- The Red Ghost -

********

‘Cute girls never get cold’

So she had been told, a mantra repeated countless times in her presence since as far back as she could remember.

‘And you’re as cute as a button’

She was a cute girl the elders once said, and vanity notwithstanding she believed in their words unquestionably. It was a thought that distracted her from the savage, howling wind pelting the back of her old grey parka, and blanketed all it touched through the outskirts of this desolate village and the vast taiga forest beyond in thick, white snow. But a thought was fleeting, and could not keep her distracted for long. So she resumed counting.

“...Dvyestee diveenohstah adeen...”

The shrieking wind blast intensified, which slowed her down and made her sluggish. She was already struggling with the large, disc-like metallic object she pulled through the snow, so heavy both her hands were occupied on the thin metal handle attached to it. And she was dragging it, moving ever backwards into the wind that tried its best to push her back. She could not see where she was going, but she did not need to: there were only three hundred steps she needed to walk to get to her destination. She had counted two-hundred ninety-one.

“...Dvyestee diveenohstah dvah...”

Two hundred ninety two now. She could barely hear herself in the incessant howl of the gale. .

There was no sting in her azure eyes, just the unimpeded view of the emptiness, with only the footprints she left behind in the snow to give variety. And even they were transient features, to be swept away by the gale to vanish once more, accompanied by thins wisps of wind passing through her feet. Even the afternoon sky was denied by the wind, hiding the horizons from view to cover them in a pale white bloom. Everything seemed to disappear into a single field of bluish white. The sight took her breath away... and everything slowed down.

Ice flakes hung in the air, suspended like stars in the sky. Slowly they rode on the gentle milky river of the frosty wind, wading its way through the perpetual white. Her body felt light and free, unburdened by gravity, like walking among the clouds. At that moment, it was like staring into a peek of heaven...

But then she breathed, and she found herself once again in the company of the blizzard and the weight of the disc she carried. Everything moved too fast, too strong, more than her small frame could hope to withstand. But she had to bear but only a moment more.

“...Dvyestee diveenohstah dyehvit...”

Just a step more.

“Treestah!”

She had reached, the place she recognized as a raised road. And though her face was stiff from the cold, she managed a wan smile of relief as she released the object from her grasp and let it fall to the ground with a soft thud. But there was no time to rest.

Her mittened hands dug into the snow, creating a shallow depression. Here was the final resting place of the object she had lugged for so long. Slowly she dragged the metallic disc into the depression, setting it flat on the snow.

“Chto?”

She was supposed to “arm” the object once she had laid it down. ‘What was it again’ she thought... and then it clicked. She grabbed a ring attached to the upper side of object, and with a strong tug pulled it out. With that minor issue cleared, she buried the object with the snow she had dug up. In this ever-shifting landscape, no one would ever notice it was ever here, just as she was instructed.

Her errand done, the girl turned and ran back the way she came. Through the gale whipping at her body with its cold frosty entrails, that stung her eyes shielded by her arms and chilled her small body she ran. Ran as fast as her legs dared, ran lest the blizzard finally consume her in its icy wake. Ran until she hit something.

And hit she did. Her body slammed against a wooden door, that opened loose with the force of her impact and sent her tumbling inside a significant distance. The sprawling girl tried to lie down, stretching her arms wide. She felt like her head was spinning out of control, dizzying.

“...sibya ploha chustvuyu...”

She may not feel good, but inside the remains of this chapel the blizzard’s unforgiving winds would dare not enter. Her left hand found one of the wooden pews, and with her remaining strength grabbed unto it with both hands, lifted herself off the ground and swung unto the seat.

The deafening howl from outside was only a whistle here, and the air inside was tranquil, stale even. She let herself slump into the pew, breathing a sigh of relief that solidified in the air as a white mist, then disappeared in instant.

The long, black rectangular bag she had left on the pew before she left earlier was still there, untouched. It was longer than she was tall, and quite heavy. She opened the zipper slightly, and smiled at the gleam of black steel and laminated wood inside.

