Contra Returns

B

Want to challenge me? Anytime!

The man known as "the strongest Contra warrior." During the GX Army crisis, Bill was forced to battle his mentor, Colonel Bloodaxe, who had fallen under alien control. Outside of his missions, he is dedicated to tracking down Melinda, his mentor's daughter.

It is late afternoon, and the sun is rapidly setting on the horizon. The hilltop casts a long shadow on the flowing waters of the Colorado River, heavy and imposing one minute, then only faintly perceptible the next. Bill Rizer, who has been hanging off the wall of a cliff for some time, deftly brings himself to the top with an effortless 180-degree turn and reverse press-up. The glare of the sun has more or less receded, so Bill can now enjoy the view of the entire canyon laying out before him without squinting his eyes. Once in a while, the rays of the setting sun would meet a piece of rock or gravel in the distance at just the right angle, producing flashes of glimmer not dissimilar to the twinkling of stars.

Bill takes out a fat cigar from a box and inhales deeply. His nose is filled with the mellow notes of cocoa distinctive to authentic Cuban cigars. This is a scent that he can't seem to shake off, just like his memories of Melinda. Bill Rizer may be a veteran member of Team Contra and their "strongest warrior", but he is also one sentimental fellow. For nearly a year, Bill has been crisscrossing the world in his search for Melinda. A new tip-off, and he's on his feet. His motivations lie not merely in his love for Melinda, but also in a deep sense of responsibility. While he has toyed with the idea of leaving Team Contra so that he may dedicate all his time to the search, Contra has been an obligation that he simply cannot bring himself to abandon. For reasons known only to her, Melinda has chosen not to see Bill ever again. All she can do now is hope that Bill is able to return from each of his missions safe and sound.

Bill toys with the cigar box in his hand. It is a beautiful box with a few silvery streaks across its cedarwood bottom. The box was a gift from Melinda. It is now the only connection to Melinda that Bill has, since everything else is now buried in a corner of the canyon somewhere. On his days off, Bill likes to come to the canyon alone. Here, he has all the space he needs to be himself and to think...

Amidst the sounds of an approaching chopper, a voice rings out: "Rizer! Answer if you can hear me!" It is the voice of Colonel Bahamut.

"Yes, sir!" Bill springs to his feet and waves to the chopper.

"Your leave's over. Hop on, we're returning to base. Operator Tina will brief you on the mission."

"Yes, sir!" Bill grabs hold of the rope ladder of the helicopter, and the chopper then makes a swift turn away from the hilltop.

"Bill, what are you still doing down there?" The voice comes from Lance Bean. It's been quite a while, and Bill should have climbed aboard by now.

"I've got to finish my cigar first," Bill responded coolly as he holds on to the rope ladder with one arm and takes a deep drag of the Havana in his other hand. The downward draft from the rotor blades above him quickly sends the smoke of the cigar off into the distance below and flattens the blond hair on his head. His feet dangle precariously just a few yards from the hilltops that are swiftly falling behind him.

The chopper heads west, in the direction of the setting sun, and the strains of a familiar tune are soon heard inside the helicopter...

Night envelops the chopper just as Bill finally climbs aboard.

"Lance, old buddy, where have you been?" Bill playfully elbows Lance a touch, and receives an elbow from Lance in return. The two start to wrestle in the narrow confines of the chopper cabin while hurling the occasional gibe at each other. It is as if Bill had never been away, and the two boys had just said goodbye yesterday.

A long flight can make you sleepy, but Bill spends the entire time with his eyes wide awake, watching his comrades drift off to dreamland or just taking five instead. Bill himself had saved Lance on the island before, and Lance had saved Pulse. He and Lance had also rescued Operator Tina on one occasion. It seemed to Bill that this is what a soldier's life is all about—killing people, rescuing people, and being saved in turn. Yes, once upon a time, it was Bill's turn to be saved... body and soul. He was saved by Colonel Bloodaxe of the GX Army, the father of Melinda and his mentor.

Before he became a member of Colonel Bahamut's newly established Team Contra, Bill was the righthand man of Colonel Bloodaxe. Back in the day, Colonel Bloodaxe was to Bill what Bill is to the young recruits of the team today—he was Bill's patient mentor who fought bravely alongside his men against the worst odds.

In the year 2634, Bill—who was already the "strongest warrior" by then—was given an order to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the GX Army. Something about the entire affair made him feel a little uneasy. What if this had something to do with what had happened at the Galuga Archipelago just the year before...?

The sight that greeted Bill as the force helicopter approached the GX Army base was truly shocking. The entire base was engulfed in a sea of flames. The officers and men of the GX Army, having fallen under alien control, were destroying their base. The building structures were being razed one by one, and vehicles were being set on fire. Targets were being mobbed one after another.

Bill’s helicopter landed on a hillside at the outer perimeter of the base, where he spotted a man stumbling towards him. It was the Colonel, his teacher, whose face had become grotesquely distorted due to alien control. "Colonel—" The word had barely escaped Bill's lips when he saw the Colonel raise his weapon and start shooting at the helicopter. The sight was almost immediately followed by the sounds of bullet-on-metal just inches from where he was. Bill had no choice but to fire warning shots in return. With the helicopter between them, the two battled each other for quite some time, until they were both out of ammo. The Colonel, brandishing the combat ax that he always carried on him, charged at his pupil. In response, Bill held up his dagger and tried to block the Colonel's attack. The two men fell to the ground as they grappled and tried to get the better of the other. The Colonel's ax edged into Bill's neck, and a thin stream of blood appeared. It was at this most critical moment that the Colonel suddenly hesitated, having briefly come to his senses. However, it was too late for Bill to stop himself, and his dagger had already plunged into his mentor's chest...

"But Colonel... Why?"

"It's alright, Bill. It's like I've always said: always be on your toes when you're on the battlefield."

"Sir, I'm getting you out of here!"

