Tides of Darkness

Part three of Trilogy, part 1 = New Age, part 2 = Reign of Chaos

By Sh33p, CultofSh33p@aol.com

Chapter 2

Wheel of Fire

The final of this great trilogy. Hope you got airbags, 'cause this is going to be a crashing end. Tim Seltzer, seltzer@seltzerbooks.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:Music selection is as follows:

Scene One: Silverchair - Anthem for the Year 2000
Scene Two: Rurouni Kenshin - Hiko Seijuro`s theme(or Kenshin vs Aoshi... It`s the same song, just longer)
Scene Three: Rammstein - Du Hast(German version)
Scene Four: Hack Sign - A Stray Child
Scene Five: Witch Hunter Robin - Discord
Scene Six:
First Half: Linkin Park - Crawling(Reanimation version, featuring Aaron from Staind)
Second Half: Phill Collins - In The Air Tonight
Scene Seven: Zoids - whatever the hell Zoid Eve`s theme was(only version I have of it is the Alpha and Omega cut from Zinou, not sure if that`s the real name though)
Scene Eight: Linkin Park - Opening

Reverence permeated the aftermath of the battle. It had been one against hundreds, and the dead lay strewn all over the place. Raptors, Wolves, Tigers, Kongs, Gunners and Saixes alike littered the former battlefield, the vast majority of bodies focused in one or two areas as a result of their own leader`s ruthless actions. They`d all been nothing but cannon fodder, even the Zoids themselves had accepted that fact, but they`d still served the purpose for which they were meant to carry out.

The Liger Zero was down, and it wasn`t going to be getting up anytime soon.

Light played tricks on the imaginations though, of man and machine alike. Shadows danced across its scorched, battle broken carcass, and even after the violence that it had both inflicted on others and suffered from in return, it still refused to die. Like a hellborn demon that had terrorized generations of people in their sleep, it seemed possessed of the capacity to get back up at any moment. To keep fighting as it had en route to the Wind Colony. To attain an impossible victory against odds that would`ve made the finest generals in history weep like children.

But it didn`t.

Its cockpit had been virtually shattered open in the last attack, a downward swipe of the tail that had driven the Zoid face first into the grime and grit that covered the terrain all over the continent. The once mighty king, the zero that singlehandedly represented defeat to countless opponents in the past few months, now lay in ruin upon its stomach. Its optics, what remained of them at least, were dimmed to the point that they were as black as the scorch marks covering most of its body. Its teeth, stained with blood and oil to the point that they would rust if left unchecked, had been broken during the fall. Every stabilizer hosed sparks into the air, only to die down for a few moments and repeat. Even its tail lay limply across the grimy ground beneath it.

Almost as if they were mourners at a funeral, the few hundred Zoids that had survived the slaughter had formed up into a circle around the two combatants who`d carried out such a violent battle even when they`d done everything in their power to keep them seperated. Optics of every color in the rainbow lit up, wolfish tails hung a bit lower than usual and heads bowed no matter what the artificial control systems or pilots wanted.

The only beast that didn`t seem saddened in the slightest at the battle`s outcome was the one who had been victorious in almost every meaning of the word.

Like the tyrant king that it was meant to be, the red Geno Saurer, slowly stepped back, sparks flying from its damaged throat. Slowly, the Zoid seemed to draw in a breath all its own, even without the lungs to actually do so, then threw its head back. The body bent back in reply, with the tail curving upward. Swiftly and loudly, the slaughterbeast`s jaws swung open, giving way to a roar that shook every living thing within a dozen miles straight to the very core. The ground seemed to rattle against it, and at long last, the finishing touch had been applied to a one-sided blitzkrieg whose outcome had been easily visible almost from the get-go.

Bit Cloud had struggled with all the valor and might that he could`ve possibly brought to bare. He had turned what could`ve, should`ve and would`ve been a complete knockover into a battle the likes of which people should`ve written songs about.

And in the end, it just hadn`t been enough.

At long last though, the Storm Breaker seemed to calm down, lowering its head and returning to a neutral stance in the process. The cracked half-shell that was the armored plate over the cockpit finally slid open, its hinges creaking the entire way down. A few moments after that, the terse silence broke once more as the cockpit seat and the forward console both lowered down towards the ground on a sloped mono-rail, gears and wheels clicking and slapping together the entire way down.

And then it stopped.

And then the lone pilot unbuckled the harness, causing four of the five straps to snap back into place. The zipper that ran up from waist to neck on the flight suit was promptly forced open as the man stood up, nonchalant and even pleasant in a morbidly casual sort of way. Flight gloves had been tucked into a pocket somewhere, and after that, track marked arms pulled themselves from the confines of the suit, its upper half being left to hang down behind him. He wore a black wifebeater beneath it, along with a small necklace that boasted an old Guardian Force ring with the mixed Republican and Imperial emblem obscured partially by a rough looking X, and the only marks that served to identify him as anything other than your typical evil henchman were a pair of tan green stripes across his arms, midway of the shoulder and elbow joints.

They were the stripes of a mercenary, which was exactly what he carried himself as.

Steel toed boots with short spikes on the soles and leather buckles in place of typical laces crushed softly through already battered ash and snow, leaving a visible trail of footprints in their wake. One hand casually went to tuck itself into a hip pocket on the jumpsuit, while another reached up to a shoulder clipped walkie-talkie and pressed its only button.

