By Sh33p, CultofSh33p@aol.com
The final part of this great trilogy. Hope you got airbags, 'cause this is going to be a crashing end. Tim Seltzer, email@example.com
Sh33p Disclaimer: Only crap I own are the original characters,
and even then I don`t own five of them in full. Consider this disclaimer
valid for the whole story.
Foreword:It`s advised that you read New Age and Reign of Chaos(in that order) before reading this, otherwise you`re probably going to be scratching your head and holding up a big fat sign that says 'WTF?' the entire time. You have been warned :P
Music is as follows:
Scene One: Linkin Park - Crawling
Scene Two: Hack Sign - The World
Scene Three: Drowning Pool - Tearing Away
Scene Four: Inuyasha - Strength of the Soul
Scene Five: Trigun - Vash`s Theme
Scene Six: Inuyasha - Kyuuchi
Scene Seven: Bob Seger - Turn the Page(Metallica version works too)
Scene Eight: Big O - Stoning(Transiberian Orchestra - Carol of the Bells works as well, but use it only if you can`t find Stoning)
"Well isn`t this a fine fuckin` mess to`ve gotten myself into?" A twenty year old man with blonde hair and green eyes, known to just about everyone and their mom as Bit Cloud, thought to himself. The details of the terrain outside of the cockpit were sketchy, at best, tunnel vision was starting to set in and explosions were going off left, right, front and back, and everywhere else that could be named. He was surrounded, again, by a seemingly endless army of Zoids that wanted to kill him, again. On top of that, he was trying to take on a Geno Saurer that seemed to dodge everything he could throw at it.
If not for the fact that these scenarios were all playing out under the structure of a headless, eight legged turtle Zoid the size of an Ultrasaurus, and in a land that had, up until he`d last slept, been a mix of a cold and a hot Hell, he would`ve probably felt as if he`d done all of those before. Because technically, he had.
Technical details didn`t really matter when over a hundred different Zoids of various shapes, sizes and armaments were shooting at you, now did they?
"If he would just hold still for five seconds..."
No such luck. The red Geno backpedaled at every chance, flashing its boosters at the perfect moment to temporarily blind him, sometimes jumping up out of the way and causing him to veer off for fear of having the Liger Zero`s back broken. Again. When he actually did manage to get close enough to attack, one of the Geno`s support Zoids had rushed in and taken the hit or smashed the Liger off course all together, both of which tended to end rather violently with the Zoid`s death.
The sounds of explosions going off in every direction at once faded away, green eyes narrowed. Gloved hands, their palms and finger joints aching, pulled back on the joysticks of the controls, with feet moving to compensate. Panels on the Liger Zero`s head flipped open, the Zoid`s boosters lit up for an unpredictable burst of speed. A second later, there was a flash of golden light, and a lucky mortar hit that would`ve shattered armor and wreaked havoc on internal structure instead struck into the Zoid`s energy shield.
"Keep my sides covered," he thought, trying to manipulate the shield`s shape as best he could. In response, it expanded, not through influence of the Liger`s unconscious Organoid, but the Zoid itself. Within seconds, it had covered the sides and back of the Zero.
The Storm Breaker, that warped red Geno Saurer that would`ve probably made the old Leena Tauros drool, stood imposingly in the distance, almost looking as though it were grinning.
"He`s gonna try and dodge... To the left or the right," Bit guessed, more to himself than to the Zoid he shared such a strong link to. Another shot smacked into the energy shield and all but bounced off, the explosion drifting harshly through the air and dying off by the time its last flames hit the grime covered ground.
The Storm Breaker held its ground, the guns on its head firing away at the approaching Liger. Anti-Zoid rounds crumpled and vaporized all over the front of the shield, yet the Zero, and Bit, just kept coming, practically ignoring every other Zoid beneath the Dome they fought under.
It proved to be a costly mistake.
"Got you," Bit spat out with a smirk, closing to within a Gojulas` length of the Geno Saurer. The shield dropped, energy transferred instantly into the claws and the Liger Zero leapt forward.
"STRIKE LASER CLAW!"
A screeching impact of armor against supercharged claws at over two hundred miles per hour, followed by a ghastly shriek that temporarily blotted out the sounds of ceasing gunfire. The Geno Saurer still stood its ground, the Liger`s momentum had stopped all together and its clawed foot was embedded deeply in the side of a gunned up Command Wolf. A few seconds passed, the battlefield stood still as the Liger`s foot slagged its way onto the ground, while the Command Wolf began to gradually stone over, completely dead from the blow.
Silence held. No shots were fired, no roars came and it seemed, for a time, as if the warzone had turned into nothing but a vast field of metal statues, with a few broken looking stone equivelents lying around in pieces. Fiercely, the Liger Zero`s charcoal optics lit up, matched in virtually every way by those of the Geno. The white Liger`s claw, still glowing, tore back up and out of the Wolf`s fossilized body, throwing rubble to the side. As one, the two Zoids began to slowly, cautiously circle each other, stepping sideways with guns and claws at the ready.
["That`s the sixth time this`s happened!"]
He paused in-mind, eyes narrowing for the umpteenth time in the past minutes. The hundreds of support Zoids were starting to close in by now, Rev Raptors and Saber Tigers leading with the Wolves, Kongs and Gunners followed closely, while the Saixes seemed to hang back, waiting.
["Stop tryin` to do it like a friggin` art form, moron. Just keep swingin` until ya get used to it..."]
"You`re really startin` to piss me off," Bit muttered out, feeling the Liger come to a stop with the Breaker doing the exact same thing in front of it.
For a few long seconds, they stood there, facing each other at near point blank. They were so close that their pilots could almost see the lines between the lights that gave each one a clashing orange tint to one side and blue to the other.
And that was when Bit finally lost his tunnel vision, the result of a mental jab from the Liger, and glanced to either side, seeing airborn Saber Tiger`s coming at him from both directions. Almost at the same moment, the Geno`s thrusters lit up, hurling it straight up into the air, backflipping out of the circle and landing somewhere in the closing mob, crushing a few Wolves and a Gunner in the process.
In all directions, even above, Bit could only see a closing wall of
claws and teeth.