"No, forget it..." The Colonel slumped onto the floor, and told Bill with great difficulty, "Find... Melinda... No matter what happens... to her... Go... Do what... you have to..."

The Colonel's labored breathing gently came to a stop. He had handed over the chance to live on to his protege, along with his life's mission. This was the moment that made Bill decide that he would exact vengeance. He must awaken to become a true Contra warrior!

The chopper was now hovering just above the base airfield and was about to land. Bill, holding a Gatling gun and standing by the chopper door, gazes out at the night sky. The night sure is clear and starry tonight...

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B

I hear you wish to try out the new weapon I created?

In the midst of battle, with his home village being razed to the ground around him, Lance had survived. He became a mercenary at a young age, and even received the sobriquet "Death" for his uncanny ability to survive when everyone else around him had fallen. And over time, his real name was forgotten. He had met Bill Rizer after being captured by the Commonwealth Army during a mission. Bill, impressed by Lance's strong display of loyalty and character, convinced the Commonwealth Marine Corps to take him on.

"Bingo!" The new dual-purpose quantum laser assault rifle was finally finished. Lance's feelings of jubilation only last for a moment, however. This was just all in a day's work for him. "Hey, catch!" Lance tosses the weapon over to Bill, who had been yawning for days on the sidelines while Lance worked on his project. "Here we go again...It's just another gun..." Bill mumbles as he walks out of the room.

Not a few moments later, Bill throws the door open and yells, "LANCE! What in the world kind of a weapon is this?!"

Lance, unperturbed, doesn't even raise his head from what he's doing. He waits for Bill to say more. This wasn't exactly uncommon for him, especially when Lance had just invented a new toy. "So, what did you blast to bits this time...?" Lance asks wryly.

"Well, you were taking so long with it that I was half–asleep! The safety wasn't on, and I wasn't really paying attention, so I pulled the trigger by accident and...Anyway, the Solar-Laser Heat Exchanger Room is... gone..." Bill says grimly from the doorway.

"Hmm, and which one's that again?" Lance asks, furrowing his eyebrows.

"The boiler room."

"So?" Lance rushes out for a quick look.

"The Human Epidermis Prophylaxis Station will be out of order today."

"Uh huh, that one being?"

"The showers don't have hot water anymore..."

Lance stops in his tracks, turns around, and narrows his eyes at Bill. It's clear that Bill is going to be in big trouble. Hopefully, Lance can keep Colonel Bahamut from blowing his lid.

Lance Bean, legendary member of Team Contra, and Weapon Master. All the weapons used by Team Contra come straight from Lance's workshop. It's said among his comrades-in-arms that Lance first started modding weapons when he was just a wee boy. Nobody actually knows for sure (after all, you know how people like to whisper), but this particular rumor was actually true. Little did they know that not only did the legendary Lance start modifying weapons when he was very young, the first victim to die at his hand was actually a member of the Marine Corps...

Lance's skills and instincts came about thanks to a monstrous fire. His first memories involve images of a village being razed to the ground, anguished wails, and dead bodies all around him. Every time he recalls these gory images, it is as if he can hear the loud cries of despair. One thing he has not kept in these memories, however, is the pain of watching his family die in his arms. The next thing he remembers is the scorching environs of the desert.

There, a group of child soldiers trudged along under the blazing sun. At the side, irate adult soldiers barked at them for being too slow. They had to get to the enemy camp before dark, no matter what.

And of course, there was the battle.

Yes, Lance, the young orphan, was conscripted as a child soldier and trained to become the most ruthless and dangerous war machine that the mercenaries had. An expressionless young Lance walked among the ranks of a hundred or so child soldiers. He released a barrage of bullets on the enemy line with his Gatling gun, his movements as smooth and easy as if he were sitting down to dinner. When he came to his senses, he realized that the children around him had all been killed. Lance was all alone, as the others had already retreated, thinking him dead.

Covered in blood and clutching a small bundle of parts scavenged from the battlefield, Lance managed to find his way back to the other troops by retracing the trail of prints left behind. He appeared back at camp like a lion returned from the hunt. He sat down by himself in a corner and started to fiddle with his loot and some scrap metal that he had on hand. Soon enough, he had assembled a massive machine gun that made his young body look even smaller. But it was the sight of the tiny Lance holding a colossal weapon as he emerged time and again from among piles of the dead that gave him his reputation in battle.

Then, someone started calling him "Death Boy".

More battles followed, and people started dropping the "Boy" from his name...Lance and his machine gun would mow down every enemy, with no exception, and his fellow mercenaries started to call him "Merciless Death," instead. Who could possibly defeat Death himself?

Bill Rizer, with his short crop of blond hair, was the perfect match for Lance's rakish blue mop. The beautiful tale of Bill Rizer and Lance Bean begins in an arduous battle between Lance's Imperial Eagles and Bill's Marines. "Friendship" was a concept that was unheard of among mercenaries. There was only life, death, and cold hard cash. It was during this encounter that a still-youthful Lance was betrayed by his peers and captured by Bill's Marines. What awaited him was torture and the most brutal interrogation imaginable. Lance had long understood that this was a common end for a mercenary. For him, dying was just another everyday fact of life.

Lance was ready when the blond one reemerged. But he had come bearing another way out for Lance: his release. Bill told Lance that there was no reason for him to remain loyal to a bunch of people who had abandoned him and left him to the mercy of the enemy. Bill did, in fact, get around to eliminating the whole lot of them, so in a way he had retaliated on Lance's behalf. On top of that, Bill had managed to secure Lance's release, so he was his benefactor as well. Lance could join him in the Marine Corps if he wanted to. Of course, he didn't really have any other choice.

Lance remained silent.

"That show you put on just now was pretty darn impressive if you ask me." Bill had decided to change tactic and offer up some flattery instead. Even though Bill tried to keep his tone light and casual, it was clear from the look in his eyes that he meant what he said.

"Ah, I forgot to introduce myself. My name's Bill Rizer. They all call you ‘Death,’ but what's your real name?"