"Send in the clowns, C&C, this one`s over," he stated with a voice that was self-superior, carefree and utterly lacking in human decency all at once. "Cat`s in the bag, ya might say."

"Copy that, Vandal. Fixers are in-bound."

Without even giving the controllers something along the lines of good-bye or thank you, he effectively hung up by releasing the button on the talkie. With that, he came to a complete stop in front of the downed form of the Liger Zero. Though the cockpit had been broken open, the upper part of the head still struggled to remain intact, literally hanging in place by ribbons of glass and alloy. Even with his view partially obscured though, he was still able to see the beaten form of the pilot within, with far more clarity than three seconds on a monitor would allow.

His response was fitting, and quite accurate as well.

"You look like hammered shit."

There was no small amount of victory laced into that comment either. He took pride in having been the first person to truly break Bit Cloud, not just in a Zoid battle, not just mentally and not just physically, but all three at once. The defeat was so complete that it had apparently shocked him into unconsciousness.

Not that he seemed capable of doing much now anyway. His face had several cuts here and there, vomit was crusting up on his chin, his mouth hung open and his head had lulled to the side. Although his eyes still opened every now and then, they were completely blank in expression. The lights weren`t even on, and nobody was home. The only thing that appeared to keep him from falling over all together was the broken harness he was leaned sideways against.

"I didn`t even look that bad when I was spun out for a month," he commented somewhat snidely, almost poking for a reaction.

When he got nothing after close to a minute of waiting, the man finally grew bored and stepped closer, blatantly disregarding the fact that he was within inches of a virtual killing machine. With the kind of carelessness that seemed to contradict every tactic he`d used in battle, he climbed up onto the Zero`s snout and nonchalantly began to stomp in what remained of the cockpit glass.

"Wakey, wakey!" He announced.

No response.

"Shouldn`t the Royal Cup champion be a bit tougher than that?"

Still no response.

Finally, the man dropped into a crouch on spring-like legs, bouncing gently before propping his weight forward on one hand.

"Don`t I at least get a hug?"

Nothing. He leaned forward a bit more, grabbing a piece of debris and nonchalantly poking the downed pilot`s cheek with it.

"What a shitty reunion..."


Three things happened in one second.

The man jerked back, Bit`s fist went flying out in an awkward hook that hit nothing but thin air and the safety harness snapped him back into place before he could try and lunge forward. The end result was that his arm flopped to the side while the harness snapped him back into position. The man he`d laid a death threat on didn`t even seem phased aside from how he`d all but jumped back.

"Temper, temper now," he chided, hopping backwards to the ground without a care in the world, then laying his arms out across the snout of the fallen Liger.

Bit`s only response was to flail around in his harness a few moments, at least until he remembered to undo the thing by trying to flip it up over his head. Unfortunately for him, it was locked into place.

"You haven`t changed a bit, chimp boy."

"FUCK YOU!" Came the reply as the blonde began to try and literally force the harness up over his head. The response the blonde got was a crooked little grin that would`ve made Leena cringe.

"Did widdwe Bitty-witty get his ass kicked?"

The pegged wheels that served as locks for the harness finally began to move again, jammed into place from a lack of power.

"You son of a bitch," Bit sputtered out in-between rabid growls and the sounds of the exertion that came with trying to move something designed specifically to avoid being moved at all.

"That makes two of us then, Bitty."

That crooked grin expanded to the point that it almost spanned the length of his face, from one ear to another. The smug sense of victory that lined it was the last straw.

The harness` hinges finally snapped apart and several pieces of padded metal went flying through what remained of cockpit glass and head armor, cast aside like the dead weight it had become. With that, Bit lunged forward, all but diving out of the cockpit at the man who`d just defeated him.

The last thing that he saw was a sidestepping motion from the fellow, then an elbow crashed into the base of his skull. The world went blank, and a moment later, his face hit the grime and stayed there.

"Still as predictable as ever."

Miles from the site of the battle, a pair of red-and-blue optics narrowed to the brink of slipping shut all together. Metallic brows covered in mirror-like feathers of the same make, inched forward to the point that the space between them seemed to furrow, while a sharply pointed beak remained locked almost motionlessly in place, even though its lower jaw was tilting around as if popping. Wings that were easily the width of an actual Storm Sworder briefly unfolded into gigantic half-arches, their blades fronts pointing towards the structure that had sheltered the battle from the hellish skies above.

After a few lingering seconds of silence, talons as sharp as one ton razor blades slipped out of their sheathes on the front feet, knifing straight through several feet of snow and ash-mixed grime, then digging straight into the ground beneath it. Silver energy began to radiate from the corners of both eyes, forming into what looked almost like some sort of fog. Slowly but surely, it began to drift and fade in the almost lethally stilled air that formed Nyx`s changed atmosphere.

The creature`s name was Roc. He was, quite literally, the First Born, one of the oldest things that had ever set foot on Zi. The model by which every other Organoid that had ever, or would ever live was based upon. Even in his current state, the beast radiated nothing short of raw power and wisdom, underscored by a nobility as savage as the woman that was its bondmate. Right now though, something else was also flowing from the Ancient, something evidenced by the fog-like energy drifting from around his eyes.


Unspeakably powerful anger, the type that bordered on all consuming rage.

With all of the might at the tips of his talons, one would`ve been right to think that he could have, should have and would have gone charging in to take over the situation right then and there. By all means, Roc could`ve slaughtered every living thing on Nyx a half a dozen times over before the hour had ended, but he stood back.