"What the hell happened to this place?" Vega asked belatedly finally giving up on the comm and looking around. The push and pull of the Fury`s momentum, the relative comfort and warmth of the cockpit seat and the refreshing thought that he was piloting one of the most powerful Zoids on the face of the planet were the only reassurances he could get. Those and the comforting, albeit disturbed presence of Specular`s thoughts, something he was still adjusting to after having been without them for so long.
Nyx was the site of the last stand of those members of the Ancient Zoidian race who couldn`t or didn`t want to be subjected to cryogenics. Men and women, children and Organoids fled here in the hopes that its status as home to a God would keep the apocalypse from consuming them. They were wrong.
"... I can tell that much. It feels like I`m riding through a graveyard at midnight," Vega replied, feeling a chill rolling up and down his spine. Ash and snow formed into a vaporizing slag in the wake of the Berserk Fury`s engines, creating a wide trail that lead all the way back to the sea, well over a hundred miles away by now. There was no wind, no new snow or ash, and no shifts in the clouds above. None that Vega could see, anyway.
That`s because this is a graveyard. Or at least, something like it.
"Do I even wanna know?" Vega asked.
That`s entirely up to you, Vega, Specular answered as bluntly as a baseball bat. It wasn`t exactly one of those subjects that the Organoid was ecstatic to speak about.
For a long while, Vega gave no response. In the back of his mind, in some private corner where not even Specular could get at, he thought the matter through. He weighed his options, fought the growing chill that had since begun to run throughout his body and tried to quell the occasional surge of doubt that came with the very place he was in. It didn`t feel like just running through a graveyard, it felt like breaking into a tomb and desecrating it with his very presence.
Not a feeling he was used to. Not one he wanted to get used to either.
"Go ahead and tell me," he finally said, doing his best to follow the signal from the only bugs he still had in the Liger Zero`s general location. It was still so far though...
Not unless you want to know. It isn`t a subject to be spoken about as idly as glorified fodder for a road trip.
Another short pause.
"I want to know then," Vega finally stated, giving the notion of a sideways glance in Specular`s direction. Even if she was tucked away inside the Fury`s chest, clasped to its Core with virtual immunity to the power that the Zoid commanded.
Just a few dozen feet beneath us, below permafrost and the uppermost layers of dirt and ash, they lie. There are thousands of them, Vega. Thousands of Zoids lying in a comatose state of system freeze, knocked unconscious by a collective effort from every single Zoidian and Organoid on the continent. All of them died in one last gasp of power, enough to rival Eve herself, enhanced a thousand times over by the local crystals. It was the martyrdom of three generations, former enemies and allies alike. Self-sacrifice with no hope of individual survival, only the hope that their collective end would herald the beginning of a new age for those who went into cryogenic sleep.
She paused. Vega winced without even realizing it.
The city lying at the center of this hellish place is the only tomb they were given, and only because all of them fell there with no one to bury them. The end result was that almost every single Zoid across the planet, barring those less violent exceptions, fell into system freeze where they stood. Time and the elements covered them, but they were all concentrated in specific areas. The largest of those concentrations, in both location and number, was Nyx. The Zoids who fell are known only as-
"The Sleepers," Vega finished with a slow nod, now almost wishing the Fury could tread lightly in mid-air.
Yes. While the Zoids that survived eventually evolved into the less powerful incarnations that were tamed by humanity, those who went to sleep retained all of their malice, hatred and strength. From the Dark Spiners that devolved into the Spinosappers to the Saber Stalkers that became the basis for your Lightning Saixes, even some of the Geno Saurer`s true ancestors lie here, locked beneath countless tons of ash and snow, dirt and grime.
"And unless we can get to Bit and help him stop that green-eyed psycho in time..."
Then they`re going to awaken.
"And they`re going to remember just how strong they are," Vega unknowingly paraphrased, narrowing his eyes for a brief moment.
"Can`t we go any faster?"
... Feel like getting out and pushing?
Didn`t think so.
Time seemed to slow to a complete stop over the course of a half a second. Twenty-three Zoids, most of them Rev Raptors and Command Wolves, flew through the air with matching shrieks and howls, inevitably being yanked back down into the mobs they had been leading. Some were trampled, some bounced off of larger Zoids, others ended up crushing their own comrades, but the result was all the same. Zoids were knocked out of commission or killed outright, a few were able to recover but even they bore wounds from the monster that the army was trying to put down.
Through a sniper-level long range zoom, he watched the melee play itself out, constantly hovering backwards through the ranks of his own support. Everything was expendable for the sake of victory.
"You never were the sharpest knife in the drawer," he thought with a crooked smirk, the kind that had murder stamped all over it.
Finally, the Storm Breaker came to a stop. He almost felt himself sinking into the seat a small bit before what was left of the Zoid`s momentum died down. A few more seconds went by, and then even more Zoids went flying, one of which was none other than the Liger Zero itself. Like a demon that didn`t need wings, it seemed to fly up out of the very center of the mob, trailing gunfire while heaving up into the air, boosters at full throttle, jaws open in a roar so loud that it sounded as if it could be heard from miles away.
For seconds on end, it kept flying straight, only to corkscrew itself around and tilt down, shield flaring to life in a blaze of gold.
With that, it crashed back down into the flood of Zoids below, sending severed bodyparts and weaponry flying in every direction and crushing at least one Iron Kong and a Rev Raptor in the process. With that, the glow of the shield was obscured by the crowd and the pilot of the Storm Breaker allowed his brief surge of enthusiasm to die as swiftly as the Zoids he was using as cannon fodder.
"Still as single-minded as you ever were," he commented, voice low and strangely relaxed, given the situation.
More Zoids flew up and out of the crowd, some of them snapping apart like twigs in the path of the Liger Zero, its shield briefly visible every few seconds. From a distance, he saw as a particularly ruthless looking Iron Kong grabbed a Command Wolf by its back right leg and smacked the Ultimate X with it, treating an ally like nothing more than a weapon. Though the shield held, the attack still sent the Liger off its feet. The white Zoid briefly tumbled up over the crowd, slamming down into another part of it with the Iron Kong in hot pursuit. It was still swinging the shrieking, half-broken Command Wolf overhead like a weapon as he saw the Liger get up.
The shield dropped, a claw charged and a few seconds later, the Liger touched down behind the Kong, giving a charcoal glare in his direction. The Command Wolf flew into another part of the mob, where a Saber Tiger ended up disemboweling it in mid-run, while the newly headless Kong stood its ground a few seconds longer.