It was at this moment that it felt as if something had hit him. Lance had been "Death" for so long that he had nearly forgotten his real name: Lance Bean. And so, Lance stopped being "Death," returned to his old self, and became the newest member of the Marine Corps.

Lance's childhood experiences are what shaped him into becoming the solitary man of few words that he is today, although they have also made him calm, strong, and persevering. These are all qualities that would make Lance the backbone of the Marine Corps, once he was no longer a lone ranger.

One time, while carrying out a mission on an island, Lance found himself surrounded by the enemy. He had been shot in a few places, and his comms equipment had been blasted to pieces. He was slowly being backed into a corner with the enemy approaching from all sides. It was at this moment that he suddenly spotted a blond crew-cut bobbing up and down in the undergrowth. The sweet music of a Gatling gun soon rang out, and the enemy started to fall like dominos on all sides. Bill and Lance finished off the rest of the enemies together. The enemy had blockaded the island, so the duo then lived off the land for an entire month. During this time, Bill took the utmost care of Lance, who was seriously injured, tending to him while also hunting and gathering supplies. Bill really had become Lance's benefactor this time round. For the first time, Lance came to see what a "comrade-in-arms" really meant, and he and Bill became fast friends. Lance and Bill became the ultimate dynamic duo out on the field, working together seamlessly battle after battle to accomplish the objectives of their missions.

Over time, Lance changed. He became more attentive to the needs of others, and more aware of his own emotions. At Team Contra, in particular, he felt that he had finally come home. Bill's boyish demeanor, Operator Tina's incessant nagging, and the uncanny way in which Pulse reminded Lance of himself... Despite the fact that most of the time, Lance is still the solitary, silent presence that he used to be, especially when he's working on some new-fangled weapon inside the armory, his new family at Team Contra has indeed changed him. He is now more accepting of others, and more willing to devote himself to them. A new Lance has emerged at Team Contra. It turns out that "Death" had a name all along, and his name is Lance Bean.

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S Phantom Gunner

Bullets are better than prayers.

Alice began to learn the art of combat from a mysterious mentor as a young girl. At the age of 16, she joined the Earth Federation government to seek revenge for her deceased parents. However, she was assigned to a desk job instead. It was only two years later that she was transferred to the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant with incredible physical prowess. She swore that she would go to battle for the sake of the ones she loved.

In the year 2626, Europe had been completely rebuilt following its utter destruction by the Commonwealth. It looked like the peaceful days of yore had finally returned. However, deep down, everyone knew that the peace and tranquility they enjoyed could not last for long, and that a storm was brewing on the horizon.

It was seven in the morning, and the land was gently caressed by the rays of the morning sun. The waters of the Thelenbach river took on a soft shimmer, tinged with gold. Also shining in the morning sun was the cross-shaped pendant that hung around Alice's neck.

Alice, wearing a slightly old-fashioned beret, stood under a massive apple tree with her mother. It was a scene right out of a John Constable painting. It was at that moment that she spotted a beetle on one of her shoes. "Ew, gross!" she exclaimed, as she stomped her feet to try and get the bug off. Alice's mother gently picked up the insect and placed it under the tree. Then, she started teaching Alice a song. The sounds of the two of them singing could be heard from across the water...

Ten minutes later, a school bus appeared round the corner. Alice raised her arm and started waving, even though the bus was still some way off. With a big grin on her face, she ran up to the driver's seat to hug her father. Six-year-old Alice studied at a church school where her mother taught history, and her father drove the school bus. Every morning, Alice would reluctantly stumble out of bed as the sounds of her father shutting the front door traveled through the house and the smell of freshly prepared toast signaled the start of another beautiful day. Her dad would first head to the school, pick up the bus, and then come round on his route to pick up Alice and her mother. For Alice, the school bus was like her second home, and her schoolmates were like her brothers and sisters. Cheeky little Alice would raise a ruckus with her friends as soon as she boarded the bus. Sometimes, she would even challenge the older boys at the back to an arm wrestle. Despite her mother's constant nagging about safety and decorum, Alice continued to play as she liked, with the sound of her laughter ringing up and down the whole bus. At times like these, her father would slow down the bus ever so slightly, look at his daughter through the rearview mirror, and just take in the moment.

The kids at the church school often played a game where they would reenact a scene from the Bible. Alice would always play the role of the one who would lead everyone out of darkness, the one who would always find the quickest way out. Her character would always be the bravest one, the smartest one, and the one who would fight the enemy head-on. Alice firmly believed that she was a messenger who had received the word of God, and that her task was to eradicate all evil on Earth and to spread the message of love everywhere she went.

But sometimes, life had other plans. This was something that puzzled Alice greatly. Where was God in those moments? One day, after a trip, Alice decided to walk home instead of taking the bus. She saw a group of suspicious-looking people standing around a small, cowering figure. It looked like a robbery. Alice ran up to the group, raised the cross pendant hanging around her neck, and said in the name of the Almighty:

"Stop now, for God is watching you!" The group started laughing at her.

"Let him go! Take me instead!" she cried. Alice had wanted to bring the baddies to their senses with her sacrifice. "Father who is in Heaven... maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust..." Alice recited her verses as a fist came out of nowhere, struck her, and sent her flying to the ground some distance away. She sat up and continued, "...Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also..."

A grimy hand reached toward the cross hanging around her neck, and she heard a voice saying, "This should be worth some money."

"Give it back to me, you crook!" Alice lunged forward, grabbed hold of the hand, and bit down on it, hard. She was thrown to the ground again. Suddenly, a mysterious person clad all in black appeared and subdued the crooks. Then, they gave Alice back her cross. Alice, who was just about to burst, tried to keep a tight lid on her emotions while also trying to quietly catch up with the mysterious person before they left. However, when Alice turned a corner, they were nowhere to be seen. "Looking for me, Miss?" The mysterious person had suddenly re-appeared from behind her.

