By Sh33p, CultofSh33p@aol.com
The final of this great trilogy. Hope you got airbags, 'cause this is going to be a crashing end. Tim Seltzer, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 is as follows. My apologies if the HTML is a bit off - FFN's upload monkeys seem to hate my lately x.x
Scene One: Rurouni Kenshin - Destiny's Wheels
Scene Two: Witch Hunter Robin - Open Your Eyes
Scene Three: Witch Hunter Robin - Plot
Scene Four: Hack Sign - Broken Wings
Witch Hunter Robin - Plot
Witch Hunter Robin - Flame
Scene Six: Witch Hunter Robin - Flame
Scene Seven: Witch Hunter Robin - Tactics
There was a flittering series of sparks in the uppermost lefthand corner Bit's sight, followed by a squeek and a small explosion. Bits and pieces of something metallic hit the floor not long after that, issuing sounds along the lines of dropping a fistfull of pennies across a steel table. For a moment, he stared straight ahead in blank curiosity, unable to decide which was more important - the surge of activity nearby or the phantom sitting in front of him.
The phantom in question decided the matter for him.
"It was a Micro-Sworder. They're all one to six inches long, Vega and Specular've been using them to keep track on you for a while now," Van stated with a simple tone, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to point out.
"Vega's been watching me?" Bit asked curiously.
"He's on his way here right now, actually. I like that kid, yanno? Makes me think of myself at that age..."
There was a brief, lingering silence as the two regarded each other. For a split second, Bit felt as if the world almost made sense again, almost as if he could ask anything he wanted and actually get a satisfying answer and-
"No. I can't tell you why it happened and I can't tell you how I got here either. Even the dead don't know everything," Van said with a blunt tone to his voice.
"Then what do you know?" Bit asked, hiding a small inkling of disappointment. On almost any other day, he probably would've had something along the lines of a heart attack and a brain aneurysm. At once. Along with spasms from head to toe. And adrenal shock. All caused by nothing but meeting the man he'd spent much of his early childhood admiring and a good chunk of his career trying to emulate, both consciously and subconsciously, whether he admitted it or not.
"A whole lot more than I can tell you," Van spoke, just before hastily adding to it. "It's just more than I can articulate, that's all."
"... You're over two hundred years old."
"Do you really think someone like me is gonna waste time trying to improve his vocabulary? Come on, man. I've spent most of my time watchin' Zoid battles and trying to find ways to cross oceans and rivers 'n' junk," Van shot back in an instant, a bit annoyed.
"Ah. Ghosts can't cross oceans?"
"No, but that just means going under them or hitching a ride somehow. Anyway," he said, switching subjects a second later. "There're better things we can spend time talking about than how I got here, and before you ask, I'm here to help."
"How do I get outta here then?" Bit asked skeptically, his feelings reflecting in the slightly soured look on his face.
"Try harder, slacker. Next question," Van answered bluntly, leaning back in the chair a bit. Apparently though, over two hundred years of being dead wasn't enough to take the military rigidness out of his posture. When he'd developed it in life, Bit didn't know, nor did he care to.
"... What the hell is that Rommel jackass doing all the way out here?" He finally asked after a few seconds of thinking it through.
"Putting the finishing touches on a plan that's been in the works since before I died," Van answered with an unusual coldness. "He's out here because it makes things more convenient. While his formerly underlings in the outside world think he's dead, they're starting to go at it with each other, and while they do that, the world's militaries are getting their act together. When it's all said and done, Rommel's former 'employees' will be knocked off and everyone'll have their guard down by the time the real slaughter kicks off."
"The real slaughter?" Bit asked. From what he had managed to find out over the past month or two that he'd been getting dragged from one massacre to the next, Rommel and his people had already toppled most of civilization, including the military.
"The real slaughter begins and ends with Asmodeus. If you don't stop him from waking up the Sleepers, it's all over," Van answered with an even colder tone to his voice than before. "That's what you're here for, Bit. No matter what those people are telling you, that is why you're here."
There was a brief, unnerved pause before Bit spoke again. His brow was raised, his voice was lowered, his skin was crawling.
"Why am I here then? How the hell do I stop whatever's supposed to happen?"
"You're here because you're one of five people whose actions will determine the future of this planet. The five of you alone hold the power to change the destiny of the world. Everything that happens, no matter how small or large, effects you, and everything that the five of you do, no matter how good or evil, effects the rest of the world. You've already met the other four, yanno," Van commented, changing the subject yet again as he did so. "You've fought three of them."
"Think about it. You're almost deadlocked with all three of the ones you've fought, remember?" Van asked a bit amusedly.
For a few seconds, Bit stopped and thought the matter over, then spoke up again.
"Bill Chapman?" He asked. Van nodded, and he guessed another. "Vega Obscura?" Another nod. "Kale Obscura?" Again, another nod. "... Who's the other one?"
"You've met that one too," Van reminded him.
"... Marcus Harlock?" Bit guessed on a wild limb. He had gone to a rather awkwardly fought draw with man, after all.
"Close, but not quite."
"Not even close."