And then fell over, crushing a Rev Raptor to death instantly.
"Allow me to give you some breathing room, Bit," he replied to the Zoid`s glare with another cracked smirk, the half-smoked cigarette hanging between his lips tilting up as a result. Smoke trailed thinly through the stale, otherwise clean air of the Storm Breaker`s cockpit while footlocks slammed down into the ground, shattering bits of dried lava in the process. The tail straightened rigidly, panels flipped open in synch with the Geno Saurer`s heavily fanged mouth, the gun barrel extending a moment later.
Power levels quickly hit their limit as energy gathered at the tip of the barrel. Targeting systems locked to the Liger Zero`s last location, now obscured by the figures of a dozen Tigers and Kongs.
The charged particle gun fired...
"FUCKING PSYCHO!" Bit screeched out so loudly that he couldn`t even hear his own words as part of the mob ceased to exist. The world turned solid white and the Liger Zero roared in distress, clawed feet struggling to gain purchase on weak, melting grime and the quickly softening dirt beneath it. The attack lanced straight through the crowds, plowing through everything in front of the Zoid and leaving it struggling to stand against the wave of pressure that followed.
In a matter of seconds, it was over, and Bit felt his eyes stop wincing. The sight he opened them to was only appealing to the eye if one were a sadist.
Zoids lay strewn about like fallen leaves, centered around a line of quick cooling red embers that sloped into a trench a dozen or more feet deep. Many were dead, others had been dying, but only a few who`d been standing near the attack had gone through it unscathed. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of severed bodyparts, heads, tails and everything in between, lay on the ground, all of them still scorching and burning where they`d last had contact with the beam. Those that still stood, like the Zero, were left immobile from the following pressure wave, yet they still didn`t move even after the beam and the wave had stopped.
They, like Bit and the Liger Zero, were utterly shocked. Perhaps all of the Zoids` pilots or sleeper computers had known they would be little more than cannon fodder, but none had expected this kind of brutality.
A Rev Raptor staggered forward, standing on its last impulses, the entire front of its head and body melted and smashed, both scythes and arms alike having been broken in the process. Bit paid it little mind as it tried to continue on a suicide order to attack him, instead shifting his gaze, now possessed of an almost hellish intensity, over towards the Geno Saurer.
The red Zoid was venting steam, its footlocks flipping back up from the ground and tail panels still open while the barrel of its charged particle gun retracted. For a few seconds longer, it stood there with a palpable tinge of utter amusement, finally straightening up after a while. The slaughterbeast`s jaw slid to a close, menacingly resembling a grin in the mixture of sourceless light, both blue and orange. Shadows cast long across its red frame, drawing out every single detail.
"What kinda sick bastard kills his own Zoids?!" He asked in an absolute fury, the kind that made him look almost like a different person all together.
The only response he got was when the Rev Raptor stumbled onto the edge of the trench and fell over, dead and stoning by the time it hit the molten ground.
Feet slammed down like war drums. First a solitary tune, then another joined it. Raptors started shrieking in tune, Tigers roared in song and Kongs rumbled their praise, while Wolves howled in a single, drawn out cry that threatened to block everything out all over again. Bit`s gaze shifted back to the Zoids that had only seconds ago been so fractured almost none of them had been moving at all. Now though, they were all belting out parts of the same song, building tension, shattering the silence that had fallen after the beam hit.
"... And you stupid sonsabitches are still willing to fight for him? What the hell is wrong with you?!"
A Saber Tiger flew forward, claws lashing out and its machine guns blazing desperately, pelting the Liger Zero with small hits that quickly began to add up.
"DON`T YOU WANNA LIVE?!"
Before the Tiger had even landed, the Liger`s jaws had snapped shut around its head, breaking most of the neck in an instant. Like a spoiled child flinging around a rag doll, the Ultimate X threw the dead Saber aside before it could ever hit the ground. An already wounded pair of Rev Raptors were crushed as a result.
First, a lone Rev Raptor, ducking in low along the trench, only to dive forward at the last second. The Liger threw itself around and activated its shield instantly, cleaving the smaller Zoid`s head off like a battle axe and causing the body to crumple like a tin can. Before the first Raptor`s head even hit the ground, another had landed on the Liger`s back. The shield deactivated, the boosters kicked on and the Rev fell over backwards, where a ruthlessly placed toe kick crushed its throat and killed it. A Command Wolf followed, its neck snapped like a twig between the Liger`s jaws, and then a Tiger, chest blown open by the Zero`s dual impact cannon.
"DON`T ANY OF YOU NOT WANT TO DIE?!"
An Iron Kong and another Raptor, the smaller Zoid actually riding in on its larger comrade`s back. The Liger`s shield took the brunt of a whirlwind punch, the Kong`s fist twisting around like a propeller, while the Rev Raptor leapt down at the white Zoid`s back. The shield went down, the Kong paused to regain its balance, the Raptor was caught in golden, sabered teeth and thrown into the face of its ally. The Iron Kong didn`t even budge as its main optics caved in, the head remaining perfectly intact before a golden blur tore right through the Raptor`s body.
A few seconds went by, and then the Iron Kong, split open from its face to its lower stomach, fell over, with the smaller Rev Raptor crushed beneath it. The Liger stood next to the downed carcass, gunning down another Command Wolf and then shoulder-ramming a Saber Tiger`s jaws away. Gold teeth snapped shut on the smaller Tiger`s side less than a second later, heaving it up and then slinging it back down with enough force to rip out a chunk of its body, exposing vulnerable insides to an uncharged thrust of the left claw. Instantly, the Zoid died, its soul spilling like liquid silver onto the Liger Zero`s forefoot, only to evaporate into nothing a second or so later.
"ANY OF YOU?!"
They just kept coming. More and more, shifting from twos to threes this time. A trio of Raptors, all shattered like glass from a single shield ram. A Kong, a Wolf and a Tiger, the largest gutted from a claw, the smallest shot down and the middle player having its head bitten off. A Heldigunner, a Raptor and another Wolf, the last two being taken out by their own ally`s tailblades in a botched first strike, while the would-be leader was decapitated from a quick swipe of a claw.