"Would you teach me what you did just now?" she asked.

"Would your God be agreeable to that, though?" The mysterious person asked back.

Alice wasn't sure how to answer. Should she love her enemies, or meet violence with violence? At the age of six, this was a question that she could not yet answer. However, she was born to be a warrior. Not only did she have faith, but she was also quick of mind and highly agile. And of course, she knew how to love. This was clearly something that the mysterious person had recognized.

Alice started her regular lessons with her new mentor. Every weekend, she would sneak off to the designated meeting point and take lessons in martial arts and combat tactics.

Then, in the blink of an eye, 10 years had passed.

The aliens launched an all-out attack on the Earth in the year 2636.

Finally, the storm had arrived.

It was seven in the morning, and once again, Alice was standing by the apple tree singing a tune. She was in high school now, but she would still wait with her mom so that they could wave to her dad when he stopped to pick her up. The school bus turned the corner and was coming toward them as always. Suddenly, a bomb came down right where the bus was, exploding instantly. Her mother, shocked at the sight, was unable to move. Alice grabbed her mom's hand and started running, running all the way home. Then, she headed to the basement garage and took out the machine gun that she had hidden there. She was going to fight. Smoke filled the skies above the Thelenbach, and the apple trees were uprooted one by one by the endless shells... In the face of this attack by the aliens, Alice didn't manage to save a single soul. Her grandfather had perished in the Commonwealth war, and now, God had taken both her parents from her on the same day. Alice was grief-stricken.

Then, she saw her mysterious mentor again. This time, however, they were not there to give her a lesson on combat tactics or martial arts. Instead, they told Alice a story about God and man. It was a story that told her that the power to end war lay not with God, but in the hands of human beings.

After the mysterious person left, Alice headed to the church. There, she asked God: "Our Father, who art in Heaven: What is love?" But she did not get a reply. "So, what does Your silence mean?" Alice was undeterred. Still, she did not receive an answer. Alice would have to supply the answer herself, instead. Although she loved her parents and the people of the world, there was now no way that she could love her enemy. If she had to love them, then she would do so by killing them.

Alice walked out of what was left of the church, determined to join the Earth Federation government. She would use everything in her power to protect the people she loved. She would go to war! The hiring interview was a breeze, and Alice didn't even have to undergo a physical. Her excitement, however, was dashed on her first day at work—it turned out that what she had landed was a desk job with the Earth Federation. All she was to do, day in and day out, was shuttle documents between the various offices. Instead of the combat uniform she was expecting, she received a prim-and-proper skirt-suit combo, topped off with peep-toe mules. Alice was dismayed. Each time Alice walked the office corridors with a stack of documents in her arms, she'd draw the eyes of the people she walked past, as if she were some graceful animal at the zoo. The men, in particular, had a look in their eyes that said: "I sure wouldn't mind taking this sweetheart home with me. After all, someone's got to make the morning coffee!" But this wasn't something Alice wanted at all.

She went to look for her mysterious mentor, hoping that they could help her out. However, their door was shut and locked, and her mentor was nowhere to be found. Perhaps this time she had to rely on herself.

Her opportunity to shine came soon enough, however. A Red Falcon spy who had tried to enter the documents room was discovered and taken hostage. Alice, who happened to be on the scene, rushed over, raised the cross hanging around her neck, and said in the name of the Almighty:

"Stop now, for God is watching you!" This was followed by raucous laughter.

Alice took a step forward, and carried on: "Let her go! You can take me instead!" The spy reached out with one hand, grabbed hold of Alice, and soon had their arm around her neck.

"Hmm...What's this? Your faith? And how much is that worth?" The spy asked as they reached for the cross on her chest, but Alice soon stopped them in their tracks:

"You crook!" In a flash, Alice had subdued the intruder and handed them over to the officers who had just arrived on the scene.

Alice's superiors agreed that she could transfer to a combat unit once she met the physical fitness criteria.

As she began her training, Alice said to herself: "Filing paperwork? Not my thing!"

Two years down the road, Alice had reached an incredible level of fitness. Then 18 years old, she was spotted by Colonel Bahamut and was transferred to the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant.

At the base, Bill came up to Lance and said to him lightly: "Hey, we have this beautiful chick with us today. She's a transfer from the office. I hear that she used to make the coffee there." Lance raised his head for a look. Alice walked into headquarters in her combat fatigues. She looked at Sheena as she dashed into the room: "That kid in the bunny ears is adorable! I guess she's an up-and-coming warrior, too?" "Oh! Is that a doggie? Awww! Who's a good boy?!" "Hmm. I should watch out for those two tough guys over there, though..." Alice carefully examined each and every figure in this new space. It was important if she was going to have to fight alongside them. She wrapped her fingers more tightly around the gun in her hands. She had been waiting for this day for two years now. Actually, make it twelve. The day had finally arrived.

And she only had to wait three days before her first battle. "Follow my lead..." Bill had cocked his head toward Alice in a show of amity, but the words had barely left his lips before Alice leapt out in front and... BOOM! She opened fire and took down an enemy. Alice continued to push forward, counting her kills along the way. "Two...Three...Four...Five..." Lance, too, was taken aback by what he was seeing. After all, all he had seen of Alice until now was the cheerful and well-mannered girl from around the base, not this one, loading and firing her weapon in quick succession with deadly coolness and precision. "Six...Seven..." The shots from her gun reflected off the metal cross around Alice's neck, like banners during a crusade. She was no longer just firing rounds at her enemies, but cries of anguish at the suffering of the world.

"Dude, she was TERRIFYING," Bill unloaded on Lance later. "She must have suffered some kind of past trauma or something. Hey, what are you doing?" Lance, still focused on the task at hand, made the last few turns of the screw on the motorcycle before looking up. "Bingo!"

"Cool, cool. But isn't it a little... girly?" Bill asked as he looked at the modifications Lance had made.