“Dobree den, Sasha, Mischa. Kak dela?” She greeted as if to a friend. “Hm, spatseeba.” She cheerily replied to a voice only she could hear. The inhabitants of the bag were her only company in this ghost village, her only friends. And the deadly tools of her trade.

The adults told her targets were due tomorrow, more than enough time for her to rest up. And when she finally eliminates the targets for the adults she’ll earn her just reward for her hard work. She took a piece of bread from a pocket on her parka no larger than her fist, and chewed a quarter of it. It was all she can afford to eat, for this was the only food she had left. There would be more when she succeeded.

The bread was hard and tough, and the room was chilly. But that’s okay she thought. Because she was cute as a button.

********

“Sonya! Sonya!”

She woke up to the sound of a girl calling out to her, combined with someone shaking her shoulders. Gingerly she looked up to see a girl with long, brunette hair in a school uniform staring at her intently.

“Good morning Priscilla.” Sonya greeted groggily, still sluggish from her nap.

The American girl sighed. “It’s already 6 in the afternoon, you know you shouldn’t sleep in school after classes end.” she said matter-of-factly.

“Sonya be right down.” Sonya replied weakly, burying her head on her arms again.

“You...” Priscilla’s exasperation gave way to pause, before she ruffled Sonya’s blonde hair a bit. “Make sure you’re gone in thirty minutes or I’ll get grilled by the teachers... again.”

Sonya turned her head to the side to face Priscilla, meeting her gaze with tired eyes. “Thank you.” She answered.

Priscilla returned the reply with a smile as she turned to leave. “I’m only doing this because you’re cute. Don’t expect a next time!” she said, then left for the door.

“Sonya cute...” Sonya muttered, watching her classmate disappear from her view behind the classroom door. That dream... no, a memory. She looked out the window, seeing the clear, orange sky of sunset casting a pale orange on the skyline of Academy City’s glittering skyscrapers. This highly-advanced concrete and steel jungle was a far cry from the forlorn snow-capped taigas of Chokutka, and the clear blue skies a stark contrast to the impenetrable grey veil of the winter snowstorms. And yet even now, her skin could still feel the chill of the Siberian winter, its screaming blizzard resonating within her eardrums. And that field of infinite white where her eyes became witness to the most beautiful thing her life could offer. Though she suffered unbearable pain in those days in the hand of her masters, that one moment when she saw time crawl for the first time made all her misery seem insignificant. She felt disconnected, as if living a lucid dream, expecting to wake up to the smell of wooden pine and the sub-zero temperatures of that chapel, with her companions Sasha and Mischa beside her, on that day seven years ago.

If this high-school life was just a dream, please don’t let it end...

“Sonya.”

A female voice again, trying to wake her up. Which side of the world would she end up in if she answered? Sonya ignored the female voice once more.

“BLzine Volume 82 is out.”

In an instant those words zapped through Sonya’s brain like a lightning bolt, jumpstarting all her cognitive functions to maximum power.  

“BLZINE?!?!?! GDE NAHODITSA BLZINE?!?! GDE-”

A suppressed giggle stopped Sonya’s cries dead in its tracks, as Sonya turned to look at the person who woke her, and found her eyes widening at the sight of a familiar young woman with short auburn hair, wearing an all-grey office attire.

“Sestra!” she exclaimed in pleasant surprise. “Shto-”

The woman raised a hand and shook a finger in amused disagreement. “Sonya, I told you don’t speak to me in Russian. You’ll never practice your English that way.”

“Yes Sestra Sayuri.” Sonya replied in English this time, then realized a mistake. “Ah, Sister Sayuri.” sheepishly correcting herself before turning to look at Sayuri. “Want know why Sister pick Sonya from school today.” she asked.

“Priscilla told me you planned on sleeping late here again. Are you?” The question carried a playful air to it.

“Sonya apologizes.”