He had to follow the rules of the game, so to speak.

It is not over, he seethed, giving only the passing notion of a vengeful glare towards the red light still glowing off in the distance like a candle in an otherwise unlit Hell.

The only response was a sadistic little chortle of a laugh, echoing across the lifeless terrain of both reality and the mind.

Mark my words, he began, only to continue after finding that the laugh held no identifiable source. It is not over...

It had all been a dream. An unpleasant dream, but a dream nonetheless.

At least, that`s what his unconscious mind had been thinking until a high pressure hose had blasted him across the face with ice water. Bit awoke with a sputtering series of coughs, curses and attempts at flailing around less than a second later. He had expected something along the lines of Leena screeching out 'WAKE UP ALREADY, YA LAZY BUM!' while beating him over the head with whichever blunt object was the closest. Or something to that effect.

Instead, he`d found himself staring down at a well polished floor composed of metal tiling. His arms were pinned behind his back on some sort of metal bar with shackles welded to it, resting against the small of his back and the bends of his elbows, with his wrists being left to dangle where they may within a few inches of the bar. He was situated on his knees, hunched over with hands clasping the overshirt he wore to keep him from falling smack on his face.

"This sucks," he managed to half-wheeze out, finally bringing his head upward only to pause.

For the briefest of moments, his reflection on the floor had changed. It had been someone else entirely. Someone shorter and with darker hair, a deeper tan and a red stripe across one cheek. By the time it had changed back, he was able to hear the tail end of someone speaking.

"- pretty damn easy, really."

The first voice was familiar. The second was not.

"You had numerical superiority over an already worn down opponent. Not something to brag about when it still cost you at least half of your own underlings."

"Win`s a win."

The first voice was as ruthless as it was careless, but the second held a tinge of something that only made Bit`s blood boil. He couldn`t have described it even if he had wanted, he just knew that he had an instinctive urge to draw his knife and kill whoever the voice belonged to.

With that notion burning in the back of his thoughts, his neck, which felt like rubber at this point, tightened to the point that it drew his head up in the process. Nostrils flared, teeth were beared in a snarl that seemed downright sub-human and eyes narrowed right along with them as he faced both the man who`d defeated him and the man who`d made that possible. Only belatedly did he even consider the tall, slender figure standing behind the two, inhuman as it was.

For a few seconds after that, there was only a tense, even silence. It dominated virtually everything in every direction, even the woman who`d been working the pressure hose was silent as she started rolling the thing back up and away.

At last, the second man spoke.

"Hello, Bit Cloud. I don`t believe I`ve met you before, have I?" He asked with a voice that was as chilling to Bit`s ears as it was charismatic to everyone else.

"Go fuck yourself," he replied bluntly, causing his handlers to briefly slack their grip, not to mention drawing a series of raised brows and even shocked glances from onlookers. Obviously, they weren`t accustomed to anyone speaking out against the man. Judging from how bland some of their faces looked, Bit probably would`ve wondered if they even thought bad things about him.

"Toldja the lil shrimp hasn`t got any manners," the first fellow pointed out, finally drawing Bit`s eyes back towards him. Almost at the instant they`d made eye contact, Bit`s legs stiffened and straightened, throwing himself forward with teeth gnashing irately. Even if his hands were restrained, he was still intent on tearing the man`s face off. With his teeth, if necessary.

The only response he got was a nonchalant right hook, smacking across his temple and sending him crashing back down with another dull thud.

"Predictable too," the man commented, kicking and prodding Bit across the side of the neck at once with the toe of his boot.

"So I see. He really does have a tendency to go berserk when circumstance allows."

"Berserk? Pfft..."

There was a vague snarl off in the distance, and for a moment, the downed pilot knew he should`ve heard something else accompanying it.

"Shoulda seen when he put out David`s eye. Damn near paralyzed `im, too," the first one commented almost amusedly, poking at Bit`s neck a bit more. "Still say we should kill `im now."

"He still has his purpose to serve," the second replied, finally turning around and starting to walk away. "Have him put into a cell, I don`t care which one," he called out, just as the Organoid whipped around and began to jog off after him. In doing so, it drew his attention back to the man who was still poking at him with a boot.

"Cut that shit out, Larry," he bit out with a sneer, looking up to make eye contact, only to find himself staring into what felt almost like a mirror. Larry always had been the only other member of the family with green eyes. His hair had changed since the last time Bit had seen him though, as had everything else about him by now.

He was only barely recognizable, with scars and track marks visible down the length of his arms, his hair had gotten shorter and its color had changed, his face had gotten longer and the look of carelessness that had once dominated everything about him was now underscored by the glimmer of ruthlessness that belonged more to a hired hitman than any relative of Bit`s. Even his clothes had changed, away from the jeans and t-shirts of old and to a black pilot`s jumpsuit with the sleeves cut off, with dark blue gloves and black combat boots.

"Always were a whiner," Larry Cloud pointed out, poking a bit more boredly now before finally stopping. With that, he took a step back and raised both hands, almost as if framing the look on his younger brother`s face and committing it to memory like a prized photograph.

"When I get my Liger, I`m gonna kill you for this," Bit threatened. He met only a harsh chuckle in reply, just before Larry shook his head and started to walk off.

"Do what the boss said. I`m outta here."

And with that, the two guards who had been letting Bit get humiliated now grappled onto his shoulders, heaved him up to his feet and jerked him to face the opposite direction from where Larry was going.