Lance had even modded his beloved motorcycle as a gift to Alice. "It goes with that hat of yours. Give it a try!" Lance said as he flashed Alice something resembling a smile. Alice mounted the motorcycle and checked herself out in the rearview mirror, pushing down her beret with glee. It was like she was looking at her younger self again. "Welcome to Team Contra!" said Bill as he purposefully ran his fingers along Lance's beloved machine, and Alice reciprocated with a megawatt smile.

On Sundays, if she wasn't on a mission, Alice would be at the church. She would also lend a hand with whatever charity event was going on at the time, like handing out food or other supplies to people in need. Her compassion was reserved for her friends and family. Her enemies, however, would only ever look down the business end of her gun. At times like this, though, she was back to being the humane and devout believer from before. Each time the congregation dispersed, she would stay behind a little longer to speak with the Lord, and each time she did so, she did it with a clear conscience and nothing else on her mind. She firmly believed that she had made the right choice, and that all she had to do now was keep at it, so long as she could have this moment of respite. Her actions are guided by a single, powerful image in her mind: that one day, the waters of the Thelenbach would be back to their former, tranquil state yet again.

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B Artillery
Sweetheart

Have a taste of my cannon, then we'll talk!

Sheena is a beautiful and lively girl who, in her early years, used to live among the guerillas with her father. While her father has steadfastly refused to say even one word about her mother, he did give Sheena a locket that contains a picture of her. Sheena is known for her use of guerilla tactics on the battlefield. No stranger to heavy weapons, she is an agile warrior whose strength in battle strikes fear into the hearts of her enemies.
"KABOOM!!! Did'ya see that?!" Sheena yelled out cheekily as the tank in the distance was reduced to scrap metal. A wisp of dark smoke, not unlike that of a diesel engine, escaped the barrel of the cannon in her hand.

"Uncle Bill, please tell me that we're done for the day..." Sheena made a sad face at Bill Rizer, who was supervising her training at the firing range.

"Don't give me that face...Fine, just go..." Despite his tone, deep down Bill thought very highly of this young member of Team Contra, who never ran out of ways to run circles around the enemy. On her own, she was more than capable of taking down half a dozen or so Red Falcons at once.

"Yay! Time for some brownies! Thanks, Uncle Bill! See you, Uncle Lance!" Before Bill could turn back to give a few last words of advice, Sheena had already disappeared.

"That girl...Her dad must have put something in her food when she was a kid." Lance Bean shook his head, followed by a nod. The day's training was over and, like always, he and Bill were the last to leave the shooting range.

"I suppose we have her mom to thank for this little prodigy. Must've taken something during pregnancy or something," Bill chuckled back. "But whether we're in the hills, the forests, or even out in the streets, we're usually fighting against a much larger force than ours. Sheena may be young, but she's our expert when it comes to guerilla tactics."

Sheena entered the coffee house of the Contra base to find SnowBear waiting for her in a corner, cake already on the table. "Bunny!" SnowBear called out, opening his arms wide without hesitation.

"White Bear!" Sheena flew into SnowBear's welcoming arms, and started rubbing her rosy cheeks against his warm, fur-covered belly.

"YOWCH! Watch where you're putting that cannon!" The smell of burning drifted up into the air, and Sheena realized that she had accidentally placed her weapon, muzzle down, onto White Bear's lap, where there was now a round patch of scorched fur. "Sweetie, I'd have appreciated a donut more..." SnowBear's jaw dropped slightly as he grimaced.

"Heh! I guess that's why they call me the 'Artillery Sweetheart'!" Sheena took a big gulp of air, and blew with all her might at the burn on SnowBear's knee. "Feel better?" she asked.

"Not a problem! I didn't feel a thing!" SnowBear picked up Sheena in one smooth motion, and placed her in her chair. The wound on his knee smarted a little. "Here you go sweetheart, I saved the best bit of the brownie for you." Fang, who was also there, butted in at this moment: "I helped pick it too."

White Bear had been Sheena's friend since her father's days with the guerillas, which was also when she had got to know Fang, her loyal... dog? Wolf? Wolfman? Whatever he was, to Sheena, Fang was her most faithful protector. Since her father never took her along on missions, whenever she was left behind, Sheena and Fang would always play Cops and Robbers together. Of course, poor Fang would always have to be the robber. Sheena, who had always had incredible strength for her age, would always end up on top of Fang, who would then beg for the game to stop. Little Sheena's favorite games were never your usual "playing house" ones, mostly because they always involved the smell of metal and gun oil. Her games were always about guerillas, the resistance army, etc., and she held not a plastic replica in her hands, but the real thing. From Gatling guns to rocket launchers, she played with them all. Not even the weapons seized from the Imperial Army were spared. That said, she never really had a go-to weapon until Lance came up with the shapeshifting high-energy cannon for her. Sheena's other specialty skill is her ability to move as quick as a phantom on the battlefield, while still handling her heavy weapons at the same time. Colonel Bahamut, who was a good friend of her father's, would praise her for being a master of guerilla tactics from an early age. Every time this happened, Sheena would fiddle with the locket she was wearing through her shirt. She believed that every life lost meant that the heavens had gained another star.

Sheena's enjoyment of her brownie was interrupted by a loud crash from the coffee house door. A huge zombie had just barged in. It looked left and right, then started charging in Sheena's direction. Sheena was about to pick up her cannon to teach the zombie a lesson when it suddenly came to a stop in front of her. The locket she was wearing had its undivided attention...

"Oops! Looks like someone forgot to put the lock back on at the lab!" Fang was clearly taken aback by this character's surprise appearance as well. "Why is it looking at your pendant like that? Hmm...I have to say though, I feel like I've seen it somewhere else before..."

Sheena raised her head to look at her stupid hound, and her anger boiled over. She yelled at Fang, "What are you waiting for? Get rid of this ugly freak, now!"