Sonya suddenly found herself hooked by Sayuri’s arm, and pulled till she came face to face with her taller sister’s bosom in a bear hug. “Don’t be sorry to me, Priscilla worries more about you than I do. I know you can easily take care of anything your way.” Sayuri kneeled down, now gazing at Sonya’s face on the same level with a tender expression. “But you shouldn’t be so lazy as to not want to come home at night when you’re not busy.” she said

Sayuri’s tone was playful, but Sonya felt her sister’s tightening embrace. A warm, comfortable embrace, inviting and accepting. The embrace that brought her out of that hard Siberian winter seven years ago, when she first met Sayuri for the first time. This was no dream afterall.

Slowly, Sonya returned the gesture, wrapping her arms over Sayuri’s shoulders.

“Sonya go home tonight.” she replied. More than a simple affirmation though, for Sonya, this was a promise. A promise sealed by Sayuri’s earnest smile.

“Shall we go then Sonya?”

“Before that, Sonya want BLzine 82!”

“Sonya, it won’t come out until a week later.”

“Sister!”

******

Name: Sonya Uliana

Codename:  Red Ghost (Krasnee priznak, красный призрак)

Known Aliases: Sanya Praskoviya, ‘Red Sonya’

Age: 17

Gender: Female

Date of Birth: Unknown, listed in official documents as November 7

Occupation: "Armed Contractor"

******

History

In the remote Chukotka Peninsula in Northern Siberia, there exists a legend of a shooter with exceptional aim and unmatched skill with a rifle, who could fell a bear by shooting at its eyes at range. Whether beast or man, anyone unfortunate enough to be within their sights was guaranteed death. And the few who survive see only a crimson apparition soaked with the blood of its enemies.

They call it the “Red Ghost”. Few had seen the Ghost with their own eyes, and most don’t believe it even exists. But there was a select handful that know of the Ghost’s identity, and have worked tirelessly to keep it that way. And for those who might heard about the truth would scoff at the incredulity of the revelation: that the Ghost, fearsome and enigmatic, is no more than a little orphan girl not even past adolescence. The girl’s true name had been lost in time, and she was known only by the name that she knew herself as: Sonya.

Ever since they could remember, the small hundred-person hunting tribe that took care of Sonya had seen the extraordinary prowess of this resolute little girl as she grew up. Despite her small stature Sonya could shoot a hunting rifle despite a few problems with grip, and that despite such a handicap she had impeccable accuracy besting even the most experienced hunters of the group. With further instruction in hunting tactics, Sonya became the best hunter in the group, managing to nail even the trickiest and most difficult of big game even in the most adverse conditions. And for most of her childhood, Sonya travelled the icy Siberian wastes with these band of hermits.

Her days of idle hunting would not last long however. The community had stumbled too close to a slave trading ring affiliated with the Organizatsiya, the largest criminal empire in Russia, and five armed guards had been dispatched to greet them. The armed men wasted no time in carrying out their orders: to silence any witnesses. Incredibly, despite being outnumbered and outgunned 10-1 the guards easily overwhelmed the hunters with a variety of inexplicable phenomena. From shooting balls of flame to creating monsters of ice the hunters faced no ordinary soldiers - they could only be described as ‘magicians’. In the end, most of the hunters had been killed in the carnage. But the tenacious Sonya, the only survivor persisted, even managed to kill one of the guards with a headshot, and fought on till she was inevitably overwhelmed and disarmed. The remaining guards, suitably impressed with her skill, decided she would be of use for the Organizatsiya, and captured her alive. Unable to survive alone without the Organizatsiya’s means in the harsh Siberian wilderness, and unable to escape their grasp, Sonya found herself forced into servitude for them in order to live. The young Sonya was traded between various factions in the Organizatsiya operating in Siberia under the supervision of her sadistic handler Marco Sarkovsky, her skills in hunting put to use for all sorts of jobs as a sniper, including assassinations and defending key assets. It was during this time that her reputation as the “Red Ghost” surfaced, striking fear into the hearts of the Organizatsiya’s enemies.

But as Sonya become more adept at the craft of killing with each job, the fear of her becoming a true threat to her handlers became a real possibility. Wanting to use her expertise to the end, Sarkovsky gave her one one last job: to defend a secret research facility near the Anadyr River from an expected incoming assault by Russian spetsnaz under the FSB. In reality, she was only expected to survive long enough for the facility to be evacuated, as she would receive no back-up from the Organizatsiya, a move to ensure her demise.