There wasn`t end to the legion. More came after that, attacking without number this time, using every gun, blade, tooth, claw and fist that they could manage. More often than not, they took each other out in their haste to strike the Liger down, acting as nothing more than a poorly coordinated mob driven by fear, while the Liger Zero just kept dodging, shielding, clawing and biting through them. To the Geno Saurer pilot, it must`ve looked like a one-sided massacre. To Bit, it was nothing but a blur of screaming and bloodletting, even if the blood was only oil and the only human screaming was his own.
By the time he finally regained his senses, even more bodies lay strewn about. The Liger had been battered from numerous impacts, both large and small, while its shield hovered at only half of its full strength. Still, the Storm Breaker held its ground almost as if it hadn`t moved at all.
["One o` these days, Bit. That temper`s gonna cost ya..."]
Cold sweat trailed down his face and neck, his palms had started to truly go numb and his knuckles had turned a solid white beneath his gloves. He was holding the controls so tightly that it almost hurt, and his breathing had gone as ragged as if he`d just run a marathon. Almost instinctively, he leered down at the scanner and came close to developing a nervous twitch. There were still too many Zoids for him to even think of trying to go after the Storm Breaker without having to take fire from every direction, and every Lightning Saix but a select few were still waiting at the edge of the battlefield, only passingly hidden beneath the veil of the Dome`s considerable shadow.
Forcefully, his grip slackened, and the pause in attacks gave him only the barest chance to try and catch his breath.
"This isn`t lookin` too good... Eh, Liger?" He asked, and the Zoid growled a rough affirmative. A Kong lay in ruin beneath the Liger`s feet, and beneath it was a virtual mountain of mangled bodies, all of them belonging to Zoids that had come too close for their own good. Now, rather than fighting the Liger, they only stood to elevate it above everything else. Dozens went into the deathly effort, and dozens more lay all around it, most in pieces.
"We can`t stop though," he sputtered after a few seconds, feeling himself drooling down his own chin. At this point, he didn`t give a damn. "Can`t stop `til we pass the test..."
Zero growled again. It was tired of the tests, compelled into battling on almost entirely by Bit`s own dedication. The Zoid felt weaker without its Organoid, and yet it still held a feral pride and liveliness that set it apart from all others on the battlefield, even the Storm Breaker.
The sounds of guns loading up echoed in every direction, and panels flipped open once again on the sides of the Liger Zero`s head. The Saurer took a step back, goadingly roaring its defiance against an opponent who didn`t seem to stand a chance against it, and the Liger replied in kind.
"Let`s try this again, partner," Bit whispered out, feeling the whole world instantly shift. The Liger complied almost as a result of his own thoughts, lunging off of the pile and landing in a hard, steady run at full speed, boosters burning for everything they were worth. In an instant, hundreds of guns had targeted the speeding Zoid, only to lose track as it wildly threw itself from side to side with each sprint, quickly closing in on the Breaker, which promptly heaved forward and sought to meet the Ultimate X at halfway.
The Liger straightened out with a roar, both from Zoid and pilot, the Breaker landed out of its hover with a skid. In an instant, one grappler arm had fired forward, briefly trailing through the air at a relatively low speed, only to burst forward when miniature rockets around its cabling let loose. The Liger Zero was caught, heavy talons sinking into its left shoulder while the Geno burst up and straight to the side.
A few seconds passed as the two Zoids ended up orbiting each other, with the Geno swinging the Liger around like a yoyo before releasing it. Instantly, the Zero went flying backwards, its thrusters cutting out as it landed with a harsh, unforgiving skid on its belly, bouncing back up and rolling along onto its side to a hard stop. The Geno had again succeeded in keeping the Liger from melee combat.
"What I wouldn`t give for the Panzer armor right now... Or even the Jaeger..."
Speed or firepower over what he had now would`ve been an improvement no matter what. The Jaeger`s speed, agility and machine guns would`ve been welcome additions to what he could pull off right now, and the Panzer would`ve rendered this whole cannon fodder onslaught completely ineffective in the opening seconds. Unfortunately, he had neither of those tools at his disposal, and he and the Liger were both paying for it. Badly.
"Next time I run off for three days, remind me to put you in the Jaeger armor. Fuck this shit," he growled out. Zero remained apathetic to the thought, instead choosing to pry itself back out of the ground and throw its shield up as the assault from the main crowd began.
"ALRIGHT PEOPLE!" A voice trailed off in the high sun of noon out in the desert. Winds swept distant clouds of still lingering dust and smoke from the battle that had concluded only a scant few hours ago, distorting the outline of the sands for a mile towards where Farentown had once been.
"Somethin` tells me that he`s enjoyin` this way too much," a ragged looking young man commented, only barely above a wheeze.
"START PACKIN` IT IN, WE`RE MOVIN` OUT!"
"Yep," a more casual looking young woman replied with a bland tone, both sipping water from squirt bottles and both looking like they were on the verge of hitting their last legs. The two were known, to themselves and everyone around them, as Marcus Harlock and Pierce Summers. One bore the appearance of an escaped prison convict who hadn`t slept in days, the other looked like something out of your average pubescent fanboy`s dreams. Complete with a white t-shirt in place of the heavy duty flight jacket tucked under her arm, and covered with enough sweat to quench a dying man`s thrist.
"Any idea where Abbie is?" Mark finally sputtered out, watching Kyle Mazemia with surprisingly beedy blue eyes. Most people would`ve probably been incredibly negative at taking a job that nobody else seemed to want, but Kyle?
Kyle was practically basking in it. To the point that he was standing on top of the Ivory Blade Liger`s head and practically directing traffic from above. His clothing had changed over the course of the past hours, switching to a loose fitting, stark white jacket, black pants and a matching t-shirt. Whoever the outfit had formerly belonged to, Jamie hadn`t mentioned, and he probably wasn`t going to bother even if anyone asked. The boots, a little worn from age, had probably belonged to Brad Hunter at some point.
"Probably cleaning out the medical supplies. Again," Pierce answered after a few seconds, leaned back against the same leg of the Shadow Fox as Mark. The black and gold Zoid paid neither any mind, instead trading what sounded like almost like insults with the Blade Liger, each one growling out so low that nobody even noticed.
A few seconds more ticked by, people started filing into the forward trailer of Mark`s black-and-blue Gustav. Just about everything had been loaded up by now, from food to water and everything else that could be crammed in between.