"It's him?" Bit asked curiously, wondering why he hadn't thought of the man first. After all, Stigma had been the first person he'd ever really gone to a complete draw with.
"It isn't even a guy, Bit. Think harder," Van ordered, still a bit amused at how off the mark the blonde was.
"... It's not even a guy?" Bit repeated, brows raised for a moment before both had furrowed in thought. "Is it a Tasker? That Pierce chick? Leena?"
"Close, but no cigar."
There was another pause. Finally, with his eyelid twitching slightly, Bit guessed once again.
"Ex-girlfriend, I think," Van corrected him with a small smirk. "Right on the money though."
"... It's a small world, ain't it?" Bit asked with a bland tone, only vaguely surprised.
Odd enough that he'd ended up meeting one of the only solo pilots in Class S, it had been even stranger when it'd turned out to be a fifteen year old girl. His head probably would've fallen right off of his neck if he'd known she was also an Ancient Zoidian. Really, it was so convenient that he almost wanted to punch himself for not figuring it out sooner. If not for the hundreds of pounds weighing down his arms, he probably would have.
"How do I get out of here again?" He asked, hopeful that his childhood hero would have a better answer than before. Instead, Van just looked a bit irritated. He sounded the same way too.
Mid-day in Champton, and for one woman by the name of Naomi Fluegel, it couldn't have been any more annoying.
"Lunkheaded nimrod," some part of her mind that was actually coherent managed to sputter out, obviously aimed at the other half of what had once been one of the most respected Class A teams in the Zoid battle leagues. The fact that his hairstyle looked as if he really were a lunkhead didn't exactly diminish the insult.
Her hair was a bit of a mess, what little make-up she wore was either smudged into oblivion or wiped off completely and the outfit she'd been wearing since they had left Romeo City looked as if it was going to start smelling like day old cheese at any second now. Given that she'd been wearing it for more days than her half-asleep mind was willing to count right now, that was probably a good thing.
"C'mon and lie to me," she muttered to the mirror, shortly before cracking a surprisingly loud, body shaking yawn, so forceful that her ribcage felt like it was going to pop at any second. After that, she exhaled what sounded like a miss between a huff and a sigh, then stared at her reflection.
On most days, Naomi liked to think she woke up looking relatively good. When she had one of her old beat-up t-shirts, maybe a pair of boxers she'd conveniently borrowed from Brad and forgotten to give back after they'd conveniently been shrunken down a bit in the washer, with her hair messed up in just the right way, she would've been right. Hell, even without that mixture, she would've still been right.
Today, she would've been rather wrong, because today, she looked like absolute shit.
There were bags under her eyes, slowly fading but still hanging around as if specifically put on her face to annoy the snot out of her. Her hair, normally smooth and silky, was in more knots than any sane human being would've been willing to count. Her skin looked unhealthily pale and the growling from her stomach told her that it was time for lunch. Or brunch. Or whatever it was people in Champton had around this time of day.
What annoyed her the most, however, were her eyes themselves. It wasn't just because of the bags, either. It was because they looked empty. There was a gloss over them that made it appear as if she'd been crying in her sleep or something, and the slightly puffy feel of her eyelids didn't help the matter. The fact that they felt raw was just the icing on the cake.
"... Stupid freaking piece of crap," she rambled out at the overly honest mirror. Not for the first time, she felt glad to be the only occupant of the women's locker room, which happened to be connected to the women's shower and rest rooms.
For a few seconds, she stood there, wondering what to do first. She needed to clean herself up all over, needed to brush her teeth and needed to grab a change of clothes. Given the fact that she absolutely hated the taste of just about every toothpaste in existence, it really wasn't that surprising when she'd opted for the shower.
Drawing her shirt up over the head without moving an inch from where she stood, she felt it literally peeling from her skin from the bottom to the cuffs of either wrist and all the way around the neck. At some point, she'd also felt something yanking out of her hair, then heard a clatter on the floor. When she'd balled the shirt up against her stomach, she looked in the mirror to find that the green hairpiece she still wore had been yanked out.
Upon further inspection, so had a few hairs. After that, she'd muttered a bit of profanity under her breath, stepped back and spotted the missing hairpiece, lying under the sink that was mounted on the wall of the same mirror she'd just been using. Without another word, she'd dropped into a nimble crouch, reached out and swiped at it. She missed, inched a bit closer and grabbed it successfully this time. Unfortunately, when she went to stand, her head ended up audibly smacking against the bottom of the sink's countertop.
After that, she'd grabbed the countertop, hobbled back a step while still crouched and then flung herself back up to her feet, muttering and swearing under her breath every inch of the way.
"You really are more foul mouthed than you act."
Whatever cussword had been about to come flying out of her mouth at that point, it stopped before the first syllable even formed. A second after that, she managed to start breathing again.
For a long moment, she stood there. The voice had belonged to that of a man. They were in a women's locker room, she had just bumped her head hard enough to leave a soft spot and was currently standing there in only a sports bra and a pair of pants.