And when the assault commenced on a remote abandoned village, the lone Sonya found herself outmatched and outgunned by the better trained spetsnaz with their superior equipment. But despite the disadvantage, Sonya would put her enemy’s entire operation into disarray. Using her environment to her advantage in combination with prepared booby traps the lone sniper would fend off and stall an entire platoon of 30 spetsnaz troops for 4 hours, letting none of them leave the village and proceed to the facility. But with no backup and with her supplies and traps rapidly dwindling Sonya’s tragic fate seem sealed.

But there was one odd variable in the operation: the presence of a lone female armed contractor by the name of Sayuri Uliana. The infamous esper Silver Wing had been begrudgingly hired to assist the spetsnaz in the assault, but like the rest of the platoon she too had been pinned down and slowed at every turn by Sonya’s traps and precision shots, even with her defensive esper power. Through the course of the battle Sayuri’s frustration turned to respect, and eventually admiration at the highly unusual tenacity of their lone opposition, and sought to meet her enemy alive in person to confirm a suspicion of hers. Breaking through the traps and the well-placed shots Sayuri pushed forward to catch the lone sniper lest the person be killed by her spetsnaz allies.

And when Sayuri finally caught the sniper she came face to face with the young ten-year old Sonya, who desperately fought back in close quarters combat. But in melee combat the more experienced Sayuri was superior, and soundly defeated Sonya, who had silently accepted her fate. But Sonya’s fate would be a different one from her expectations. Mysteriously, not only would the woman spare her life, but also treated the starving and exhausted young girl with food rations to feed on. And the woman would offer to listen to Sonya’s stories, including her time with the Organizatsiya. Sayuri would go so far as to fabricate a cover story involving a sufficiently powerful satchel charge to convince her spetsnaz allies that Sonya was an innocent unknowing slave girl held by the Organizatsiya, with the lone sniper that was the girl’s captor blown to smithereens. This spared Sonya the fate of being demanded and interrogated by the FSB as an Organizatsiya witness, or in the worse possible case killed.

The FSB had considered the mission a failure, and had sent its troops back to reorganize. Free from the FSB’s contract Sayuri would assist the young Sonya in striking back at her handlers. Sonya would take the both of them to the Sarkovsky Estate, the home of her former handler, and with Sayuri’s assistance personally end Marco’s life by her own hands, along with the 4 Magician Guards that slaughtered her former tribe.

Freed from her ties to the Organizatsiya, Sonya would be brought by Sayuri all the way to Rome, Italy. Here the young girl was placed under the care of married couple Katrina and Johann Uliana, who would adopt the girl as their own, like they had done with Sayuri long ago. Here Sonya was given freedom, and a chance at a normal life and education, and would come to regard the Uliana’s as her own family. But there would be more in store for her life than the idyllic days in Rome.

Sayuri had long suspected Sonya to possess esper abilities, which she confirmed through various personal observations and tests. And Sayuri had long intended to make Sonya attend Academy City’s Power Curriculum Program to further hone said power, a reflection of her own actions in the past. Not only would Sonya be able to improve her esper abilities there, but she would benefit from the opportunities at the variety of education options offered there. Sonya would agree to the transfer, on one condition: That Sonya have the freedom to do whatever she wanted in Academy City, which included using her skills to assist Sayuri in her contracts, and be able to take contracts as a hired gun on her own terms.

Currently, Sonya lives in Academy City as a student of Ichinaka High School, approaching her third year of high-school study.

Character

Sonya Uliana (17) in her Ichinaka High school uniform, Tainaka pattern.