"Maybe I should go help her..."
"Don`t even think about it. I still remember the last time you tried to carry around medical supplies," Pierce snorted, giving him a sideways glance.
"Ain`t my fault that Molga got my way."
"Don`t you two look amused," a third voice broke into the conversation, higher pitched and even more exhausted than Mark`s. Both of them gave Jamie a look that could`ve probably melted candlewax, a look that was met with an uncharacteristic apathy. The teen had been the only one who hadn`t helped in some major, physically demanding way, instead helping coordinate everything. He was, in Mark`s unflattering words, a logistics monkey, and he played that role remarkably well.
"We`re havin` the time of our lives, monkey boy."
"... Shut up, Foxer."
"... Okay, got a better insult?"
"Call `im Markie. That always gets results," Pierce pointed out from the sidelines, although Mark`s death glare at both of them kept Jamie from actually making use of it. The fact that Mark was a good head taller and looked half-ready to strangle whoever was closest didn`t exactly hinder his decision to keep quiet.
"Any idea where Bill is?" Mark finally asked, if only to keep from being silent. Conversation was like caffiene right about now, to talk was to stay awake and keep energized.
"In the cockpit of his Zoid," Pierce answered simply, thumbing in the direction of the big blue Zoid, its claws and blades undeployed at the moment. Even more than the Blade Liger, the Breaker was probably the main reason most of the people were feeling even remotely at ease, especially given that Jamie had told them of Chapman`s exploits in the battle.
"He`s been there for an hour. Must`ve fallen asleep," she pointed out with disinterest, taking a sip from her water.
"... Enviable prick," Mark snorted. "Why can`t I get some friggin` sleep?"
"Because your eyes aren`t neon blue?"
"... Shut the hell up."
Golden feet slammed into the grime, falling inches short of a cracking, drying stream of lava.
"Just a bit closer..."
Explosions went off to every side, the cockpit rattled and he felt his own weight shifting just to try and stay upright. In doing so, he bared grit teeth, appearing almost as if he were trying to wrestle the Zoid upright in mid-stride.
"Don`t fail me now, pal..."
Success. The Liger Zero straightened out, its shield gradually starting to shrink until only the very front of the Zoid was tucked safely behind it. It was a crazed measure by a desperate man and an equally desperate Liger. In doing so, they rendered themselves all but invulnerable to the opponent in front of them, yet exposed their entire body to assault from every other angle.
Claws lit up.
Boosters churned at full strength, and the Liger Zero finally dropped its shield with a jump and a lunge. For seconds on end, it appeared airborn, diving at the Storm Breaker, which had spent the past minutes doing nothing but backpedaling and spraying the black-and-white Ultimate X`s shield with gunfire. Now though, it came to a complete, jarringly quick stop, skidding backwards on both feet and then ducking down with unbelievable flexibility. In an instant, its upper body curled slightly to the side, and the Strike Laser Claw passed right over it.
Bit`s screaming was echoed by the Liger itself, which roared out the feral equivelent of a string of profanity, swinging around on its foreclaws at the instant it landed, then rushing back.
"Gonna kill you!" He shouted, opening fire with his only ranged weapon. The Geno blandly sidestepped, swinging its tail up and then blindly bringing it back down again, right as the Liger lunged beneath it.
There was a sound of crumpling metal and a roaring Zoid, and while the Storm Breaker hopped up with its legs tucked as far in as possible, the Liger Zero skidded along beneath it, then came to a stop ahead of it. With that, the Breaker landed, first one foot, then the other. Bit was so busy sputtering out curses and death threats that he didn`t even realize that the Liger had aimed its own tailgun up at the Saurer`s chin and opened fire.
Where Bit had so frequently missed, the Liger Zero connected, jolting the Storm back several short steps and giving the Ultimate X just enough time to throw itself up onto its feet. Again, the Zoid practically swung around, but this time its back legs came down not on easily destroyed grime, but on the head of a Command Wolf. Alloy and glass alike crumpled and shattered under the Zero`s weight, the tail gun fired again and the Geno righted itself at last.
"You think cannon fodder is gonna stop me?" Bit asked annoyedly, pulling the trigger. Just as his Zoid had, he scored a hit on the Breaker as well, causing it to stumble back again from two small explosions across its stomach.
A Rev Raptor leapt through the air and came down on the Zero`s back, shrieking lethally. Before it had even managed to deploy a killing blade on either foot, the Liger`s boosters fired and slagged its shins. The Raptor`s legs gave out and it fell to the ground, flailing around in agony. Bit gave it no mind, using the momentary shock he`d caused to lunge forward again. There wasn`t enough time to power up for a Strike Laser Claw again, but right now, he didn`t give a damn.
One golden claw slammed into the side of the Geno`s head, knocking the thing in the same direction of the blow that had just tagged it. A second golden claw followed, smacking down onto the Saurer`s shoulder and trying in vane to anchor itself with the blow. For a few critical fractions of a second, the landed Saurer and the airborn Liger struggled, each trying to gain the upper hand before the Storm Breaker threw itself into a twist and brought up one clawed hand. A trio of sharpened talons cracked across the Liger Zero`s side and threw the Zoid away, but only barely.
The Liger hit the ground with a hard sideways skid, its boosters flipping off and its optics lighting up furiously.
"SON OF A BITCH!" Bit finally howled out in the cockpit, one blonde eyebrow now twitching outward.
The Geno Saurer bent down as if heaving for breath, only to throw its head back up with a loud, triumphant roar, akin to a sadistic laugh one might let out after surviving a haymaker without even being hurt by it. With that, the gunned up slaughterbeast turned to face the Liger, seeming to grin in its own way.
And that was when the alarm went off for the umpteenth time.
Bit`s eyes shifted from side to side, spotting the incoming trios of Lightning Saixes, only six strong in total. They were coming in from behind the Geno and to either of its sides, each one using the same draft manuever that had cost he and the Blitz Team their first and only official defeat.
"Here we go again," he muttered out, watching as the Breaker threw its head back again, activating its boosters and backflipping up out of the way. To make matters worse, the army was still crashing down onto him like a tidal wave, as the maimed Rev Raptor`s death cry quickly confirmed. An Iron Kong`s spiked fist crushed the chest without even acknowledging its own former ally`s existence.