In an instant, she reached for the small, easily concealed gun she usually had tucked away in a pants pocket, only to belatedly remember that she'd had to take it out and leave it on the Whale King soon after they'd arrived.
For a few long seconds, she wondered if she was awake enough to properly snap an elbow joint, or if her voice was loud enough to carry through the thick walls of the room. Another part of her even wondered if she was quick enough to shatter the mirror and use one of its fragments as a knife. Regardless, her concerns were eventually put to rest as she heard the voice again.
"You gonna stare at yourself all damn day or what? It's not like this sorta thing happens everytime you oversleep, yanno..."
She recognized it.
"Brad?" She asked, finally turning around and feeling the weight of the world roll off of her shoulders as she did so.
He was standing there as plain as day. His fashion sense seemed to have changed, because he was wearing all black. His shoes were black, his pants were black, his t-shirt shirt was black, his long vest was black - even the weird looking necklace he wore had turned black. His eyes were half-hidden by a pair of black sunglasses, though they still looked about as charming as a devil and twice as roguish as a pirate. Only belatedly did she notice that, in addition to black leather gloves, the bands that had been tattooed onto his upper arms had turned black as well.
"In the flesh. Sorta."
"What the hell kinda helpful ghost are you?"
"Seriously. You come in here, actin' like you're gonna help me save the world... And then ya just sit there flappin' gums that prob'ly don't even exist!"
"You really are more like me. Thomas would've just broken his thumbs and slid out by now. You're just sitting there bitching."
"And what's that supposed to mean?!"
"Try. Harder. That's the only way you're gonna get outta those chains, Bit," Van said in a voice laced with enough authority to put Kale in his place. Bit's only response was to mutter inaudibly and yank his arms around a bit, causing nothing but the rattling of chains that held no give.
"This isn't as easy as it looks, yanno!" Bit sputtered out after a few more tries. "You could at least offer some encouragement!"
"You don't need encouragement, Bit. You've got all the courage you'll ever need, and more on top of that. What you need is to put it to use."
For a few moments, there was a pause as the two seemed to size each other up. It ended when Bit spoke up first.
"What plan were you talking about, anyway?" He asked, calming down a bit and shifting his efforts into trying to break his legs free. Just like the ones on his arms, the shackles around his legs held absolutely no give.
"I guess Fiona never told you how I died, did she?" Van asked after a thoughtful pause of his own, spent staring at his own reflection on the Handleblade.
"No," Bit answered simply. He was still wracking his brain, trying to connect all the dots that he could on his own. "What's it got to do with the plan?"
A few seconds ticked by before Van even acknowledged the next question.
"Nothing at all," he answered.
Another pause followed. Van stared at the Handleblade some more and Bit stared at him in return. The hero he had grown up admiring was shrinking to life-size proportions right in front of him, and he couldn't do a thing to stop it from happening.
"Are you gonna tell me about the plan or are you just gonna mope?" Bit asked annoyedly.
Almost immediately, he regretted it.
"Mope?" Van asked, eyes slowly lifting up from the blade, narrowing a bit more with every single fraction of an inch that they moved. "You're really one to talk, slacker. At least I'm trying to do something, and I'm already dead."
Any other person on Zi would've probably been shaking at the tone in Fleiheit's voice. It was as acidic and venomous as a rattlesnake bite, twice as powerful as the fangs of a lion and easily forceful enough to make anyone else jerk back in their seats on impulse. Bit, on the other hand, sneered with more contempt than he thought and lashed right back out in reply.
"All you're doing is sitting there, rambling like a fucking drunkard and telling me to 'try harder, Bit, try harder!'" He spat, raising his voice a few octaves and screwing his face into one of the most effimately disgusted expressions any human being could manage. "How about doing something useful and telling me what the fuck I can do to get outta these god damned chains an-"
"SHUT THE HELL UP!" Van screamed out, finally clenching his fists and leaning forward. Instinctively, Bit cowered back a bit without even realizing it.
"Just shut the hell up! You haven't got the right to say I'm not doing anything to help you!" He said, only to continue. With every word, Bit sank back a bit more. "I broke half the laws of Death just to come and talk to you! I went under a fucking ocean to see you! You're not even my full-fledged descendent and I'm still trying to help you! THAT IS WHAT I MEAN BY TRYING HARDER, YOU FUCKING SLACKER!" He screamed again, and once more, Bit sank back. By the time Van spoke again, the blonde had practically curled back against the wall without even realizing it.
"When I tell you to try harder, Bit Cloud, I mean it. You can break those chains without even thinking about it," Van pointed out irately. "All you have to do is try a little bit harder than you are now!"
"I'VE BEEN TRYING SO LONG MY ARMS ARE NUMB, JACKASS!" Bit finally screamed, seeming to regain some of his courage all over again as he half-lunged forward, only to find himself held back as he did so. He and Fleiheit had been inches short from practically biting each others faces off, until finally...
"TRYING?! ALL YOU'VE BEEN DOING IS TUGGING LIKE A DEJECTED BRAT! REAL EFFORT IS WHEN YOU PUT YOUR HEART AND SOUL INTO IT!" Van screamed out even louder than before, finally standing up with enough force to kick his chair back a few steps. "REAL EFFORT IS WHEN YOU GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT! IT'S WHEN YOU DON'T QUIT NO MATTER HOW HARD THINGS ARE!"