"Yes ma'am!" Fang leapt towards the zombie with one arm pulled back. "Here's an Exploding Fist for you!" Fang was right on target, and the giant zombie

was knocked flat on its back.

Bill and Lucia Zero arrived on the scene to the sight of Sheena smiling at them and saying, "Oops, false alarm. Nothing to see here! Although I must say that this freaky guy did give me quite the scare, so you're buying me dinner tonight, Zero!"

"Sure," Lucia Zero replied. "The zombie skipped out on the doctor. Sorry about that." With Fang's help, she then proceeded to drag the zombie back to the lab.

"Hey, finish your brownie. It'll help you calm down," SnowBear said as he picked Sheena off of the floor again and carried her back to their table. His eyes fell on the pendant hanging around her neck, and he quickly averted his gaze. Sheena carried on eating her brownie, one hand on the locket the whole time. The image of the unblinking zombie was still on her mind, and she couldn't help but wonder: just what was the relationship between the zombie, SnowBear, and Fang? And how did her mother figure into all this?

Sheena's locket was something that her mother had left behind, and inside the locket was a picture of her. Sheena had no memory at all of her mother. Her earliest memories were her days in the guerillas with her dad, who never, ever, talked about her mother. She could only imagine what her mother was like by looking at her picture. Once, at bedtime, Sheena's father was telling her a story when she suddenly asked her father about her mother, and not for the first time. However, as always, he didn't say a word. Later that night, however, Sheena's father placed a pink bunny toy by Sheena's pillow. Sheena, who was not yet asleep, reached for the bunny, held it close to her, and started looking for the brightest star in the night sky. She ended up spending the entire night talking to her.
When her father died, Sheena knew that there would be one more star in the skies that night.

"Bunny..." SnowBear gently called out to Sheena, who was lost deep in thought. Sheena tucked the locket back under her shirt. She then wiped the chocolate from her mouth with her forearm, before turning to her White Bear and making another funny face at him.

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A White Bear

Come on, enjoy the battle, don't worry!

Like Fang, SnowBear is a bio-engineered soldier who was created using gene-modification technology. After escaping from the lab where he was created, SnowBear became a member of a guerilla group at a very young age, and years later, he became part of the Earth Federation's Marine Corps. SnowBear, a skilled and brave warrior, played a pivotal role in the Alien Wars.

"Beep...beep... beep..." The cardiac monitor was hooked up to him, and his body was covered in electrode pads connecting to the machine, as well as the wounds he had just suffered in battle. Two nurses were looking him over. SnowBear had been unconscious ever since he was picked up off the battlefield and ferried back for medical attention, and Dr. Mandrake had recommended that he undergo surgery. The scent from the alcohol swabs and disinfectants was thick in the air. For SnowBear, who was lying there on the operating table, it was as if he had returned to some really familiar place. Although he appeared to be unconscious to a casual observer, his cerebral cortex was still active. It was as if SnowBear had been transported back to that white laboratory that he was once so familiar with. It felt like he was back there.

A house painted all in white with wintry rooms. A wall with drawings: a seal here, and a polar bear there...A long howl came from the next room. Probably from someone or something who had lost their mind. Perhaps it was a wolf or a dog? SnowBear heard the door open. Beyond the iron gate appeared a woman in her 20s. She was bringing SnowBear his meal. "Etranzi? Is that you? I missed you so much!" Etranzi walked over to SnowBear, and gently patted him on his head. Then, she held out some of his favorite food: fish, which he happily gulped down without a care in the world.

Inside the operating theater, the doctor instructed the nurse to place SnowBear under anesthetic. SnowBear couldn't help but jerk slightly as the needle penetrated his body.

SnowBear vacuumed up the fish that was on his plate, and looked up with an earnest smile. However, Etranzi had somehow morphed into a much-older woman who held not just food in her hands but also a needle and drugs. "Etranzi! Why are you doing this to me? Why are you acting like the others? I thought we were friends!" SnowBear's body began to tense. The woman replied, "You need to calm down, SnowBear. We don't want to hurt you. We're just trying to treat your wounds!" SnowBear blurted, "You're lying to me! You humans just keep torturing me! I'm not putting up with it anymore!"

The doctor carefully extracted a bullet fragment from one of SnowBear's wounds, and dropped it into the tray. This was repeated several times. Standing outside the theater and looking in on the surgery where SnowBear's bloodied body was breathing shallowly, was Fang. Although he had lost most of his memories, what was unfolding in front of him reminded Fang of the days the two of them had spent together at the lab all those years ago.

"Hey, Butterball. Where are you from?" A young Fang casually asked his new companion as he rolled about on the floor. The young bear answered: "I'm not too sure about that. I only know that it was very, very cold!" He then stared at Fang, not sure what to say next. "Tell you what. I'm your friend from now on," Fang said as he wagged his tail at SnowBear. He continued: "And here's a secret: if you're good, Mama will bring you food, and even brush your fur and pat your head!" SnowBear nodded.

"Fang, how are you doing? I feel awful!" It was years later, and a now-older SnowBear was in great pain inside a cage, having just been injected with an experimental substance. His breathing was labored. "Don't...don't talk to me right now... Need silence...Time to...myself. And... a little food... Anything to... to... forget about...this!" Fang, who had also been injected with the experimental substance, lay in the cage next door. "Why? Why are they doing this to us? Mama used to be so good to us..." SnowBear asked. He leaned heavily against the bars of the cage, tears flowing from his eyes.

Fang didn't budge from his place outside the operating theater the whole time. He observed the entire surgery intently, staring with laser focus at each and every bullet fragment that was extracted from SnowBear's body.

SnowBear finally came to, a few days after the operation, to the sound of Sheena calling his name. "Big Bear! You're back! You gave me such a fright back there! I thought you weren't coming back..." A tearing Sheena exclaimed as she ran over to give SnowBear a hug. "Little Bunny! I'll never leave you behind!" SnowBear smiled at Sheena despite the pain that he was feeling.