It was like taking on an uncoordinated, bloodthirsty, suicidal mob and a dozen special forces teams, all being headed up by the ultimate action movie villain - skilled, powerful, ruthless, mysterious.
It was not a situation that Bit Cloud found himself liking.
Slowly, with one flood of enemies coming from one side and two teams of three coming from the front, the Liger Zero pilot took a deep breath. Even as he did so, his eyes tracked the movements of his only real target, watching the Storm Breaker carry itself further and further away with every passing second.
And then the twilight of day gave way completely as one wave of enemy Zoids began to crash down, a virtual tsunami of blades, claws, teeth and fists, echoed by so many shrieks, roars, howls and screeches that it threatened to almost deafen him.
The Strike Laser Claws lit up, teeth were beared and Bit Cloud let out every single bit of breath in one furious scream.
And the wave came crashing down...
Neon blue eyes split open a fraction of a second before a crack of static echoed through the otherwise deathly silent, stale air of the cockpit. Before he`d even heard the voice, he knew instinctively what it was going to say, and before his mind had even registered the words, his body had reacted. Ungloved hands reached forward, grasping the controls as if it were as natural as breathing. He could still remember back when he`d had trouble just handling the thing.
"Alright everyone, we all set?"
"Check," he answered in a voice as bland and exhausted as he felt. A part of him almost wanted to hear some kind of wise-assed snap from Bram, or just feel Laura whack him over the head with a suitably large, blunt object. Another wanted to hear Jeff trying to play the hopelessly screwed peacemaker, and another still just wanted to wake up and find out that it had all just been one long, utterly deluded dream.
No such luck.
"Will you two stop calling me that?"
"No," Mark and Pierce answered at once, drawing a low snicker from even Abbie`s prudish self.
"... Meh. Let`s head out then," Kyle Mazemia ordered a bit annoyedly. It was Jamie`s turn to cut in from there.
"Remember the diamond pattern, guys. Blade Liger up front, Breaker and Fox to either side," Jamie stated as Pierce`s Gustav, trailering along both the Sworder and Raynos, pulled up behind Mark`s own. Abbie was driving that one with some guy named Terry offering to take over during the night shift, Jamie had taken shotgun in Pierce`s Gustav and the others were piloting their Zoids the whole way there.
Oddly enough, none of them found that fact uncomfortable.
"Falling into position on the right," he stated, watching the Shadow Fox gleefully trot along to the right, effectively tucking away Abbie`s Gustav, along with both of its trailers baring refugees and supplies, safely between all four of the other members of the group.
After all the Zoids had moved into position, the makeshift convoy started moving out again, and even the Geno Breaker was reduced to running along to keep from blaring right past the slow top speed of the Gustavs, with both Liger and Fox trotting along.
Soon enough, he`d tuned out the chatter of the rest of the group, leaning his head back and glancing out at the desert. There was still a cloud of smoke and dust drifting around the now fully stoned over form of the Hellwalker. It was still visible though, even through the haze that surrounded it. A silhouette against a background of fading brown and yellow, the colors of the desert.
"Rest in peace, Henry," he thought one last time, tiredly shifting his gaze forward again. A part of him was still expecting Sloan to make some obsessive outburst about how cool and shiny the Geno Breaker was, but it never came.
["What am I supposed to do now?" A younger Bill Chapman asked.
"What you want," the bitter lady who`d done little other than mock and berate him over the course of the past year or so commented.
"... That isn`t a very helpful answer, Riese," he shot back with a muffled voice, still staring down at the townscape from his place on the hill. Blue insects littered the ground in every direction. He was thirteen now, and they still scared the daylights out of him from time to time.
"It`s the only one you`re going to get, monkey," she replied as bluntly as a lead pipe. The contrast between the two was obvious, even if one didn`t know that the woman wasn`t even human. She still wore the same type of blue jumpsuit she`d had on when she first knocked him senseless, still had the posture of a vicious killer waiting to be unleashed and still had a venomous tone to her voice that could make grown men weep. Her arms were crossed over her chest, not like there was very much obstructing them after all, and her weight had a slight lean towards one side.
Bill simply wore sneakers, dark blue jeans and a long sleeved brown shirt. His legs were tucked as close to his chest as he could manage and his arms were laid out across them, with his face leaned forward and half-concealed by a forearm.
Behind the pair stood only a single gigantic form, and to their collective right was a dragon-like creature, lying boredly on its stomach.
"Did you have to mindwipe all of them?"
"In my younger days, I would`ve just wiped out the whole town and been done with it," Riese answered, possessing a rather disturbingly casual feel to her voice. "This way, they live. You`re free now."
"Free to do what?" He snorted. "If they don`t even know who I am..."
"Then you don`t have to worry about hiding Borealis anymore. Nor do you have to worry about hiding him, either," she stated uncomfortingly, finally nodding back at the shadowed form of the blue Geno Saurer. Its eyes lit up briefly, but it made no sound.
"You didn`t even answer the question," he pointed out bemusedly, staring down at the town he`d once been able to call home.
"You`re free to do anything you want. What part of that don`t you understand?"
"All of it."
There was a pause. Riese sighed and Bill finally began to straighten up, having to work to keep his balance on the steep incline of the hill.
"You`re a fan of history, aren`t you?" She asked, losing a bit of her venom for a moment.
"Van Fleiheit, you mean? Yeah," he ansewered after a few seconds, dusting the back of his jeans off.
"You know how he got started, don`t you?"
"... No. I only know a bit of what he did before he killed the first Death Saurer," Bill answered with a bland tone. He had only ever really gotten into stories about Fleiheit`s exploits from after he had joined the Guardian Force. Before that, there just wasn`t much to interest him.
"Take a look at how you met Borealis and the Geno Saurer," Riese replied.
"What do you mean?"
"Van Fleiheit met Zeke and his Shield Liger in a similar fashion. He stumbled onto his Organoid while running for his life, and then Zeke revived the Shield Liger from death," she explained, pausing for a few seconds to let that little bit of information sink in.
"... Neat," Bill finally half-sputtered upon coming to the realization that right now, he really wasn`t all that different from how his childhood hero had once been.
"The difference between you and him is that, rather than sticking around in a backwater shithole like this or the Wind Colony, he had the guts to take a chance. At age fourteen, he took Zeke and his Liger, along with a girl named Fiona, and left to go become the greatest pilot that ever lived."