There was a pause as he stared down at the blonde, and for a moment, Bit felt as if he were looking into the eyes of an irate drill sergent.
"I HAD MY HEAD CUT OFF AND PARADED AROUND IN FRONT OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE BECAUSE OF HOW HARD I TRIED!!!" He finally screamed out.
For a few seconds, Bit stared at him, and Van stared right back. The tension between them was like feeling a bow drawn so tightly that it could fling an arrow into low orbit. Both were literally seething like mad dogs at each other. Then something gave.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Van twitched. Bit tilted his head to the side. At once, both flopped back into their seats, Fleiheit looking annoyed beyond words, Cloud just looking as if something had gone in one ear and out the other.
"If you're the last hope humanity's got, I'm gonna have a lot o' company
There had been a sputter, a sinking feeling and finally the uncontrollable urge to sit down before anything worse wanted to make itself known. All that she had asked for was a simple answer as to why his arm bands had turned black. She hadn't asked why he had changed his whole sense of style, let alone how he'd even gotten into the city without her knowledge. It was like someone had just hit her in the back of the knees with a pair of baseball bats.
Sheepishly, he watched as she half-stumbled over to the nearest bench and sat down. She barely even noticed that every aspect of her posture had just slumped, mainly since she was more focused on why she felt so sick all of the sudden.
"You're dead?" She asked. Every single fiber of her wanted to believe otherwise, but at the same time...
At the same time, it actually felt as truthful as his mundane voice sounded.
"Yep. Multiple gunshot wounds, a broken neck, pierced lung and a fractured skull'll do that to ya," he pointed out as matter-of-factly as if nothing had happened at all. Arms gradually slipped up and crossed over his chest, one leg sliding back to help brace himself against one of the lockers as he did so. His eyes were still only half-hidden, and from what Naomi could see of them, they'd gotten six or seven shades darker than they had ever been before.
"Multiple gunshot wounds? Broken neck?"
"And a pierced lung and a fractured skull," he reminded her with something of a self-satisfied smirk.
"... Just... How? What the hell happened, Brad?" Naomi managed to demand with what felt like a voice she was rapidly losing control over.
"Guess nobody told you how I left to go keep Jamie from gettin' killed, huh?" Brad asked with an idle tone. "Think that's the third time I snuffed the chance to see you to keep that little shit from gettin' offed... Oh well," he shrugged, then continued. "Long story short: Some psycho fuck in a mutant Geno Saurer almost killed me, I fell into a river and washed up near my old home town. There, I met Jack Sisco, we decided to liberate the town from a few Rommel flunkies who'd gotten outta the base..."
"And you died," Naomi finished somberly.
"Took them all out first, actually. Last ones were holed up in my old church with hostages... So, I defiled the place and killed all of them. Jack was busy shredding Sleepers. I ended up shot through the chest and fell to my death," he explained. "And it was actually pretty painless, aside from the gunshots," he commented as an afterthought, and a slightly absurd one at that.
There was a long pause between the two as she absorbed what he'd told her.
"What's it like?" She finally asked, if for nothing other than morbid curiosity. "Being dead and all..."
"Just like bein' alive, actually," he answered breezily. "It all comes down to what you make of it."
Another pause followed as Naomi absorbed this cryptic bit of information as well. Her stomach was playing Twister and her brain felt as if it had been shut off and on so many times that the autopilot function had burnt out. She couldn't make heads or tails of what she felt and her heart was becoming an increasingly cavernous pit right about now.
"If you're dead... Why did you come to see me?" She asked, finally bringing her head up so that she could look at his face. His expression was as unreadable as his sunglasses, but his voice had a little more emotion to it than she'd expected.
"To put you at ease and give you some closure. It's not every day anyone gets the chance I took... In fact, I don't think it's ever even happened before," he explained, his voice a bit less apathetic than it usually was. "Either way, I'm here now. Not for long, but it'll have to do."
"How much longer do you have then?" She asked.
"Dunno. Do know I met a few o' your ancestors though... It's actually pretty weird how, when you take a step back, everyone is connected in some way," he rambled out in answer.
"What do you mean?"
"Too long to explain. Moving along," he ordered, leaving no room for arguement on the matter. "I also had another reason for coming," he explained with a more thoughtful tone to his voice.
"And what was that?" She asked, lowering her head again as the realization continued to set in. It was hard to believe someone so close to you was dead, especially if they themselves happened to be the ones telling you.
"A warning," he answered with his usual blunt tone once again. With that, he'd straightened up and uncrossed his arms before stepping out in front of her and dropping into a crouch. Given that Brad was about a half a head taller than she was, and given that Naomi was presently slumped down still, this put them near eye level with each other.
"Tonight, things are probably gonna go straight to Hell. If Bit and Vega screw up in Nyx - and knowing them, they will - then this place is gonna come under attack. I'm not talkin' a little pansy-assed raid either, Naomi. You'll be dealing with enemies that could stand up to the Liger Zero and the Fury head-on, and there'll probably be a lot of them," he explained.