One of the most common impressions most people have of Sonya when they first meet her is “cheery”, always seen with a laugh or a smile, or at worse a contented expression, but always filled with a passionate fun-loving energy short of hyperactive. And even when she looks sad, they mostly tend to look so exaggerated as to look silly. Growing up in the brutal weather of the far Siberian north in the guidance of her hunting tribe has hardened Sonya’s resolute heart from the sting of hardship and pain - no matter how hard or painful the ordeal, she bears it with all her strength and covers it up with a grin. With an unwavering positive attitude towards everything she breezes even the most difficult of tasks with nary a worry, and any problems she encounters don’t put her down for very long, supported by a hunter’s tenacity and determination against even the worst of odds. And her patience has been described as near saintly, as she is able to shrug off, and even forgive most trespasses against her.

Such patience was tempered from Sonya’s harsh living conditions where everything from food to clean water was considered a grace, and she gratefully accepts any graces no matter how small. This virtue is also her deadliest weapon as an expert sniper: she has been known to lie in wait on the same spot for weeks at a time, waiting for the right moment to catch her prey in her sights. Not just with a rifle however, her brush and pen also benefit: Sonya is an avid art fan, a passion she picked up in Italy, and where she learned the arts and craft of being a canvas artist. That passion later spilled over to Japanese manga, where she trades her brush for a pencil to draw her own comic strips. In fact, she is so adept at drawing that some of her smaller works have been published in weekly shoujo magazines like RenaiType and BLzine under the pseudonym “Yuki Mafuyu” . She also has her own doujin manga circle under the label “Permafrost”.

Another of her passions is in the field of firearms. Having lived with firearms for most of her life Sonya is passionate about firearms of all kinds, and having Sayuri as a sister means she can get access to a lot of rare and limited type weapons found nowhere else. Though while she likes weapons of all kinds, Sonya is very partial to firearms made in the former Soviet Union, and most of her favored weapons are Russian in origin. She has much respect for old German firearms however, especially weapons used by the old Wehrmacht in the Second World War.

Even her patience has limits however, strangely enough over some of the smallest things. One of them involves anyone who makes fun of her favorite subject for her art and manga, which is shounen-ai, aka “boys love” (BL), stories about romance between handsome and sometimes feminine-looking males. While many females in her class love such stories the males typically don’t, leading to some unsavory remarks that gets Sonya’s liquid rage pumping through her veins and rattling on a crusade in defense of “the purity of a beautiful man’s love towards another”. There have been unsubstantiated rumors of her capping a particularly outspoken homophobic guy with a pistol while smiling. No one has risen to the challenge of pushing her to that limit to prove it. Another pet peeve is people treating her like a child, a result of her exuberant persona combined with her short 4’5” height, which give people that perception. This has worked to her favor at times, as people are often enamored by her cute, child-like nature, and thus treat her better. More often than not Sonya refrains from relying on such treatment, preferring to throw her own weight around rather than be coddled. Sonya still wishes to be taller however, and has tried lots of methods from the legitimate to the odd, short of titanium bone implants.

Sonya’s roots as a hunter have made her somewhat stubborn in a lot of things, especially for things that she wants. Once she has set her sights on acquiring something she shall pour all energy and determination into it, and will stop at nothing till she gets it. Such stubbornness has made her clash with Sayuri’s equally stubborn nature at times. Sonya is also overly protective of those precious to her however, and can begrudgingly swallow her own pride if it need be. Said overprotectiveness applies to a lot of things in Sonya’s life however, and some have joked that she’d be a very clingy girlfriend if she ever bags herself a boy.

To ease her transition into Academy City life, Sonya had been educated beforehand in speaking in multiple languages asides from her Russian mother tongue. She is now proficient in Italian, French, Spanish,German and Japanese. Oddly enough, her English still requires work, being the language she learned last. One unusual speech habit of Sonya’s is her illeism, i.e. referring to herself in third person, a habit that some people find endearing, though most see it as a sign of her being childish. According to Sayuri, Sonya’s habit comes from the need to reinforce her patient side by not referring anything to the first person, distancing the pain from herself. Her illeism breaks when under intense emotional duress, though such occasions where she has referred to herself as “I” and “me” have been exceedingly rare. Another language quirk is Sonya defaulting to Russian when she’s overly embarrassed, no matter who she’s talking to, a quirk that has caused her to botch at least one confession at Ichinaka due to the person being unable to understand her. Sonya is currently hard at work fixing said habit.

