((OOC: Okay, my first post is done. =] I'm sorry it's so huge. I normally don't write this much, but I wanted to explain what Paulina was doing before the Virus attack, so this whole thing is actually two episodes. If you don't care about a little back story, just skip to the second half.))::Enter Paulina Bannister::
Theme: “How Crazy Are You?” by Meja
A young woman strolled down the cobblestone streets of Leona City. Her umber tresses gleamed in the morning light, swaying against her back. She looked up at the sky and winced, shielding her eyes from the sun. It was a fine day in the country's capital, the heavens utterly clear after last week's bought of rain. The weather usually takes a turn for the worse before the Aurora Flash...kinda like PMS.
The lass inhaled, noting the fresh fragrance that hung in the air, unmarred by the swarms of people around her. The marketplace was crowded today; vendors shouted out their wares with usual gusto, and shoppers eagerly amassed in front of the stalls. The dark-haired woman looked down at the sack clutched in her hands, filled with radishes and turnips. I don't want to go home just yet.
Suddenly, a voice called out above the others. “Paulina!”
Paulina Bannister turned to see a freckle-faced girl running toward her. Her smile was guileless and wide, displaying crooked and missing teeth. The child's hair had been braided into two messy plaits, each one tied off with a pink gingham ribbon. “Marie,” Paulina stifled a chuckle. “What's up? Where's Joey?”
“Akshally, he wanted tah see you. He's around 'ere somewhere,” Marie's eyes sparkled as she looked up at the older girl. Paulina was struck with a peculiar, yet familiar feeling. It was strange, being someone else's “big sister” figure. She wasn't used to it; she could still remember being Marie's age herself. Paulina knelt down beside her, examining one of the child's fiery pigtails. “...You're getting better at braiding. I need to teach you how to do a Frenchie.”
“Hey you two. Marie, don't run off without me,” a deep, husky voice sighed. Both of them looked up to see the figure of a young man, about 25-years-old. He had lively green eyes and a square jaw, which was only made more prominent by his cropped haircut. “Joey, Joey! Paulina's gonna teach me how tah do a stenchie!” Marie exclaimed. The woman burst out laughing. “A Frenchie
, Marie. It's called a French braid.”
“Marie, Gramps is waiting on that cabbage,” the red-headed man pressed several coins into his sister's palm before shooing her away; both adults watched as she tottered off to a nearby vegetable stall. “Your grandpa is still kicking, huh? He must be about ninety by now,” Paulina postulated. “Yeah, he is,” Joey looked exhausted. “I swear, that old man's gonna live to a-hundred. And of course, I'll support him the whole time,” he rotated one of his shoulders, and winced. “Work at the carpenter's ain't easy.”
Paulina's gaze trailed over the man's muscled forearm, and something flickered in her eyes. “That shouldn't be hard, for someone as strong as you... Say, have you been working out, Joey?" her smile was playful, yet subtly coy. "You're brawnier than usual...” the lass' soft hand trailed up his bicep. Joey's eyes narrowed with amusement, a grin stretching across his broad jaw. “Honestly, Paulina...I swear...”
The two were interrupted by a shrill voice. “S'okay, I gots the cabbage!” Marie held the vegetable up over her head, waving it at the grown-ups. Joey glanced down at her absentmindedly, plucking the cabbage from her grasp. “Marie, can you go over–” he was interrupted by Paulina herself this time. “But Joey, Grandpa is waiting on that cabbage!” she reminded him, pronouncing each word as if it was tantamount to disaster. The man, now a little flushed, shot her a rueful smirk. “I guess I'm defeated. C'mon Marie...” he grabbed his sister's hand and left, breathing a little harder than when he'd arrived.::Leona Under Fire::
Theme: "Hemlock" by Aurelius
Paulina snickered to herself on the way home – teasing Joey was always fun. He's gotten pretty cute, actually. That chin could cut a grapefruit.
She reached Alcott Square, a small neighborhood comprised of tiny, featureless houses, notable only for their quaint charm. Most of the buildings were situated around a meager cobblestone square, the eponymous Alcott Square. She knocked twice on her aunt's door before entering. “I'm home!”
A stout woman with short, mousy brown curls appeared from the kitchen. Her face, while not beautiful, was gentle and kindly. “Paulina, did you get the vegetables?” Aunt Therese stood with arms akimbo. “Yeah Auntie. I bumped into Joey and Marie on the way,” the younger woman sat in one of the wooden chairs at the table. “Oh really? How is their grandfather?” Therese disappeared again behind the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. Paulina could hear clack! clack! clack!
as the matron chopped the vegetables.