There was another long pause between the two. Naomi let out a small chuckle.
"So Leon was right. That twit and the kid really are some big factor in the universe," she mused, finally straightening up a bit. Brad stared at her without so much as a grimance or a smirk, only an apathetic look that felt to Naomi as if he were trying to drive the point home.
"I'm serious, Naomi. This is gonna be the kinda shit that people learn of in history class. Chances are that a lot o' people are gonna die before sunrise," he stated. His voice had about the same effect as if someone had just pressed an icecube to her ear.
"What's the point then?" She asked. "You make it sound like everyone's gonna die anyway."
"I only gave you a warning. What you do with it is entirely up to you," he replied as matter-of-factly as if giving the weather. With that, he stood up again, tugging one of his gloves a bit tighter before turning towards the doorway.
"I gotta go now anyway," he pointed out. Naomi only nodded a bit, but something went unspoken anyway. It lingered for a few seconds, and as if it were binding him to where he was standing, Brad didn't budge an inch towards the exit. For a long few seconds, the two were equally silent, with Naomi finally looking back up to make eye contact. Brad, acting on an apparent impulse, replied in the only logical way that he could think of. He reached up, then pulled off his sunglasses entirely, folding them up and then tucking them away in his long vest.
"I didn't answer the rest of your question, did I?" He asked knowingly. "The part you didn't ask."
She nodded. Brad let out a sigh and shook his head, muttering something under a breath that he didn't even have.
"I can't say I came here outta love for you, Naomi. I also can't say that I didn't. Whatever we had was at a point where neither of us was gonna be able to make heads or tails of it without some more time together, and my time right here and now wasn't enough to do that," he said, and Naomi felt her shoulders become a bit less taut. "Maybe when we meet again... When you die, we'll be able to finish sorting it all out. Till then, you'll just have to find some way to move on, cuz I don't want you dead yet," he pointed out with a half-smirk.
This time, Naomi returned it.
"Yep," Brad replied simply, just before turning and waltzing off towards the door without so much as a good-bye.
Even if their most recent meeting had been awkward by any stretch of the imagination, she felt better now. It was impossible to properly describe, but something inside of her felt changed somehow. It was like the world had rolled off of her shoulders and the pit in her chest had been filled back up. She didn't know what it was, but she felt different now.
She felt at peace.
With that, Naomi Fluegel let out a long, relaxed sigh and stood up. She was at peace, sure...
But she still hadn't showered in over a week.
"You're not even trying now," Van pointed out dejectedly. Bit simply sneered and wiggled his fingers as quickly as he could, though this wasn't exactly fast enough to even look like real movement at all.
"Try wearin' a couple hundred pounds o' metal on your wrist an' see how it fucks up your circulation," he growled. His arms felt as if they were half-ready to just fall apart, and his shoulders and hands had both gone numb. It wasn't due to the desensitizing effects of the room either, it was because all the weight centered around his hands was starting to take its toll. Circulation was grinding to a halt and his shoulders were fighting a losing battle to keep themselves squared.
"You're still not even trying, Bit," Van countered. He sounded even more disappointed than the blonde felt right about now, and it wasn't exactly helping his confidence. "You're just gonna sit there and wait to die, aren't you?" He asked.
"I don't see you jumping to help," he replied with all the understanding of a rattlesnake. "If you were half the hero the books make you out to be-"
"Then you probably wouldn't even exist," Van calmly cut him off. "Or has it never occurred to you just why your great-granny knew so much about me and the others from a firsthand point of view?"
There was yet another grinding pause as Bit literally felt his train of thought derail and crash into a fifty foot thick wall of solid logic. Were he any more desensitized than he already was, he probably would've hallucinated it too.
"What the hell're you talkin' about?" He half-spat.
"... You really are blonde," Van commented with the blandest tone and expression that Bit had ever heard or seen in his entire life. "You're great-grandmother lives over two-hundred years and knows sooo much about the 'great hero,' Van Fleiheit... And yet, you never wonder why she tells you the stories as if she lived them? Why she said she was in the cockpit with me so often?" He asked incredulously. "Ever?"
All of a sudden, Bit Cloud was feeling quite stupid.
"Fucking duhur! What the hell kinda retard are you?" Van asked with something that sounded close to annoyance and disbelief at the same time. His language sounded out of character from what Bit knew of him, but in hindsight, he couldn't quite come up with anything to defend himself. Against the background criticisms of his entire family, Fiona's stories, even when Bit believed them, always seemed just a bit too far stretched to be entirely honest. It had always seemed, to him at least, that she told him the stories as though they were part of her past, not because they were, but because she'd wished them to be that way.
On more levels than he knew, he was right. On more levels than he hoped otherwise, he was wrong. It all made sense now. Everything clicked into place, and were he paying any attention at all, he probably would've seen Van's eyes reflecting something akin to a small lightbulb over his head.