He had been ready to put up enough fight to take both out, then make a break for it. He had been ready to try and headbutt whichever guard was closest, or even to try and use the bar of his shackles as a weapon, a convenient hammer into either man`s waist. Even after that, he would`ve still been up for trying to kick both men out cold, nevermind the fact that the only real martial arts training he`d ever learned was boxing.

And then, his expression fell as if someone had just slapped him across the forehead with a sledge hammer.

The sight he was treated to was that of the Liger Zero, lying across its side, mouth hanging open at an awkward angle. It was still in the same horrific condition as before, its legs stiffly laid out on the floor and its tail hanging limp, curled downward. The cockpit glass was still shattered, the neck looked broken and to put it bluntly, the once majestic Ultimate X looked as if it was a step above stoning over and dying.

It was enough to crack whatever resolve Bit had left into little pieces, and with that, they dragged him away.

"God damnit..."

"Berserk Fury, come in! Vega? Can you hear me?"

For the sixteenth time, he`d tried, and for the sixteenth time, he`d failed. Static became the only reply, and he was quickly starting to get used to it.

"Knew I should`ve bothered getting this thing a freaking pulse guard," he thought with a bit of spite. "'Oh, but why would we need one of those for? Honestly, Lars, you read far too many comic books!'" He quoted in thought, referencing the views of the Hammerhead II`s original 'commander.'

"Yes, I read so many comic books that I actually knew this piece o` crap was gonna need one someday. Ya dumb bitch," he muttered with as spiteful a tone as he could manage, barely above his own breath. For the seventeenth time, he switched frequencies. Dials were turned, power settings altered and the Hammerhead II rumbled slightly as lightning knifed by from the clouds above.

"Hello? Vega? Anyone?"

Static. Again.

With a dejected groan, Lars Torson finally willed himself away from the comm and flopped back against his seat. A sigh followed, and after that, an ungloved hand came up to finger his glasses back into place for the umpteenth time. From there, he simply stopped bothering and stood back up, making his way over to the pilot`s chair and sitting down, hands failing to find the controls and instead fiddling around with a long empty styrofoam cup.

Thunder churned outside. It was lonely, and the bridge of the transport Zoid wasn`t as well lit as it could`ve been. Every time lightning struck nearby, Lars felt his stomach twist into knots. Everytime thunder rattled the Zoid, he felt his heart skip a beat, and every time a particularly large wave threatened to reach up from the roaring seas below and wash the Foe Hammer to a watery grave, he felt his entire body tense to the point that he couldn`t even breathe.

"I hate this shit," he muttered out to the cup, which naturally didn`t reply. "Everytime we go anywhere, someone jumps off and I don`t see `em again. First Dana, then Kat, and now Vega..."

There was a brief pause as he stared down at the scanners, seeing only a colossal multi-colored blur waving across the top half of the main screen. It had taken close to twenty minutes, but he`d altered the scanners to the point that they could pick up on the Rare Hertz that apparently covered the entire continent.

"And I`m always left waiting for them. Even if I`ll probably never see any of them again."

Again, the cup didn`t respond. Rain briefly pelted the inches thick glass viewscreen that helped seperate and protect the bridge from the elements outside. It was only due to a series of waves smashing together, despite how calm the skies overhead seemed in comparison to the seas below. Lightning and thunder rumbled in the distance, another tidal wave slipped beneath the Foe Hammer`s belly and slapped down onto the shores in plain sight. The outer wall of the Rare Hertz seemed to waver around it, then dissipate out of sight once again.


For a moment, his hands stopped fiddling with the cup, and his boot-clad feet were left to slap across the bare console to his right with an uncharacteristic lack of care.

"I don`t think I can keep this up forever."

The cup finally crumpled in his grasp, leaving a few drips of coffee to drop down across his thigh and stain the pants he was wearing.

A few seconds more ticked by.

A few more after that.

What was left of the cup finally flew over his shoulder and dropped to the ground below. With a deep sigh, the scrawny man stood back up from the pilot`s chair and walked back over to the comm, sitting back down without a word.

For the eighteenth time, Lars Torson switched frequencies and tried again...

Cold metal was the only thing in sight. All five of the pistol-sized guns seemed to whir every few seconds, dimming the lights from time to time. It was all polished, small in size and perfectly flat in every direction, not counting the solid metal block sticking out of one of the walls, as well as the sole door in and out. Both were so sharply angled that they could`ve been used for cutting rope if need be. The only thing that wasn`t a right angle of some sort was the light fixture. Even the chains and shackles were rectangles and squares.

"It was inevitable."

Maybe it was. Either way, there is no denying that it will all end tonight.

"Or begin again. If He`s awakened, Zi`s current rulers are in for a rude awkanening of their own."

They are no matter what happens.

For a few seconds, the only thing that wandered through an otherwise empty mind was the silent visual of a face whose very existence defined the chaos that had broken the back of Eve`s Order. For a long time, it had been a visual that hadn`t been imagined, let alone remembered as it had been experienced so long ago. It was vivid. It was divine, and it was unholy at the same time. It was enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of anyone`s neck.

Almost as if the five hundred pound chains and the shackles that were nearly as heavy weren`t even there, a woman whose life was spent walking on the fine edge of the knife that cut between order and chaos reached up. Fingers tucked away inside thick leather gloves wiped away an errant smudge of soggy ash from around her right eye, exposing a tattoo that resembled a metallic blue scythe blade, with the black shaft connecting to it trailing along the space beneath her eyebrow hair and above her eye socket. A matching one was placed along her left as well, though it was currently concealed by another thin layer of wet ash.