Before she could reply, a cacophony of clanging bells erupted outside, reverberating through the sparse room. Paulina jerked up in her seat, and Therese was immediately at her side, the kitchen knife gripped tightly in her fist. “A Virus attack...I thought we were overdue for one,” the older woman muttered. Paulina looked up at her. “It's attacking the city?” Such an occurrence was rare; Viruses usually besieged lone, unsuspecting travelers. “Why would–” she was interrupted by the door slamming open. A tall, sturdy man barged in through the entryway. Therese's brow was knit as she assessed her husband's face. “Hermann, what is it?”
Uncle Hermann retrieved his rifle from its place above the hearth. “Some kind of flying-type thing. Bastards are attacking us from the air.” “Has the neighborhood patrol been notified?” “Yeah.”
Since the capital of Leona was so large, the guards often had difficulty addressing each neighborhood's individual problems. Hermann was the leader of Alcott Square's neighborhood patrol, a group of local men who addressed disturbances in the area (although such disturbances were usually trifling, like a thief or a prowler). It was Paulina's idea that the men equip themselves with rifles, imported from Noire. Although such weaponry was common in Point Hope, it was difficult to find firearms for sale in Leona.
Paulina reflexively grabbed her pistol from its holster. “Paulina, wait!” Therese's expression was one of horror. “You can't – you're a girl!” she gripped her niece's fragile arm in a meaty hand. “Therese, this is an emergency,” the young woman said flatly, cheerful disposition gone. She was just as frightened herself, but managed to conceal any indication. The portly woman shot her husband a withering look, but Hermann's face was grave. “Therese, Paulina can handle a gun better than most men on the patrol. I'll protect her myself, but there's no time to waste,” he turned towards the door. The lass followed him out, leaving her aunt by herself. “But...my promise...! If something happens...Elena...”
The neighborhood patrol converged in the middle of Alcott Square. About twenty locals – all men from the community and their sons – stood in shabby clothes and grasped ancient-looking rifles. The fee to import weapons from Noire had been so expensive that the patrol couldn't afford to purchase modern firearms. Hermann stood at the head of the group, with Paulina to his right. “Listen up, everyone! We can't cover the entire city – just patrol Alcott Square and the surrounding areas for any Virus activity.” After the ragtag band had left, the man turned to his niece. “Listen, Paulina. It would kill your aunt if something happened to you today. Just stay by my side, alright?” Hermann's words were heavy, yet Paulina couldn't help but feel like she was being patronized. Now isn't the time for egos.
“Don't worry Hermann – I won't be reckless.”
After half an hour of searching the neighborhood and shooting down stray boar Viruses, it seemed like the assault had let up. The city cannons took down most of them, thank Astra. Paulina turned to Hermann and sighed. “Phew...I think it's safe now. That last one was a little wily, though, huh?” her voice trailed off as she rubbed her neck. The marksman didn't respond. “...Hermann?” Paulina looked at her uncle when he remained silent; Hermann's brow was furrowed. “Something's coming.”
With a sudden jerk, the earth itself began to quake. The violent tremors shook the foundations of the homes around them, breaking off pieces of tiled rooftops. Several buildings collapsed on top of themselves, and as the ground distorted, giant crevices sunk into the road. “Astra have mercy!” Paulina screamed. “What the hell is happening!?”
“There's something underneath the ground. It's a big one!” Hermann caught hold of his niece and steadied her as the shaking nearly knocked her over. “Hermann, Paulina! Get over here, quick!” one of the patrolmen shouted from down the street. The gunslingers gingerly made their way towards the call for help, careful of their footing. As they entered the clearing, a gargantuan crater – even bigger than the others – came into view, its inside obscured by a cloud of smoke. As the smokescreen cleared, an odd scene was revealed.
A massive mole Virus faced off against two much smaller opponents. They looked like a young boy and girl. Are those...little kids?
The beast, which seemed to be on its last legs, began lobbing stones at its prey. “Hey, they're in trouble!” Paulina shouted. “Men, open fire! Arnold, go get help!” Hermann called out. Every member in the patrol began to shoot except the youngest lad among them, who ran to alert the guards. The monster, its body thrashing with primal survival instinct, deflected the shots with the tough shell protecting its body. That isn't going to work...!
Paulina tried to calm herself down and glanced around the vicinity. Her gaze chanced upon the flashing red core attached to the Virus' back. There!
The pistoleer broke away from the men and began to run around the perimeter of the crater. “Paulina, what are you doing?!” Hermann cried out. “Trust me!” she shouted behind her, sprinting until she was all the way on the opposite side. She faced the back of the beast. C'mon Paulina...this is up to you!
The lass leapt from the precipice, and for a moment, everything stood still. Her clothes, her umber hair – everything froze. Her finger tugged at the trigger in what seemed like slow-motion, and a small click
echoed through the air. “Twin Bullet!”
Two powerful shots burst forth from the pistol and blasted through empty space. Paulina began to free-fall, and couldn't tell if the bullets hit their mark before she landed at the bottom of the crater with a harsh thud!