"Understand now?" Van asked, softer this time. He didn't seem as upset anymore, though he still wasn't the picture of immortal heroism that Bit had once expected. He was a human being. Humans make mistakes, and Fiona had always been close to being human even though she was over two centuries old when Bit knew her...
"She was trying to protect me from something," he concluded with a sigh. "I just never made the connection until now..."
"It happens. I probably wouldn't have either before I died," Van replied, his own voice sounding a bit heavier now. Tired in a way.
"What did she lie to me about?" Bit asked, shoulders slumping even more than they already were. Any further and his arms would've probably popped out of the sockets.
"Thomas. Almost everything she lied to you about involves Thomas," Van answered with a tinge of half-bitter honesty. "From her feelings for him to his future. A lot of the things he did and had done to him were omitted from the history books, ya know..."
"The mass produced Beke thing? A guy named Heinz Weldig copied its basic designs and patented it. Historians like glossing over that. They also like glossing over the Giga Gojulas... And the Red Blade Liger," he pointed out. Bit felt no familiarity with the Gojulas, but his stomach twisted at the mention of a Red Blade Liger. Van knew his question before he even asked it.
"Yes," he stated simply. "The Blade Liger your friend, Leon, has is the same one Thomas piloted. It fought so hard against the Liger Zero because it's still bitter about what happened to it when the Zero was still my own Blade Liger," he explained, only to let out a huff of a laugh before continuing. "That thing's got more issues than both of us put together."
Bit only nodded mutely. With that, Van continued.
"Another thing she lied about, was that Thomas took care of her after I died," he explained, sounding even more bitter than he had before, but also amused at the same time. "He took care of her, alright... He was the second father to our son. Literally," he pointed out, only to continue. "They... Got together right after I died. It was something of a one-night stand... Ruined both of them, but the kid that popped out nine months later..."
He paused, just as he and Bit finally made eye contact for what felt like the first time, even though it wasn't.
"Looked exactly like me with blonde hair, pale skin and green eyes. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?" He asked, still as bitterly amused as he had been when he started explaining things.
For a fraction of a second, as they locked stares with each other and Van gave off his ironic little smile, Bit could've sworn he saw an image of himself reflected in his ancestor's eyes.
"Yeah... Now that you mention it," he muttered out.
"So there ya go, Bit. You know most of what she lied about to you... Except for a few other things," he said, pausing for a moment to calm down. After that, he continued.
"Everyone around you... Is tied to everyone who was around me. It's like some sick joke, yanno?" He asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Descendents, Bit. Everyone around you is somehow connected to everyone who was ever around me. Vega and Kale, and their mother too, are all descendents of Raven," he pointed out. Though Bit wasn't exactly horrendously surprised to find this out, it still made one of his brows arch up.
"Naomi Fluegel is a descendent of Irvine and Moonbay. As are four... Well, three of her cousins, now," he pointed out. "Bill Chapman knew Riese personally, as did Leyla Tsun.... And the Tauroses? Leon and Leena are your distant cousins," he added as an afterthought. Again, Bit wasn't really surprised to learn that, though it did explain how he blended in so well with the lot of them. "And then there's the way that Leyon Martin is a distant relative of the guy who tried to assassinate Rudolph at the grand prix... Then there's Pierce and her sister... Direct descendents of the guy who gave Thomas his Dibison. That Harlock guy? Distantly related to Hermann. Likewise with his team mate and Stoller both being distant relatives of the Krueger family, and with Harry Champ's family being related to an offshoot from Rudolph's."
There was a pause as Bit stared at Van.
"Head hurting yet?"
"And that's not even a toothpick on the tip of the iceberg," Van sardonically pointed out. "It's fucking crazy how connected everything is."
"Yeah," Bit agreed after a moment or two of hesitation. "It is."
"And do you know what else connects all of the people I just told you about? Every last one of them?"
"You," Van declared. "You are one of the keys to this whole mess... That little string that's helping to hold everything together. That is why you have to keep trying," he said.
Bit stared at him a while longer, but he was looking right through him as if he weren't even there. Van sensed this, and responded accordingly.
"They're not just nameless faces or faces without a name anymore, are they?" He asked. Bit felt something tingle in the back of his brain, and finally blinked a few times before nodding his agreement.
"Good," Van replied. "Now... Try it one more time. Not for me, but for them."
He could've never explained where it came from, but the urge to take one more shot suddenly seemed to give him more vigor in three seconds than he'd had in months. Without even speaking, he stretched his fingers out and then slowly drew them into a fist. Hands clenched into that position and arms, tired as they were, gradually lifted up until they were bent out at his sides, pointed slightly upward. The chains and the shackles didn't feel so heavy anymore...
"Keep going," Van calmly ordered while standing up.
Before Bit even realized it, there was a metallic snap around his ankles. If he'd been paying enough attention, he would've probably looked down, only to find that it was his bones that had broken. The shackles and chains that once bound his legs and feet were now in pieces.
"You're almost there," Van said while stepping around to the back of the chair.