"We should have told him what he would be up against. In terms he would understand."

If he could not steel himself better from the warning I gave to him, then he got exactly what he deserved.

A momentary pause. Apathy turned to a bland hint of concern, unseen in the eternally neutral look upon her face.

"You`re angry," she observed with a matter-of-fact tone.

Yes. I am.

Another pause. Then the mental notion of a sigh as the First Born forced himself to calm down a bit. After the genocidal failure of the Endtimes, something in his spirit had broken. Where before it, the ancient Organoid could`ve maintained an awe inspiring rage that could captivate the heavens themselves for days on end, now...

Now he simply cut his losses and dealt with it.

The test is not over, at least...

"I thought as much. It seems unreasonable to bother cutting it now, when the previous standard had required death. Either that of the enemy, or of the student."

... Someone will die. Of that, I am assured.

A nod. The cameras almost seemed to twitch at the movement she`d made, but no bullets seemed to be coming.

"I just hope that it`s soon. As much as I hate to admit it..."

You are bored.

"Yes," Madison finally admitted, changing her pose for the first time in two days. Her arms cumbersomely across her chest, her back slouched a small bit against the metal wall and head head tilted forward, with the guns followed her every inch of the way.

"Very bored indeed."

[Flares of light, blinding him. Everything in the world seemed to be going into slow motion, and the heat of an explosion near the cockpit was enough to make him wince until the entire side of his face throbbed. Blood spilled from cuts all over his body, yet he willed it to get up, even with shattered glass layered over his lap and sticking out of his body at a half a dozen points.]

It was dark. Too dark to see. Dark enough to let the demons of the mind dance through one`s vision.

[Faces, names, the hopes and the dreams of more people than he could ever hope to count flooded through him as the moments ticked by. A gunshot rang through his mind endlessly, as if his thoughts had been geared specifically towards replaying it over and over again. He`d finally hit the breaking point, slammed into the glass ceiling seperating the mind from the god it could become.]

It was cold too. Cold enough to numb the senses. Cold enough to reduce one to numbness from reality.

[He`d hit the limit. There could be no going back anymore, it was now or never and there wasn`t any alternative. He knew, in his heart, what was about to happen, and he couldn`t stop it. Their voices, his and hers, both rang through his ears over the static. Others joined, yet he was powerless to listen to them. Only the moment mattered anymore, even she was turning into a distant memory when he`d known her for so long. All of them were.]

It was quiet as well. Quiet enough to make one deaf. Quiet enough to hear voices that weren`t even there.

[He wanted so desperately to keep some grip on himself in this last second. To keep himself intact, to hold his soul to his body and never let go. He couldn`t though. It was as if he were having an out of body experience, helpless to do anything but watch and wait for the end. Finally, the moment passed. He saw his chest heave out, taking in one more breath through grit teeth and building upon it. He saw it, but he never felt it. He couldn`t feel his own body, couldn`t hear his own thoughts, couldn`t even hear the static of his name.]

Sensory deprivation in its finest, most controlled form.

[His breath, held in to the point that he thought his ribcage might break open, was finally released in a scream so terrifyingly loud that it silenced everything else on the battlefield. The world ground to a halt, guns refused to fire and Zoids held their ground with fear, their pilots trembling.]

At last though, it all seemed to break.


The lights cut on and the door flung open on its hinges.

[It would all be over soon...]

The light hurt his eyes, and the door flinging open had made his heart skip another beat. The nonexistent reflection he`d been staring at ceased to exist as the shadows crept away into nothingness, and the cold air finally moved for the first time in he didn`t know how long. The movement of air finally reminded him of how much it hurt to try and move his arms, and of how his head was throbbing from what now felt like an elbow shot from a while ago.

"An` ya still look like hammered shit, bro."

If he`d had the resolve, he would`ve bared his teeth and snarled like a rabid animal at his 'visitor.' The man was flanked by a pair of guards, each of them carrying shotguns and looking quite ready to use them.

"Havin` fun freezin` your ass off?" Larry Cloud asked, casually sipping something or other out of a small cantine. "Should get `em to turn the heat up a bit..."

"I`ll take freezing to death before I accept any help from you," Bit replied with a more lucid, clear tone to his voice than he`d been able to muster at any other time in the past two or even three days.

For a long moment, the two were silent. Larry had dragged in a folding chair though, and was keen on setting it up in the center of the room. It was less than a foot outside of what he guessed was Bit`s maximum reach right now. With that, he sat down, the necklace laying across his chest pointing the marred insignia of the Guardian Force right at Bit`s face.

The guards tensed. Bit tensed. Larry took another swig, then waved his free hand towards the door.

"Just be ready to shoot `im if he tries anything," he said simply, and both of the men gladly stepped out without another word.

More silence. Then came the small talk. Always the small talk.

"What the hell did you do to your hair? And what happened to your arms? And the ring?"

"Dye-job, drugs, more drugs. Booze too, but mostly drugs," Larry answered as if it were the most natural, shameless thing in the world. A casual sip of his drink followed. He genuinely didn`t care about destroying an otherwise priceless family heirloom, passed down to him from Fiona herself on his sixteenth birthday. He didn`t seem to care about a lot of things for that matter, but the ring stood out the most.

"Gonna stop starin` anytime soon?"