"A year older than me," Bill noted with a raised brow.
"Exactly. You now have the freedom to go become your idol, or to become more than he ever was," she stated, finally turning away.
It was then that Bill finally glanced over his shoulder, starting to speak but stopping short of actually getting any words out. Almost as if hearing the unvoiced thought, even though Chapman seemed to be immune to Riese`s mind reading, she turned back over her own shoulder for a second and gave him a bland look.
"Don`t waste it."]
None of them did.
["And your name is?" A slightly younger Sloan Tendro asked, glancing up from the sign-up desk. The conversation was backlit to the hustle and bustle of the Pilot Sign-up Convention, a semi-annual gathering of free agents, mercenaries and team managers alike, all of it hosted by the Z.B.C. as a way to help pay for itself. The event was so large that it sucked in tourists and merchandisers by the truckload, and was almost singlehandedly responsible for making Romeo City the largest in the Neutral Zone.
"Bill Chapman," he answered simply, hands tucked securely into the pockets of his blue jacket. He was fifteen now, and he looked it. His hair had gotten a bit longer, tilting further to the right, his face looked a small bit rougher around the edges, and his sense of style had changed. In addition to the blue jacket was a tan green undershirt, dark red cargo pants and plain black boots.
"Are you a registered pilot?"
"Got registered yesterday," he answered again, watching the interest automatically die down in Sloan`s eyes.
"Have you even fought any battles?" He asked, staring blandly at the teen.
"Do bandits count?"
"Three groups, four battles," Bill answered.
"How many did you win?" Sloan asked, idly turning his attention elsewhere and starting to balance his pencil on a fingertip.
"All of `em or I`d probably be dead by now."
"What Zoid do you pilot?"
"A Geno Saurer."
There was an instant pause. Sloan`s pencil clattered onto the table and stayed there, while a pair of now highly interested eyes shifted up to regard the teen.
"A Geno Saurer?" He asked.
"Yep. And I have an Organoid too. They`re out in the parking lot," Bill answered, shifting his weight back and forward on both feet.
"Welcome to the Thunder Team," Sloan stated bluntly, his eyes practically swollen into gigantic, sparkly hearts with stars twinkling in them. If it was possible to have a designated Fanboy Look, Sloan was wearing it.]
That was okay though. Even if his past families had been made to forget him, or wiped from the face of the planet by an orbital particle cannon, it was still okay.
["This... Is... MINE!!!"]
He had simply done the same thing as before.
He had found himself another family, and although they lacked the...
["GIMME THAT DONUT BEFORE I RIP YOUR FACE OFF!!!"]
Refinement of the old one he`d been adopted into, they still had their own-
"WILL YOU SHUT UP ABOUT THE FUCKING POPCORN BOWL ALREADY?!"
- unique brand of insanity. With a little time and effort, he was starting to feel, he would be able to fit right on in.
That thought alone was enough to cause a ragged little smirk to cross
over the face of Bill Chapman.
Gold lit up for the umpteenth time, met only by a backdrop of charring paints and teeth. It was all he could do to keep from having a mental breakdown, trapped in a nightmare of fangs, claws, talons and fists that would`ve made grown men weep like children.
The head of a Rev Raptor caved in under the weight of the claw. Mightily, the white king stood against the combined weight of every single pawn on the board, unaware that the knights were already setting up for an ambush. Once more, boosters lit up, and like a cat struggling to reach the surface of a lake, the Liger Zero began to literally swim through the masses of Zoids piled atop it.
The light turned into a pocket sized super nova, boosters hit their maximum and an Iron Kong found itself with a Liger-sized hole in its chest. Before it had even started to stone over and die, the Liger Zero had managed to break free, bursting out of the mob once again with a ragged nobility that defied logic and description alike. As if it were a god among the realm of the dead, the Zoid righted itself in mid-air, then came back down.
Its only gun blazed, and a Lightning Saix was caught in its path while running at full speed. Shells rained into the cockpit and shattered the sleeper control system, leaving the suddenly brainless Zoid to stumble at mach one and go crashing into the mob. A half-dozen Raptors, a Wolf and a Heldigunner all found themselves crushed to pieces as a result.
The Liger touched down in a hard skid, jaws snapping shut like those of a gator to catch a second Lightning Saix. Bit wasn`t even able to register the sound of sabered alloys crushing through glass and armor alike, although the sensation of being swung like a rag doll in the cockpit when the Liger threw the useless Saix aside didn`t escape him at all. By the time the Saix`s pressure wave hit, the pilot of the Zero felt as if his stomach were two steps shy of caving in on itself.
"I can`t keep this up for much longer," he thought, looking to his side as the Liger through its head forward again. Like a hammer, the side of its mouth came crashing across a third Saix. In one fluid motion, the Liger swept into a crouch while the Saix, its neck snapped like a twig and its jaw broken so badly that teeth had gone flying into the grime below, went flying overhead. The Liger smoothly brought itself to a stand and the Saix crashed into a salvo of missiles from an Iron Kong.
Suffice to say, the feline Zoid had died before it`d ever hit the ground.
Again, the Storm Breaker appeared, taking advantage of Bit`s momentary slugging match with self-doubt. Like a raptor in its own right, the slaughterbeast crashed down on both feet next to the Liger, took a step forward and swung its leg out.
"SON OF A BITCH!" Bit sputtered as the Liger took a hard kick into its stomach, bladed talons ripping a shallow trail across the Zoid`s gut. The Saurer stomped back down to the ground, but as it brought its left grappler-claw down, Bit managed to cover.
Sharpened alloy hit nothing but air, the Liger swung forward and around and the Geno struggled to compensate. Both of the main gattlings rifles were brought to bare in record time, but their attacks hit nothing but shield energy as the Liger Zero hurtled back around at full speed, impacting the Breaker right across its hip with a shield ram manuever. Almost instantly, it seemed that the tables had turned.
"Got you," Bit stated fiercely, watching shots ping off of his shield as he made another ramming attack. The Geno staggered to one side in response, then finally managed to bring itself into a tailspin on the third ramming attack.
Alloy met force shielding, and surprisingly enough, alloy win.
The Liger`s momentum shifted into an awkward sideways lurch at near-full speed, and for a few critical seconds, it was all that Bit could do to keep from toppling over all together. Those were all that the Storm Breaker needed.