Gritting his teeth, Bit finally stood up. Where he hadn't noticed the breaking of the leg restraints, all of his focus, concentration and effort was being poured into the ones around his wrists and forearms. As far as he was concerned, it would take everything he had to break the chains that still bound him, and with that in mind, he started to push, pull and struggle forward, arms half-dragging in his wake.
Chainlinks began to bend open, the wrist bindings started to warp and his face turned red from the exertion.
"Just a little more and you'll have it," Van said, looking Bit in the eyes not as some lowly punk who'd fluked through everything for so long, but as an equal.
It was the last bit of motivation that he needed. One final pull from each arm, one strained yell that almost hurt his throat to give and a second later, it was all over.
Chainlinks slung all over the place, the shackles ripped apart and his hands flew out. Instinctively a foot went forward and he caught himself just short of falling over into the chair in front of him, which his eyes now fell to once again.
Carefully, Van set the Handleblade down where he'd been sitting, then straightened up once again. Bit did the same, and for what both knew to be the final time, they looked each other squarely in the eyes.
"Good job," Fleiheit said, and meant it. Bit resisted the urge to smile, even as the blood rushed back into his still half-numbed fingers and toes.
"Kale is coming. He's not the one you need to worry about though."
There was a nod from the blonde. Finally, Van spoke one last time.
"Use it well, Bit Cloud. It's yours now," he said, just before taking a step or two back as Bit's eyes trailed down to the Handleblade, lying on its side in the chair, just as his brother had left it a while ago.
Wordlessly, he reached down and grabbed it, only to look up a second later. Van Fleiheit was gone, and after he realized that, the lights seemed to flicker and die.
A second later, the door opened.
Somewhere in the very bowels of the Dome, tucked away behind eight inch thick titanium walls, a woman was sitting. She was as still as a statue, clad in an odd bodysuit and a tunic, covered in days old grime and bearing the appearance of nothing but sheer disinterest in reality. She wasn't in a desensitized state, and she wasn't meditating. She seemed to be possessed of the patience of a saint, or perhaps it was merely the anticipation of a wild animal about to sink its teeth into an unwitting piece of prey.
Either way, she held the appearance of bland serenity. Eyes were closed, she wasn't mouth-breathing and her arms were still in the same restraints they'd been in for the past number of days.
And then... He has broken free.
"Rommel's probably already setting him up as it is. He's going to need a nudge in the right direction."
Is that impatience talking, or a genuine piece of wisdom? The voices inside of her head asked as one, far less angered than they had been just a few hours before. In fact, there was something that almost seemed excited about them, an emotion that underscored each and every one of the hundreds upon thousands of individual facets that made up the First Born's Voice.
"Both. I'm bored and we both know that Three is bound to make mistakes along the way. We can't afford them now."
Honest as ever, came the reply, swift and almost upbeat in its tone.
"Can I finally relieve myself of these paperweights and give him the proper 'nudge' then?"
For a few seconds longer, she was as silent as a corpse. Her breathing even came to a halt as each and every one of the guns in the room trained itself onto a different body part. Her heart, lungs, head and stomach.
And then, very slowly, her formerly bowed head began to lift up, thin lips curling into a downright wolfish little smirk that seemed to crack and shatter every single line and shape in the mold of her personality that Bit Cloud knew of. The tattoos that rimmed the outside of either eye socket looked even more like scythes than they had before, and then pinkish-red eyes opened, shifting upward towards the most visible camera - the one directly in front of her. Its gun was still trained on her head. Then, finally...
The last thing anyone watching the cell through a monitor would've ever seen was a blur of humanoid movement, shattering restraints, an imploding wall and then blank static.
The Guardian had broken free. There was going to be Hell to pay.
"That was easy."
A smug thought, coming from someone who'd only just gotten out of a cell. Wordlessly, he had dispatched both of the guards before they'd even been able to react to his sudden lack of restraints. A haymaker had dealt with one, a solid whack with a blunt section of the Handleblade had wiped out the other. It had all been so fast, even he didn't exactly recognize what he'd done until after it had all happened. Sure, it'd been enough that he could tell what he was doing, but it had still been as if his body had gone on autopilot.
He only belatedly even bothered looking around, finding that his cell had been very poorly guarded, to say the least. There wasn't another guard standing watch anywhere in sight, and there were also none in earshot either. Something told him he would've been trying to dodge bullets right about now if there were.
A second later, alarms started blaring and the hall tinted red accordingly, but as he glanced down to one end of it and readied himself to have to go down fighting, he came to the realization that the people he saw rushing through his sight weren't even acknowledging his existence.
"Something else must've come up," he thought to himself. Somewhere near the very core of his thoughts, he actually felt a bit disappointed.
A few seconds later, he'd begun running. He had little, if any clue where he was in relation to the hangar, and he didn't much care either. Zeke was still all but mute in his thoughts, and as he rounded a corner into another hallway, something told him that it wouldn't have mattered either way. The Liger hadn't exactly been the ultimate fighting weapon when it came to busting into the place, and in its current state, it was going to be even less so getting out, and that was assuming it could even move by now.
Escape was the last thing on his mind though. The first was finding his would-be teacher, everything else was secondary at best.
