nailing one of the dolls square in the chest. It barely flinched, continuing forward at its breakneck speeds. His sergeant began to shoot as well, the two of them repeatedly hitting the dolls to no avail.

“Why aren’t they dodging?” His voice startled.

“Because they don’t care.” She changed out her magazine, breathing steadily. “Don’t lose your nerve. Keep it up.”

“They’re getting close.”

“Keep firing.”

He counted down the seconds by his shots. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

One of them burst through the wall, reality distorting around it as it created a hole to enter through. He fell back, the shockwave pushing him against the rear wall and giving him a view of the carnage: his sergeant, skewered on one of its blades.

It turned to him, walking forward as it slipped the corpse of its arm and went for a second kill. This was the end, he was sure.

As it lunged down to put him out of his misery, another reached out. The silhouette of another combat doll filled his vision, charging forward on his attacker and forcing it against the wall. The two things struggled fiercely, until finally his savior ripped out its opponent’s core, crushing it in its hands.

He breathed, blood on his face, looking up at the allied doll. It looked down at him, cocking its head, then reaching out with a hand. He accepted, pulled back up and looking out freshly-made hole with confusion.

“There was another one,” he coughed, confused.

It pointed further out, to the distance. Another witch, cloaked in wings of fire, could be seen moving rapidly towards her rival, the fragmented remains of the second combat doll not far behind.

“Oh.” He bent over, grabbing his rifle and giving a shocked nod. “Going that direction?”

The doll nodded.

“Can you get me close enough to IR tag the witch?”

It nodded.

“Can a witch survive an orbital strike?”

It smiled.






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