"Everyone`s dead," Bit pointed out after a small pause, his voice half-shaken just from saying it. It was the first time he could remember that he`d truly acknowledged the death of his greatest grandmother, and the rest of his family, and feel nothing but an empty pit. No malice, no hatred, no sorrow. Just emptiness. Pure, raw, detached emptiness.

"I know," Larry replied simply. He wasn`t even phased.

"Granny... Mom and Dad... Dave..."

"Talia, Tanya, Tanya`s husband, her twins, Dave`s adopted son..."

Bit`s eyebrow twitched. He`d met his nephew, but he didn`t remember the boy`s name. The kid had looked at him like some sort of godlike hero, and he couldn`t even remember if he`d ever even learned his name. He hadn`t even been informed of his other sister`s marriage, or any births. Not that he was an easy guy to reach during his time as a junker, but still.

"All gone like farts in the wind. Cryin` shame, ain`t it?" Larry asked, still completely unphased by it all. It was like he was almost relieved at speaking about it.

For a few seconds longer, neither spoke.

"How did you know?" He asked with another small twitch. The answer was already blaringly obvious to him. He just needed to hear it, or else he would`ve never believed it.


["It`s in the Wind Colony. I`ll lead the attack myself, if ya want."

"That would be most... Satisfactory," Vilhelm Rommel replied from behind his desk, wearing a cheshire grin that would`ve put a trickster god of ancient mythology to shame. "The irony alone makes it all worth while."]

"I`m the one who gave up Granny`s location," Larry answered. There was absolutely no regret in his voice. "Even lead the attack."

Bit felt his heart turn from heated muscle and blood to solid ice in an instant. It made his lungs sieze up, caused the pit in his stomach to deepen and his eyes sting as if threatening to water, yet nothing came from them.

"Yeah, numb-nuts. I`m the one who laid out the ambush outside o` town. Woulda personally headed up the assault team on Granny if I hadn`t been busy shootin` Pops in the face."

Ice turned to stone.

"Tyler, I think that was his name? He put up a half-decent fight for a four year old."

Stone began to crack.

"Nothin` a shotgun couldn`t handle. Everyone else got baked. Burned the house down `n` all."

If it were possible for an internal organ to actually break into pieces, Bit would`ve probably felt his heart doing just that.

"Was a bitch cleanin` up the town, but nothin` a good carpet bombin` from a Whale King couldn`t fix. Still dunno why you never showed up though," Larry commented.

[The last Rev Raptor fell, a Strike Laser Claw embedded deeply into its chest. The pilot inside was screaming, begging for mercy no doubt, but the claw simply slit through the Zoid, then tore back out. The pilot was burned to death before he even knew what`d hit him.

Alone, proud and defiant all at once. The Liger Zero stood upon the felled Raptor a second longer, roaring so loudly that the blood literally soaking its fangs began to spray through the air.

He sat alone in the cockpit, staring off at the smoke rising so far away, where he was supposed to be. Where he could`ve saved them.


He sat alone in the cockpit, bleeding his soul out and hyperventilating through every second of it.

Sweating. Crying. Laughing.

Bit Cloud had gone so far over the edge that he wouldn`t have even recognized himself in a mirror right now. His own mother wouldn`t`ve been able to either.

For a long second, he wanted to go forward, to massacre everything in his path, and then he felt it.

It was subtle at first, the notion of a gentle tug. He barely even noticed it, until finally it turned into the mental equivelent of a right hook, tilting his eyes to one side against his will. It was just in time to see the beginnings of an evil glow off to the horizon, one that had a trademarked feel he could now recognize even in his sleep. Madness. A homicidal rage so deep that any who bore it were its avatars.

Fate had stepped in, and it pushed him away from one deadly confrontation to another, deciding the outcome of so many future events in but a single split second.]

"Why?" Bit asked. It was the only thing he could think to say, now that he`d remembered why he hadn`t just kept going. Why he had managed to show up in time to save Vega Obscura`s life. It had been the result of something he couldn`t explain, if only because he knew it hadn`t been Zeke. It had felt vaguely similar, but it just wasn`t the same.

"Things went straight to Hell after you left," Larry answered bluntly. "Dad finally started takin` shit out on me, `n` I went `n` left. Lived in the streets for a while. Met your ol` bitch too, but she ended up dead by the time I got a Zoid."

There was another twitch. Something spiteful in his gut told him he should`ve felt relief, but he didn`t.

"Went merc. Got good. Went Backdraft. Got better. Joined the Rommel Corp after the Royal Cup an` ended up. Was a test pilot. Think ya can guess the rest."

"You still didn`t give me a fucking answer, you prick," Bit growled out, managing to find his fire once again. Even if it was only barely intense enough to let him bare his teeth in a snarl that looked almost dog-like, he was at least starting to get himself back together.

"... Cuz I`m a sick evil fuck?" Larry asked with a laugh, just before taking another sip from his cantine. "`Sides, the money`s good."

"Money`s gonna be useless when the fuckin` planet`s gone, you dumbass!" Bit shouted, finally leaning forward off of the wall.

"You think Rommel`s that psycho? The guy`s a bit loopy, but he ain`t whacked out that bad. Seriously, Bitty-boy, ya think anyone takes over something like Rommel Corp if they`re absolutely insane?"

"If everyone was like you, hell yes," Bit spat out in reply. It was all starting to come back to him, even if it was only bit by bit.