With that in mind, he rounded another corner-
And almost immediately, he wished he hadn't.
There were three of them. All had guns, all within ten or eleven feet of him, and all of them were going to have to be taken out if he had any hope of surviving this.
Before any of them could even react to his sudden appearance, Bit had ducked down, maintaining his running start and closing in to arms reach. A few gunshots rang out in the meantime, but he barely registered them, or how close they came to hitting him. Once within arms reach, his knife-wielding hand slung up in a cross between a boxing uppercut and a running jump.
The weapon's jagged tip stabbed right through the bottom of the guard's jaw, then crashed straight into the top of his mouth. Before the fellow's cohorts had even realized what was going on, and before Bit himself even remembered he was using a knife, the blonde had ripped his weapon right back out through the man's face, completely shredding both it and his brain in the process.
There was a numb instant where he figured out what had just happened, but before he could think about it, his right leg had snapped out, catching the second guard in the stomach with his knee and then throwing the guy into a wall with enough force to crumple it around his back and shoulders. Another fraction of a second later, the last of the trio was nailed between the eyes with Bit's left hand, balled into a fist. The woman didn't even scream. Instead, she just flew back, her helmet cracking like a walnut against the alloy walls. Her neck snapped in the crash and her body slumped to the ground instantly.
And that was when the reality of death finally hit Bit Cloud's conscious mind.
Murder in a Zoid was one thing. It was always detached when you killed someone and couldn't see their face as it happened. It was also detached even when you could, for the simple reason that there was still the barrier of a Zoid cockpit sitting between you and reality.
Murder by one's own hand was another thing all together. There were no more barriers to protect him what he'd just done. No detachment, and no personal enmity to justify it. The three of them had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He had nothing to say though. No apology would've been sincere enough and any amount of rationalization or plain logic would've theoretically been enough to stem any guilt he felt from it. In spite of that though, he had something else to fight the guilt off with: His mission.
"Time to bring the house down," he thought resolutely, just before taking
off into a run, bloody Handleblade in hand. A second later, even his shadow
had vanished into the red-lit corridor, leaving behind only three broken
bodies in his wake.
Author's Note: Hrf... Not entirely satisfied with how this one turned out, but oh well >.>;
The bit about Mark being distantly related to Hermann is also quite accurate - the closest relation he has to the guy is an ancestor who was a second or third cousin. Likewise with how Stigma and Kyle are related to the Kreuger family.
And if you're wondering: No. Bit and Naomi weren't the only ones who spoke to the dead in this chapter, but they were the only ones where it really mattered more than anything else. Naomi had been ignored up until now even worse than Brad was prior to when I killed him off, and she needed the closure. Bit just needed the kick in the ass. Also, if you haven't noticed, it's entirely up to you as to whether or not they really spoke to the dead. Remember that Bit was in a sensory deprivation-type prison cell and Naomi had just knocked the hell out of her head...
But how did that ghostly Rev Raptor save Mark, hm? And more importantly, what connection did it have with all the ghosties in this chapter?
I'll never tell :p
Illidan: I think we agreed on no more poetry in reviews after this XD Still, thanks for the review and stuff >.>
Akino Ame: Hopefully I managed to keep Van true to his character(sans the whole 'Hi, I'm dead! :D' thing). And don't worry... Some major Hell is going to be breaking loose sometime fairly soon, if I'm lucky enough to hold to my mental layout for everything o.o And sorry about the computer/internet problems x.x I know how that goes. Twitch.
Father Malvado: Anyone can take their time to the point of absurdity and still feel rushed about something. It happens :P
And I have more cliffhangers planned. Best get to confession, cuz you'll be cursin' my ass off by the time this is all over XD
Rawtooth: The confusion could probably be fixed if I bothered using four BR lines instead of three but... Meh. Lazy.
Fisch: FINISH YOUR DAMNED STORY OR I'LL EAT YOUR SOUL! Lightning/Thunder effect.
That said, thanks for the review and the knowledge that I've helped destroy your sanity, though Starbucks would've undoubtedly taken it from you anyway... You poor bastard o.o
VegaObscuratheKing: Yes, yes I am psychotic o.o And since I already screamed at Fisch, best to not be exclusionary... WRITE YOUR DAMNED STORY OR I'LL EAT YOUR SOUL! Lightning/Thunder effect.
ESSJ Gohan: Ah o.o Damn, I seriously didn't think anyone read that stuff anymore. And trust me, you'll like Zinou's stuff >.>
Kegger007: Glad you've enjoyed it so far, though the fact that the plot has been unpredictable is probably just the result of me writing like a rambling drunkard half the time XD
Engar: YES! THAT VIDEO! O.O It is t3h 03n4g3! And if you like epic series-type fics, go read Zinou's stuff o.o Doesn't get much more epic than that.
Oh, and a minor Edit Note of Doom: In NA, Fiona originally said it was her daughter, Maria, that Thomas helped look after >.>; Suffice to say, I edited things. I also switched symbols since FFN keeps eating my s and s. Meh.
Sh33p out, yo.
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