Though Lily now had a strategy for victory, executing it was another matter altogether. That strange beam of light had a narrow width, but it was deadly. She had no doubt one hit from that monster would be fatal. Furthermore, it was fast; faster than the other projectiles the machine was firing. Between the high-pressure lesser threat of the weaker projectiles and the pure power and speed of the beam, she would be hard-pressed to get in close enough to make an attack. That said, as long as the machine continued to use the beam, it would present openings for Lily to strike.
She again dodged the beam attack, this time starting to vary her movement pattern the moment the machine’s right arm came forward. As the followup barrage arrived, she started to keep lower to the ground as she dodged. As if to follow her, the machine started aiming its shots lower as well, causing a good number of the weaker shots to hit the ground. Each time this occured, an immense eruption would result from the impact, sending scrap metal flying, adding to the battle the danger of debris.
She kept up the routine of dodging and moving, waiting and hoping for a good opportunity to present itself.
The beam weapon had finished preparing and was starting to move forward. At the exact moment, the left hand fired another shot, aiming low at the crouched Lily.
Seizing the moment, Lily jumped – not left or right, but up.
She leapt vertically forward, the shot impacting the ground just a bit below and behind her. The force of the eruption pushed her further forward, sending her flying directly over the machine, relying on her training and magic to turn her body midair, suspending her behind the machine. This way, when the machine turned, she could strike its arm in the midst of the movement.
At least, that was the plan.
Instead, the machine’s head rotated a full half-circle, its black faceplate confronting the airborne Lily. At the same time, its right arm rotated around its elbow as well, the red, glowing circle now directly aimed at the airborne Lily, assuming a position impossible for a human.
Therein lay Lily’s mistake. With the humanoid shape and movements of her opponent, she made the mistake of assuming it had human limitations. Naturally, as the opponent was, in fact, a machine, it had none of these.
It was certainly a great irony that Lily, who considered the free range of motion for her legs to be her greatest asset, had forgotten that her opponent would likely possess the same advantage.
This irony did not escape Lily; she smiled wryly even as she cursed her own stupidity and ineptitude. Desperate to avoid the oncoming deadly attack, she kicked the air, spiralling her body out of the direct path of the attack, just as the attack was released. The beam seemed to graze her shoulder, but she escaped the main attack, the heat singeing some of her long, trailing hair. Relying heavily on the momentum of her spin, she grabbed on to one of the plates in the machine’s outstretched arms with her right arm. She brought her left arm out to steady her grip… or she tried to, before discovering she had no more left arm, her shoulder ending in a burnt, blackened stump; her entire left arm had been burned cleanly away. Growling in annoyance, she swung up her right leg, wedging her foot between the gap between the plate on which she hung and the adjoining plate. As she did so, the machine reached into its skirt-like armor, the flowing metal surface parting for its left hand. Simultaneously, the machine attempted to close its right arm, half-crushing Lily’s foot… but the magically-enhanced metal held.
Lily gritted her teeth against the pain of her foot being slowly crushed, then wrapped her left leg around the arm, holding her in place. With a quick motion, she plunged her remaining hand into the gap held open by her foot, grabbing hold of one of the internal component parts.
The machine drew out from within its metal skirt a wicked-looking knife which radiated a hum and a soft green glow. Inverting the grip to face the blade to the bottom of its palm, the machine drove the weapon toward Lily.
Lily closed her eyes, concentrating on forcing her tendrils of magic throughout the construct. Faster, faster, more. She concentrated her efforts on assimilating the arms, pushing herself, emphasising speed over finesse, racing against the movement of the machine’s right arm.
The knife approached Lily at an inhuman speed, plunging down, screeching through the air as it cut through the currents… and stopped just short of Lily’s head. Lily felt the heat of the knife’s edge radiating towards her, slightly less scorching than the beam weapon, but still undoubtedly deadly. Tentatively opening one eye, she saw that the machine’s head was spinning wildly, but its arms were stationary. Experimentally, she tried to move the arm that she now felt as a part of her body, and the left arm of the machine moved swiftly away from her, dropping the knife.
Lily breathed a sigh of relief. It was her win.
She closed her eyes again, and focused on assimilating the rest of the machine.
The first thing she took control of was the head; its wild spinning was freaking her out. Immediately she was rewarded with a wealth of sensory information: the head of the machine had multiple sensory input devices in it. Specifically, she could see in a full 360 degrees around her. It seemed that the faceplate, much like the rest of the machine’s design, was simply aesthetic, or perhaps a ruse. Additionally, the head had multiple vision modes. Lily mentally sent a command to switch to another mode, where the vision was coloured completely green and blue, except for her own body, clinging tightly to the machine’s arm, coloured a bright combination of reds, oranges and yellows – excepting her artificial legs. She cycled through a number of other vision modes, but could not understand the purpose of most of them.
Next she extended down to the machine’s lower torso, where she was surprised to find that the machine lacked legs – instead, it had a metal construct filled with various weapons and sensors, covered with the strange, flowing metal skirt. At the core of the metal construct she found a single, large spherical object. Intrigued, she attempted to assimilate that as well, but only managed to breach the outermost layer of the sphere, before she was repelled.
…Anti-mana armor? Perhaps. But it felt different from the material of the machine’s armor, which she had already assimilated – apparently the protection only neutralised mana from external sources. Besides, it was unlikely that the machine would have had a specific part within it built to neutralise mana when the rest of it was fully accessible.
But if it wasn’t something that somehow neutralised mana, what was repelling her? She could detect faint traces of magic emerging from the sphere, leading to the rest of the construct.
Intrigued, she operated the machine’s left arm, grabbing hold of the object, and wrenching it from within the machine, placing it on the adjacent ground. It was a glossy chrome orb, a perfect sphere with no visible flaws or imperfections, as if it was carved from a perfectly pure block of metal.
Immediately, she felt the drain on her mana reserves intensify tenfold. She could still operate the machine for a good while, but not without accumulating fatigue. It seemed that the object had been a power source of some sort, and with its removal, Lily alone was sustaining the machine’s operation.
Experimentally, cautiously, Lily released her control over the machine’s head and left arm. The head lolled backwards. The arm fell to the machine’s side, unmoving.
Lily’s hypothesis was right; without its power source, the machine was no longer a threat.
She released her hold on the construct and kicked off its arm, landing on her left foot and right knee. She tested her crushed right foot, and found that while she could move it, it now had a differing height from her left, which resulted in a limp. As the construct slouched over, unmoving, she limped over to the spherical object on the ground and placed her hand against it warily.
She sent her tentacles inward, probing, only to be repelled by something within the sphere, again. No longer able to contain her curiosity, she probed slowly, tentatively, forming a mental schematic of the layout of the object through trial and error, with the hole in the middle of her constantly updating schematic slowly taking on a defined form.
It looked like a person, curled up in a fetal position.
Her eyes widened in shock, Lily sent out tendrils throughout the entire orb, searching for some way of opening it. If there was truly a person in there, it would explain her magic being rejected: she could not, after all, <<Extend>> to a living being. It would be too much to ask of her body to accept another living being as part of itself, and it would be too much to ask of the other person’s psyche to become a part, a subset of Lily.
After some probing, she discovered a mechanism that seemed to be a switch of some sort. Mentally activating it, the sphere fell apart, each part breaking off and falling to the floor, becoming just another bit of scrap metal, as the form that lay within the sphere revealed itself.
Lying on the ground before Lily, curled up, eyes closed, with glossy white skin, was a metal girl.