"This from a guy who charged head-on into a charged particle beam... Twice," Larry muttered with a roll of his eyes. He would`ve taken a sip of his drink once again, made a snide comment and chatted it up some more, but he didn`t quite feel like it after what Bit said next.

"You`re not my brother anymore, Larry," he stated as coldly as his voice would allow.

Another few seconds passed by in silence.

"I know, Bit. I don`t think I ever was," the other replied at last, his own voice as flat and neutral as any human could sound.

After that, he simply stood up. Bit didn`t bother lunging at him. It would`ve been a moot point anyway.

"I doubt Rommel wants anything from ya. I`ll be sure to ask that your execution is just a gunshot to the head," Larry stated simply, just before screwing the cantine shut. With that, he unzipped his flightsuit a bit, reached inside with the hand holding the cantine, dropped it and grabbed something else. "Dunno why he wanted me to do this though," he began, only to draw out something that Bit found familiar instantly.

It was an odd knife. Designed in the rough shape of a Z, with the Republican miltary`s Chaotic Century-era emblem stamped into the base of its blade.

"But he said to leave this thing here for you," Larry finished, setting the Handleblade down on the folding chair and then turning to leave.

For another long moment, Bit heard and said nothing, even as the lights began to dim and the door began to pull shut. It stopped though, with only a crack of light visible in the hallway. With that, the man dubbed Vandal by his employers spoke one last time.

"Good-bye, Bit."

He didn`t reply. Larry waited for a few seconds, but he still didn`t reply. The door shut with a crack of metal against metal, and the lights turned back off all together, leaving him alone with nothing but his own demons all over again.

For a long, long time, nothing happened. The skies above roared and tumbled angrily, but no rain came, no snow fell and no ash bombed down from any nearby eruptions. It was so peaceful. So eerie in its beauty that no artwork, no matter how masterfully done, could ever truly match it. The stillness, the tranquility and even the sense of life subtly pulsing into a struggle against death were marked everywhere.

Yet nothing could truly compare to the silent screams of so many dead souls, clustered into one place. So many lives ended, and all of them at once. Some willing, some unwilling, and all before the pillar of a God that had forsaken them as readily as they had turned to it.

It was a view presently left obscured from the downed, lifeless form of the Liger Zero. Its armor was in ruins, its body wasn`t any better, and its former majesty had faded away to some sort of state that sat on the very border between life and death, tilting precariously from one side of that razor-thin edge to the other. It was a saddening sight, to be sure. The very essence of freedom, crushed and broken, then thrown into the middle of a hangar to be picked at by scientists at their liesure.

It brought an air of depression to the stale, scentless air of the hangar, which itself was large enough to be disheartening on its own.

For a long time though, nothing happened. None of the guards turned to regard the fallen Zoid, none of the battered, weary pilots dared to approach it and none of the other Zoids in the hangar had the courage to regard it with more than a sullen glare from time to time, almost as if their would-be executioner had somehow let them all down.

And then, at last, something happened.

It went unnoticed at first, little more than a pale glimmer of light along the beaten down Zoid`s shattered fangs. After that, a brief spark of something ethereal traced itself into existence. Slowly, it flittered through the air, leaving a trail of what looked almost like star dust, forming into a tight circle around the felled Liger`s horrifically damaged body. It reached from tail to snout and back again, three times before fading away all together. The trail it left behind though, remained.

Slowly, it began to glow. Dimly at first, but by the time the guards and the other Zoids finally noticed it, it had become bright enough to outshine a streetlight. A few seconds later, the circle had tinted from solid white to a brilliant mixture of green and gold, pulsing its way up from the polished steel floors. This too went slowly at first, but with every moment, it began to get quicker and quicker, and by the time one of the guards had finally thought to notify the head of security, it had already grown to halfway of what would be its final size.

Several minutes later, as Vilhelm Rommel let out a grim smile to the Organoid known as Spectacle, the initial glimmers had turned into nothing short of a dome-shaped whirlwind of green and golden energy.

At last though, something else happened.

Green optics lit up, and the final countdown began...

More darkness, cold and silence. After a while, one had a tendency to just get used to it and go completely numb. Numb enough that thoughts stopped and most instincts shut off. One of them was survival, which would`ve probably come in handy seeing as it would`ve kept him moving, kept him thinking and kept him struggling. Really, three or four hundred pounds of what felt like something akin to solid steel spread out across every limb wouldn`t`ve been enough to keep a person like him down for very long under normal conditions.

Not much could, really. Various people had tried over the years, ranging from police to an unfortunate shop owner who`s daughter had been half past mortified to a particularly psychotic girl with bubblegum pink hair and a few others. Every single one of them had failed, because none of them had been as thorough as his current captors were.

None of them had tried sensory deprivation.

Either way, it was among the farthest topics from his mind, which was finally starting to adapt to the numbing conditions he was in. Every single thought he could try and form found itself forgotten halfway through, and those that weren`t ended up in nothing but a jumble.

Eventually though, something did manage to remain coherent long enough to be spoken.

"How the hell am I gonna get outta this one?"

A few seconds passed by as his own words echoed through his ears. The lack of stimulation was enough to drive most people completely insane by now.

"Gotta be a way..."

Limply, his arms tried to pull themselves free. The only effect his pulling and even heaving had was to rattle the chains that bound him into place, and even that was only just barely.

"If I could just get to the damn knife..."

"You may look like him, but I guess you think more like me, huh?"

The rattling ground to a halt. Bit`s left brow twitched slightly, and his eyes almost instantly leered from left to right. Nothing.