Combat

Like her adopted sister Sayuri, Sonya’s primary line of work is as an “armed contractor”, hired to deal with a variety of armed combat situations regardless of political or national affiliation. As the Red Ghost, Sonya’s primary expertise is that of a sniper, using her years of knowledge as a hunter to stay out of sight, hidden until the right time to strike at her prey, then destroying them from the limits of firearms range. Her skill with a sniper rifle is without question, and she has an instinctive grasp of the battlefield variables that can affect the accuracy of her shots, allowing her to quickly compensate her aim for precision shots. Her small size also allows her to more easily hide herself from detection and reduce her visible profile when shooting, and with appropriate camouflage and cover in the right place she can become virtually invisible from her enemies. And Sonya is also quick on her feet, giving her the speed to quickly relocate from place to place to further avoid being pinned down at a single place.

Asides from her sharpshooting skills, Sonya is also adept at laying down complementary anti-personnel traps and ambushes to corral and contain an enemy within her kill zone, restricting their movement and allowing her to take them down easier.

Being small and light limits her usefulness in more intense combat situations however, as she has much difficulty in carrying larger, heavier equipment. Sonya prefers to carry as little equipment as possible on a combat mission, her minimum being her rifle and ammunition, relying only on her speed and size to hide from the enemy and relocate quickly to stay out of range of enemy fire. While Sonya had been taught through the years in Close Quarters Combat by Sayuri, her primary tactical doctrine still involves keeping her distance, and if caught in CQB her only option is to stall her enemies and run.

Traditionally, Sonya’s sniping expertise is her primary selling point when finding armed contract employment, operating alone with little to no expected backup. In recent years however Sonya has also been employed to provide fire support for advancing front-line elements. Particularly, Sonya is often called upon to support Sayuri with covering fire when the two sisters work together. And when a contract requires precision sniper work Sayuri would sometimes delegate the contract to Sonya. When accepting a contract, Sonya works under the alias “Sanya Praskoviya”.

Arsenal

As a sniper, Sonya relies primarily on sniper rifles built for accuracy. Sonya has a more emotional attachment to her weapons than Sayuri however, and two of them have been her constant precious companions ever since her days as a hunter in Siberia. Her attachment to these weapons is such that she has given them names and talks to them regularly during missions when working alone.

“Sasha” (Dragunov SV)

Of all the weapons in Sonya’s possession, none is more important to her than Sasha, an original Dragunov sniper rifle with wooden furniture. This semi-automatic weapon chambered in 7.62x64mm was given to Sonya as her first personal weapon by the elders of her hunting tribe when she was 5 years of age, and has never left Sonya’s side since. According to Sonya the weapon was once the possession of an elder hunter named Boris, who she heard had been a former Red Army guardsman. Through thick and thin Sasha had been Sonya’s favorite weapon, and her first choice for any engagement due to its reliability and ease of use. Sonya is so attached to the weapon that she has often been seen hugging the comparatively oversized weapon in her sleep, much like how most girls would use a pillow.

“Mischa” (Mosin-Nagant 91/30 )

This old yet venerable bolt-action rifle is Sonya’s second favorite weapon. This particular Mosin-Nagant rifle was the personal weapon of their hunting tribe leader, until his death at the hand of the Organizatsiya magicians along with the majority of the tribesmen. Sonya had used this particular weapon to kill one of the magician guards, and as a sign of begrudging respect the Guards had taken this weapon along with Sonya when she was captured. Mischa would be Sonya’s second personal weapon ever since along with Sasha. While it has not seen as much use as Sasha, Mischa has also seen lots of action in Sonya’s capable hands, using the weapon for when she requires precision beyond what Sasha can deliver.