Even as the Liger was struggling to right itself and come back around, the Saurer had burned in on a collision course for the smaller Zoid`s rear end, hosing the Liger`s lower back with fire from everything but the mortars and charged particle gun. In an instant, the Zero had to skid to a halt or face falling over all together. Either way though, the gunfire quickly took its toll, trailing a series of pock marked holes and miniature craters into the Liger`s back and rear by the time the Breaker finally made impact.
Knees smacked into hips, the Liger`s tail gun fired blindly into nothing and the shield finally gave out as the Geno Saurer literally belly flopped onto it at full speed. Instantly, the Zero`s legs gave out, and Bit found himself facing the prospect of vomiting as he was hurled around once again.
While the Liger lay on its belly, the Saurer quickly stood up and jumped forward. Once more, boosters let loose, and once more, the Liger sprang up to its feet, tail gun blazing into the Saurer`s face as it touched back down into the polluted grime beneath both feet. The Geno stumbled back once more, its head gattling briefly locking up before blind firing through the smoke.
By then, the Liger had swung back around and dove into the frey once more.
Uncharged claws slammed like jagged edged hammers into the Saurer`s shoulders, while saber teeth locked shut onto the Geno`s neck. Furiously, the two grappled as only wild animals could, claws and talons beating each other to a pulp while the Liger`s mouth held onto the Geno`s neck. In a way, it was like watching a contest based purely on strength, with each Zoid struggling for purchase on the weak snow and ash beneath their feet.
At last though, the Geno seemed to win. The Liger fought to stand, forelegs wrapping violently around the Breaker`s neck area with teeth sinking in even deeper than before, but a sudden burst from the Storm`s thrusters put everything on edge. The mobs closed in at ever increasing speeds, and a Saber Tiger finally leapt forward.
"Come on, Liger..."
The Tiger raced through the air, a set of thrusters across its body firing up to give it that much more height.
"Just one more boost and we can end this..."
The tired Zero complied with one last burst of its own thrusters. In an instant, one leg gave out, only to swing back up into the Saurer`s inner knee. The Liger`s body twisting into a deathroll, and the Saurer found itself thrown to the ground on its side. Over a hundred tons of metal hit grime and rebounded up several inches, only to skid to a halt. The Saber Tiger whipped overhead and hit nothing, while the Liger righted itself.
Grapplers fired at point blank, the Zero jerked back and then went flying when the forearms revealed once more that they had miniature rocket engines tucked away inside of them. Talons sank in for a moment, then released once the cables had hit their maximum and retracted back in. For a few seconds, the Liger Zero tumbled backwards, then managed to right itself once again without even using its tortured boosters.
Once more, the Tiger made a charge, but this time, its head wound up severed roughly at the neck by an uncharged claw. The body hit the ground and collapsed as the Liger recovered yet again. The white Zoid turned to face the Geno as it stood, only to let out a series of shots from its double impact cannon, backed with a scream from the pilot.
"DIE, YOU ROTTEN SON OF A BITCH!"
Harshly, the Breaker staggered back again, but it was the Liger that ended up on the recieving end after that.
Cannon rounds, missiles, beams and rockets of all shapes and sizes rained in. A half-a-dozen Zoids were shredded to bits in the assault, but every single round managed to strike the stationary Zero in some place, tearing into armor like it wasn`t even there.
"How could I let myself get caught like that?!" Bit admonished himself, willing the Liger to avoid a command system freeze. Every single impact made the knot in his gut pull a bit tighter, while a pit began to form in his chest.
Finally though, the smoke cleared. The mob stopped firing, apparently convinced that the Liger had hit a complete freeze even though it still stood even now. Battle damage lined the Zoid`s entire side, which had been tinted a ghastly shade of charcoal black, leading to stained white on the other side. One optic had dimmed completely, another seemed to burn with just as much intensity as ever, yet what armor remained all over now looked like cracked porcelain.
"It ain`t gonna end like this," he growled out, only to find that he couldn`t even believe his own words. Everything in his body felt as if it were on the verge of giving out, not from true injury, but from the pain of the Liger. By all means, the Zoid should`ve been dead by now.
But it wasn`t.
And neither was he.
"I haven`t even begun to fight yet," he stated with a sneer. This time he managed to say it well enough to convince himself, even as his vision blurred in one eye.
The Geno`s cockpit had been cracked from his attacks, the Zoid was as still as a statue right now, as were all of the others on the one-sided battlefield. They really did think they had won, didn`t they?
"I don`t know who you are," he began with a few deep breaths, unaware that his comm had been on all through the battle. "But I`ll paint you in my own blood before I quit fighting."
"Still playing the tough guy, eh, Bit?"
Glass shattered in mind. Every ounce of resolve that he had left crashed right through Hell`s roof and burned up before it could ever hit a lake of fire, and that nausea welling up inside of him finally let loose. Deprived of everything that had been driving him, unable to hold back anymore, Bit Cloud did the only thing that he could.
He lurched forward and threw up in the foot of the cockpit.
Deprived of the once iron will that had been backing it, the Zero`s consciousness finally gave out as well. Where its remaining optic once shined with the fire of a dozen suns, it soon dimmed out completely. At the same time, three simple litters scrolled across the main console, even as Bit continued to heave into the floor.
[C.S.F. C.S.F. C.S.F.]
"Whassamatter, blondie? Not the reunion you were lookin` for?"
"It can`t be you," Bit finally muttered out. His throat felt like raw sandpaper, chunks of stuff he didn`t even want to know were previously rotting in his stomach now lay between his boots in a pool of bile and blood, and though his vision had stopped blurring, he was now seeing triple.
"It just can`t..."
"Denial as usual. You never were a classy loser," a triplicated face stated within the confines of a pop-up window in front of him.
Before Bit could even make out the details of his enemy`s amused expression, the Geno Saurer`s tail came whipping down.
Glass shattered again, but this time it was real.
Author`s Note: Not an uberlengthy bunker buster deathbomb of text, but I`d say this is a pretty good beginning for the end...
And sorry if the ending felt a bit rushed. It was written at 6:00 AM. Likewise, the Billscene was driving me insane so I just wanted it out of the way. Sorry for the delays in getting this whole thing up, too.
Enjoy, leave a review, so long and Sh33p out!
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