"... I guess I`m losin` it..."

This time he heard a vague sigh, somewhat disappointed and somewhat unreadable.

"Okay, maybe you are more like him."

"Falalalala," Bit replied, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to ignore his own hallucinations.

The reply to his attempt at ignorance was what felt like a nonchalant slap across the cheek by a hand partially concealed by a fingerless leather glove, lined with roughly textured rubber that was obviously there to improve grip. After that, he`d heard the sound of metal being lifted from the tin of the folding chair in front of him.

From there, things just became clearer. It was as if a pair of spotlights had been activated, with one focused on him, and another focused on the man now inexplicably standing in front of him.

He was a bit on the short side, even compared to Bit`s relatively average height. He had the same kind of skin as Bit`s own, a bit tanned but still pale, and he was dressed similarly as well in the same kind of odd looking armored shirt that Bit was wearing, though the newcomer wasn`t wearing any sort of t-shirt beneath it. Aside from that, their pants were different as well. Where Bit still wore the same gray fatigue pants with red-stripes down the side that he`d first put on all the way back at Garnhelm, the newcomer wore a pair of tight legged blue jeans with brown leather chaps worn over them, strapped at the thigh. A pair of odd looking flaps hung down from the Chaotic Century-era utility belt around his waist, and it was all topped off, it would seem, by a pair of weathered looking combat boots, the kind that had buckles rather than laces.

"Are you just going to stare at my shoes all day, wondering if you`re insane or not?" The man asked, his hands now fiddling around with the same knife that Bit had been so eager to try and grab a few seconds earlier.

With that, Bit finally looked up from where he`d unwittingly been staring for the past couple of seconds. His cheek still stung from the slap as he watched the man plop down across from him, and then, finally, he saw the man`s face.

It wasn`t really all that different from his own. The ears stuck out a bit more, the eyes were darker and almost more catlike, and the brows were angled more so than his own, but it still wasn`t entirely different. For a long moment, he stared some more, and then he noticed the proverbial icing on the cake.

A red stripe across the left cheek, coming up at an angle from the jaw bone and ending right at the cheek bone.

"Finally figured out who I am, huh?" The man asked.

"... You`ve been dead for over two-hundred years..."

With that, Van Fleiheit slowly but surely let out a grin that sent chills down Bit Cloud`s spine.

Author`s Note: Kinda meh on the Roc scene, but the rest went off without a hitch for the most part, even if it seems a bit rushed :P

Oh, and a major congratulations goes out to David H. Rogers, as he was officially closer(and faster) than everyone else when it came to guessing the identity of the last Geno pilot o_o *Tosses him a cookie.*

Onto the reviews...

Rocke: Congrats >_> And yes, I was trying to do a double mirror. Both Vega and Kale`s big battle plus Bit`s. It was one of the less obvious hints I lobbed at everyone, I hope o_o Now go finish ROC, damn you XD

Illidan: Nope, but I`m glad I left ya hangin` on it. Also glad you liked the battle, since it was one of the most fun ones that I`ve ever written o_o Not to mention one of the most violent.

VegaObscuratheKing: Yes, I broke loose some Hell for the opening... But I`ve got a whole shitload more to go >_> *Beheh.* And I`m glad that ya liked it, by the way.

The Big Fisch: You`ll just have to wait and see, because I`m a bastard! XD Suffice to say, I hope to thoroughly batter any shards of sanity you people have left by the time this one`s over. Just setting the groundwork for now, but soon enough I`ll be unleashing some real AHBL @_@

... And write more Starcraft, damn you. I was all inspired to do a one-shot by your stories and now I need another to finish >_>;

Akino Ame: Yay! My writing is better than caffiene XD *Cheers for this. But nods, at Stoning.* Yes, yes it did. Right down to the fact that I visualized the tail coming in like Bonaparte(the Frenchy Megadeus) at the end of Stripes(Big O, episode 20 to folks who didn`t watch the series). The one with Vega was probably the easiest non-Bit part of that entire chapter to write, and as for the Suicide Crew...

Hate to say it, but their role`s probably gonna be diminished for a while. The Hellwalker bit was their grand moment on the stage, but I`ve still got big things planned most of them. [Smith]Everything has a purpose.[/Smith] >_>

Zinou: Not much for a while, sadly. They`ll show up though... Count on it o_o And unfortunately for Bit, he seems quite alive right about now. Not to mention the whole 'Hey, I`m sitting down with my long-since-dead-and-many-times-great-grandfather! How ya doin`, Pops?!' thing XD And I`m glad to see the Bill flashback scene went well with ya... That thing was a royal bitch to write x_x

Oh, and how goes t3h 0r1g1n41 f1cc3h? o_O?

Nyx: I can do this, actually. I`m quite good at horrifically torturing my readers - very proud of it too. Don`t worry though, after the veins finish bursting in your forehead and your eyes start squirting blood out of your pupils, it`s not so bad...

Rawtooth: Sorry dude, Rogers beat ya. And Illidan. By about a month or two, I think. Glad to see you reviewing again, by the way.

ESSJGohan: It still surprises(and pleases) me to hear that people are still reading and enjoying the ol` HT series, but I`m also glad you enjoyed NA and ROC. Go give some of my one-shots a read sometime, and while you`re at it, go read Zinou`s stuff too. She`s the shit o_o No joke.

Welp, that`s all folks. Sh33p out and see ya next time.

Tides of Darkness by Sh33p

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