Sheena reached for a piece of brownie and cut off a small piece with a spoon. She then brought the spoon to SnowBear's lips, saying, "Big Bear, I always feel better after having a brownie! Here, have some!" SnowBear opened his mouth with some difficulty. Just as the chocolate of the brownie hit his tongue, however, he caught sight of the necklace that was hanging around Sheena's neck, and a great sadness came over him.

Night time. A groggy SnowBear found himself back in the lab of his youth. However, this time round, there wasn't any fish to be found. Instead, there were people lying in pools of blood...There was an old bald man, a young man, and...there was Etranzi. On her frozen face was the same smile she had flashed just before she'd died. SnowBear looked at her, and then looked down at his paws, which were covered in blood. Fang, completely shocked by what he had just witnessed, was cowering in a corner and wouldn't stop shivering. SnowBear walked over to Fang, stepping over several puddles of blood along the way. Then, he helped him to his feet and dragged him out of the lab. SnowBear woke up from his dream with a start and found himself drenched in sweat. He was still being haunted by his guilt.

It was several months before SnowBear made a complete recovery. Driven by his profound grief, SnowBear returned to the battlefield with a vengeance. All he could see in his mind's eye as he pushed forward with his ice thrower were Etranzi, the upturned corners of her mouth as she lay in a pool of her own blood, and Sheena smiling at him.

When she smiled, Sheena looked just like her mom...

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B Bounty Hunter

You can't outrun my bullets.

Saved by Bill and Lance when she was a little girl, Catelyn grew up in the care of the Marines. At the age of 16, she officially joined the Marine Corps at Lance's recommendation. Agile and flexible, Catelyn often took on bounty missions all by herself. Sometime later, Catelyn left the Marines and became a mercenary. She returned to the Marine Corps when the Red Falcon re-appeared, and as part of their Elite squad, Catelyn would go on missions together with the members of Team Contra.

Just like a bullet fired from the sniper rifle in her hands, calm and cool Catelyn is a silent but deadly killer. No one knows exactly what's on her mind, not even Bill and Lance, who had saved her from darkness and painstakingly brought her up to become one of the strongest warriors around. Perhaps the only way to understand the real Catelyn is through her missions and her kills.

Catelyn's father was once a senior commander of the now-destroyed Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth fell, he took Catelyn back to his hometown. There, to escape the radar of the newly formed Earth Federation government and to make a living for himself and for Catelyn, he became a hunter in the local hills.

Claudius Germanicus, who was determined to revive the Commonwealth, established the Red Falcon organization in the year 2625 and began to recruit his former Commonwealth subordinates. Catelyn's father was forced by Claudius to join the Red Falcons. However, when he discovered that Claudius was colluding with the aliens, he decided to desert the Red Falcons and take refuge with the Marine Corps with his daughter instead. Unfortunately, he was brutally killed by the Red Falcons during his attempt to escape. Bill and Lance arrived on the scene to find a shivering and terrified Catelyn hiding out in the undergrowth. The two of them brought Catelyn back with them to the Marines' headquarters, where she settled down and later began to learn gunmanship and the art of combat. Catelyn was 12 years old then.

Barracks life passed quickly, and four years on, Catelyn was already a beautiful young lady whose good looks belied the determined warrior that lay within. To the casual observer, though, she was just a teenage girl with a penchant for wearing headphones during training. There is no way we can really learn what's going on in this young girl's mind. Perhaps for her, the music blasting through her headphones was a necessary accompaniment to each and every hate-filled bullet that she fired from her guns.

Catelyn joined the Marine Corps on Lance's recommendation. With four years of advanced training from some top-notch warriors under her belt, as well as her natural aptitude, Catelyn found the Marines' missions to be a piece of cake. Over time, however, Catelyn became rather bored of undertaking bounty missions on her own. She needed a greater challenge and to further hone her abilities. That Catelyn was a lone ranger was a source of great worry to Lance and Bill. How could she possibly take good care of herself on her own? However, each time Catelyn returned from another one of her missions safe and sound—and extremely nonplussed—it was as if she was proving that Bill's worries and constant nagging was unjustified.

Catelyn left the Marine Corps when she was 20 years old, telling Bill that it was because she wanted to be free. Dissuaded by Lance, Bill decided not to stop Catelyn.

In the five years that followed, Catelyn disappeared without a trace, with the only suggestion that she was still alive coming from the rumors of her exploits...

"Bounty Hunter Catelyn Kills Rebel Leader"

"Catelyn Offs Government Official of Country M"

"Assassination Machine Catelyn Pursues Red Falcon Leader in Plain Sight"

...

All Bill and Lance could do was keep an ear out for this news of Catelyn, no matter how concerning it was. All they could do was wait for their young warrior to appear to them once more.

Catelyn finally returned to the fold when the Red Falcon made its return. Once again, she was with the Marines and fighting alongside Lance Bean and "Strongest Warrior" Bill Rizer.

Still, no one was sure what had happened to Catelyn for the last five years. All anyone knows is that Bill is back at his constant nagging, and that Catelyn's face reveals nothing at all...

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A Werewolf

Left hand cannon, right hand annihilation!

A wolf-like creature who is suspected to be a bio-engineered soldier, although no one really knows for sure, not even Dr. Mandrake. Suffers from episodes of amnesia from time to time and is often troubled by the fragments of memories that flash before him at various moments. However, on the outside, he always looks like his fierce and untamed self.

"7 May. Rain.

My bouts of amnesia do not make me a happy wolf... or man.

'Oh bye my love...' What a sad song this is!

I remember that white house I used to live in when I was a kid, and I remember how Mama and Papa would bring me gruel and jerky at the same time every day. I only had one hour of playtime back then, but I was still really happy. I wonder what happened to that butterball of a bear who was next to me. I won't be able to track him with my nose if he's run off into the ice and snow.

That's odd. Why am I thinking about the past now? I might not remember a thing come the morning."