“Olga” (VZ-61 Skorpion)

While Sonya rarely uses automatic weapons in combat, she carries this small Skorpion machine pistol for the rare occasions when she needs to engage in close combat. Unlike Sasha and Mischa, Olga was a weapon Sonya had stolen from the Sarkovsky Mansion. The weapon, part of Marco Sarkovsky’s personal collection, was used by Sonya to personally end the aristocrat’s life with an entire magazine’s worth of 22. bullets to his head at point blank range. Sonya carries the weapon to this day, stating her “gratitude” to the weapon for putting her past behind her. The Skorpion’s size and diminutive recoil make it a perfect weapon for Sonya’s small size, although its stopping power leaves much to be desired and is best used as a last resort weapon.

“Volkov” (Twinbow II)

Traditionally Sonya accepts jobs to be performed outside the confines of Academy City. Inside Academy City or other densely-populated urban locales with a large police presence using her firearms for long-range sniping proves risky due to their loud reports, even with the use of silencers. For such sensitive missions Sonya uses this crossbow gifted to her by Sayuri. This Swiss-made Twinbow II uses a special cocking mechanism enabling a faster draw using less force than traditional crossbows, all without sacrificing power or accuracy - something ideal for the small-statured Sonya. While weaker than her firearms ‘Volkov’ as she has named it is the most silent of Sonya’s arsenal, and special bolts enhance its comparatively meager power, from poison tips to explosive warheads. Its versatility allows Sonya to use the crossbow to launch ziplines for quick insertions and extraction from high places.

ESPer Profile

Ability name: Bullet Focus

Type: Perception

Ability Level: 3

While Sonya’s sniping skills is unquestionably good, unbeknownst to many her skills are bolstered by her own esper abilities, one so subtle that not even Sonya herself knew of the ability at first. And even Academy City scientists had difficulty detecting her specific ability, if not for the presence of an AIM Field on Sonya.

Sonya’s special ability is to slow down her visual perception of time. Fast moving objects appear slow, and slow moving objects crawl to a halt. What makes this ability special is Sonya retaining her cognitive functions at “normal” time relative to her slowed perception, allowing her to visibly perceive the slowdown in time. This effect is akin the “Bullet Time” abilities found in video games and movies, only this time Sonya can use this effect in real world situations, and hence the name “Bullet Focus” was adopted to describe the ability.

The applications of this ability is a godsend for a sniper like Sonya, who often need to mentally calculate the trajectory of their shot in real time while tracking down a target. By slowing down her perception of time Sonya can extend the amount of “time” she can adjust her aim. This results in uncannily accurate shots even against moving targets. And this slowdown enables her to perceive details on an event normally too fast to be seen by the naked eye, like seeing any identifying markings on a fast-moving vehicle. It is this ability that was used by Sayuri and the scientists at Academy City to confirm the existence of Bullet Focus, by making Sonya read a message on a screen flashed in the fraction of a second. Further tests also revealed the current extent of Sonya’s ability: She can extend her perception of time by ten times the length, thus an event that lasts a second is perceived by Sonya along the span of ten seconds.

Her ability has two limitations as a level 3 ability however. The first is that while Sonya’s visual and cerebral cognitive functions remain normal, she also perceives her own body as moving slow, and any movement she makes is also slowed down to the same amount as the rest of her surroundings. This affects both her senses and her central nervous system, and results in a phenomena called “focus lag”, where it takes several seconds of Bullet Focus time for Sonya’s body to react to her own commands. Likewise it will take the same amount of time for Sonya to perceive any sensations from her other senses except her vision. This lag has to be taken into account when Sonya makes any actions, as she has the same amount of “real” time to react to a situation as any other person. To this end, Sonya has been working to improve her “real” reaction time in order to better utilize the use of her Bullet Focus in aiming and reacting to fast-moving events.

The second limitation is in activating her ability. Unlike other Espers that can activate their ability mentally, Sonya requires a physical trigger to activate Bullet Focus. In this case, said trigger is to hold her breath. Once she ceases to inhale Bullet Focus automatically kicks in and will remain active for the duration that Sonya holds her breath. This is due to her ability seemingly needing to reduced activity on the medulla oblangata, specifically both dorsal and ventral respiratory groups to activate the ability. This limits the duration of “real” time that Sonya can use the ability for, and due to focus lag there is a real danger of her holding her breath far longer than necessary, making her pass out in the process.