-Fang was sat up in bed and leaning against the writing desk next to it to write in his diary. If he had to be honest, the idea of sleeping in a bed was still pretty alien to him.

More than once, he had awakened to find himself under the desk instead. He couldn't shake the feeling that the empty bed belonged to Sheena anyway. Sheena was his little mistress back when he was with the guerillas, even if she had never given him even a day's wages. Although he had never really understood that the guerillas were on the right side of history back then, everything just felt right whenever he was fighting alongside Sheena. Nowadays, however, he was just a hired gun working for Dr. Mandrake. He was here at the Doctor's lab deep inside a rainforest in Mexico, and he had no idea what he was really supposed to do. Well, at least he had a break from the fighting... He really hated that he had to spend time with the zombies, though.

"10 May. Rain again.

There's been a light rain tonight. The soft droplets come down gently, magically, like a comforting blanket. What a perfect night for a drink!

Ha! I can't believe what I just wrote... That stuff is almost poetic! I should be a poet.

It's interesting all the different creatures you can find in this forest: tigers, barbarians, zombies... I'll write about all of them in my poems in the future."

-It looks like Fang was having another of his amnesia episodes, which, if you think about it, might not be a bad thing after all, especially given how poorly suited he is to a life without a master or mistress to serve.

"3 June. Overcast.

Just what the heck is that giant maniac? He even knows how to use the Upper-Cutter! What the! Don't tell me he knows how to use the Combo Cutter, too! Bah, whatever! I'll show him!"

-The "giant maniac" was known as the Demon Soldier, a new generation of zombie developed by Dr. Geo Mandrake which was more flexible and more human-like compared to its predecessors. The doctor knew that his days of developing and testing the 3.0 version of his formula deep in the rainforest would not last forever, so he needed some sort of "secret weapon" to keep unwelcome guests at bay. That's Fang for you. He always had to be bigger and stronger than the next guy... even if he wasn't.

"4 June. Still overcast.

Turns out that Demon Soldier really has mastered the Shoryuken. Looks like I'm losing my usefulness again. I'm getting my bag of dog food again tomorrow. I hope the doctor doesn't dock my wages for some reason!"

-That night, Fang tried to practice the Hadouken, but to no avail. The next day, having not seen Fang yet with the sun already high up in the sky, the doctor sent someone to look for him. His messenger found Fang sprawled out on the bed, tongue hanging out of his mouth on one side, in a room speckled with light that came in past the trees outside the window.

"5 June..."

-Fang didn't manage to make a diary entry this day, because this was the day he was captured. Team Contra had finally located the rainforest lab and had launched their assault, and it wasn't long before Fang was captured. It turned out that the Hadouken and Shoryuken were not the most powerful moves in the world. And what was with the cannon attached to his left arm? It just wouldn't fire where he wanted the rounds to go. He started to feel a little silly, a feeling that he had never had before, and while he was still trying to fight off the assault at the lab, the doctor was already long gone.

"10 June. Sunny.

The gray skies are gone and the sun is out again. I still feel pretty down, though. Not only did I not get my wages for this month, but I've also been captured by this organization called... Contra, or something. They're looking for the doctor. Fine, I guess I'll ask them for my salary instead. Hold on...There's this girl with pigtails with them, and also that giant bear... Where have I seen them before...?"

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A Machine Valkyrie

Who... Who am I?

Dr. Geo Mandrake, having lost his beloved daughter Lucia in the war, researched cell technologies and genetic engineering for years to bring her back to life. The first of his specimens to come to consciousness was named "Zero"

... A cold, lifeless body lay in a cryogenic pod as Team Contra stepped foot on the Galuga Archipelago. This was a clone created by Dr. Geo Mandrake in an attempt to bring his deceased daughter Lucia back to life. However, his experiment did not succeed, and the inanimate body ended up becoming a "spoil of war" for Team Contra. It was back at the Marine Corps base that the project finally came to fruition.

Technology can be used to create zombies, as well as spark life. It was Bill Rizer who gave her the name "Lucia Zero." Of course, while the clone looked like Lucia and sounded like Lucia, she was also a blank slate at the same time. She had zero memories, zero emotions, and zero desires and motivations. It was as if she was born to do battle. So, she began training under the tutelage of Team Contra. She became Lucia Zero the Machine Battlemaid, she who is pure of heart and stunning in appearance.

Zero was a brave fighter. One thing she understood keenly is that she had to forge ahead with bravery, no matter what. It was her raison-d'être, and whoever stood in her way had to die.

Life for Zero was simple and direct. She treated her friends, her enemies, and herself with complete and utter matter-of-factness. She was friendly to her teammates and followed orders without question. She was easy to work with, especially since she never, ever uttered a word of complaint. To her, battle was just a game. All she ever did all day was pull the trigger, pull the trigger, pull the trigger...Of course, she had her moments of doubt. She wondered about her past, and wondered about Lucia. However, these thoughts would disappear as quickly as they came. "Just...just who am I?" "I am Lucia Zero. That, and nothing more."

However, she never really confronted the question of who she was until she came face-to-face with Dr. Mandrake again. It was during a battle that Lucia Zero had become separated from the doctor, and it was another battle at a Red Falcon-controlled port in the Gulf of Mexico that brought the two of them together again. It wasn't all hugs and kisses when the two were reunited. While the doctor was technically her life-giver, both in the scientific and biological sense, Lucia had no idea how to respond to his genuine shows of affection. After all, one of the things he had not given her was her memories. She said few words during the encounter, not out of spite, but because she really had no other choice.

Team Contra eventually managed to convince Dr. Mandrake to stay behind and take care of Lucia Zero. For Zero, it was beginning to feel more like home. She had her exemplars in the form of Bill and Lance, her friends Operator Tina and Pulse, and now, her father. Of course, the two of them talked about Lucia fairly often in the beginning. However, as time went by, the doctor started to just call her "Zero," instead. At the same time, Zero was beginning to build her own life as well, with new memories of her very own.

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