Tides of Darkness

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

By Sh33p, CultofSh33p@aol.com

Chapter 4

The Face of the Enemy


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:Beware the upload monkeys. Music is as follows.

Scenes One to Three: Don Davis - Tetsujin
Scene Four: .hackSign - Fake Wings(Bittersweet Version)
Scene Five:
Rurouni Kenshin - The Duel
Zoids - Any End of the Land
Rurouni Kenshin - The Last Wolf Suite(3:25 to the end)
Zoids - Zoid Eve's Theme

In that order. 


There was a crack and a spurt of blood. Movements that were so fast there was no thought behind them had become the norm, and as it had been just a few seconds earlier, he'd had no idea what he was doing until he'd been done with it. By then, six people were more or less laid out in a room that seemed to connect three different corridors to each other. None of them had managed to do more than scream and try getting out their weapon to fire, and those that'd actually pulled the trigger had only ended up shooting the floor, their own feet or the ceiling. The last one had only just hit the floor with his nose completely broken and several of his upper teeth missing.

At least one of them was also dead.

Belatedly, Bit noted that it was somewhat easier to disassociate himself completely and bury the guilt of what he'd done for the time being. Were he half as wise about his own emotions as some people, he probably would've realized that this was the single worst thing he could do in the long run, but for now, it made sense. That was all that really mattered, wasn't it?

"Which way now?" He asked himself, looking down the two new corridors that this room exited to. As if solely to answer him, a scream echoed down the red-lit corridor to his left, marked off as Cell Block A. It was underscored by what sounded like shattering body armor and imploding alloy, with the latter being the more recognizable of the two.

Going purely on instinct, the blonde turned down the corridor as quickly as his legs could carry him, the still bloodied Handleblade slinging drops of red this way and that with every step he took.

Barely a second later, his feet ground to an unnatural, almost skidding halt on the metal floors. To summarize it all in the shortest description possible, it was at once the single most horrific, and one of the most impressive sights he had ever been treated to in his life. It was also enough to completely shatter his entire train of thought and stop him in his tracks with enough force that he almost felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach.

"What the fuck?"

There were bodies strewn all over the place - and more than a few of them were holding the mangled remains of their guns. Some had been hit with enough force that their bodies had crumpled like tin cans into the nearest wall, leaving behind visible imprints in their way, while others had simply been dropped where they stood. Heads were imploded, bodies were scorched and smoking as if fried by enough electricity to short circuit a Gojulas and more than a few severed limbs happened to be lying around a few feet from their original owners, looking not as if they'd been cut, but as if they'd literally been smashed right off of the bodies that had once belonged to them.

Blood was splattered everywhere, harshly visible even with the flashing red lights that caused shadows to dance around everything once every few seconds, yet with an almost morbid sense of calm and serenity, there she stood. The woman he'd thought he would have to save, a woman now so drenched in blood that she was nonchalantly wringing it out of the thick, hellishly tough mane of hair that happened to grow out of her scalp as if it were the single most natural thing in the world. Her club, gigantic and looming even now, was covered with congealing crust that looked as if it had been flash fried repeatedly, and its handle was resting almost weightlessly against the side of her leg.

Suffice to say, Bit Cloud looked as if he were a human trainwreck right about now.

"I got bored waiting for you," Madison answered him without even bothering to acknowledge his arrival. With that, she'd let her hair drop back into place on her back, then grabbed the club with one hand before swinging it up onto her shoulder.

"You... Got bored? I THOUGHT YOU WERE HALF-DEAD BY NOW!" Bit sputtered out into a scream, brows furrowed to the point that the ridge of his nose had vanished.

"I could've escaped at any time I felt like it," she replied simply, and only then did he notice several more things. "I was simply waiting on you."

The first was that there were a series of holes lined up from one wall to another, the second wall had a pair of doors that had been ripped or smashed open and Madison, for the first time since Bit had met her, actually looked as if she were enjoying herself to some small extent. Not only that, but she wasn't half-covered in the shit-like grime that had, until recently, been blown about all over Nyx as if it were going out of style. This allowed him, even in the shadows and the red light, to make out the two tattoos on her face, and even if he'd wanted to comment on them, she didn't give him the chance.

"The test isn't over yet," she stated, seeming to slide back into the apathetic demeanor that had personified her for most of the time she and Bit had known one another.

"How do I complete it then?" Bit asked without even thinking. It was a nice change from the past months, where all he could do was sit and think.

"The hangar's that way," Madison answered, pointing back behind him and in the same direction as the second corridor. "The rest is entirely up to you."

There was a tense pause as he stared at her. She was as cryptic as ever, explaining everything without ever giving up even the slightest of details. If not for the sudden sounds of pounding footsteps in large numbers at either end of their particular hallway, he probably would've cussed her out right about now. As it stood though...

"I'm going back to Roc. Good luck," she stated simply, just before running at him without another word.

It was all that he could do to sidestep her without tripping on a corpse, and just as he did so, both ends of the corridor filled with bodies.

A second later, five of them were smashed into a single wall by one sweep of the club, and if any had survived the blow, Madison had finished them off in an instant as the weapon lit up like the Fourth of July. Electricity surged all over the thing like neon blue lightning, missing only the handle promptly frying all five of the people before they could even start screaming. By the time that Bit had even realized what his teacher had done, she yanked the club loose and all but smashed the face off of someone with an upward sweep of it, just as all five of her last victims had fallen to the floor, smoking and looking as if they'd just been overcooked in an instant.

Instinct kicked in from there. His free fingers latched onto the bottom of the Handleblade's hilt and yanked out a weighted tip of some kind, attached to a length of flexible wire. From there, he had blindly thrown the weapon into the second group that was coming from the other end of the corridor.

The Handleblade's tip stabbed someone in the collar, Bit gave a hard yank and then the world turned into one hellish, red blur, punctuated by gunfire and screaming. By the time it was all over, bodies were everywhere, and how many of them he had personally killed, he couldn't guess. The only thing that seemed to bring him back to his senses was the sudden sound of imploding metal in the room he'd just come from, along with the fact that no one else in sight was still standing.

Moans of pain filled his ears, but he scarcely bothered regarding them. Instead, he turned around and ran, the Handleblade having somehow found its way back into his grip as he did so.

A second later, he was back in the room, and treated to the sight of its outermost wall ripped wide open, with the fleeting view of a speck of human-sized movement on the ground, hundreds of feet below and probably the better part of a mile away.

"This is insane," he mumbled to himself, feeling as though the whole world had just been thrown into a strait jacket and kicked into a padded room.

He barely had the presence of mind to reach up with one bloody glove and use the inside collar of his shirt to wipe the blood off of his own face. He didn't know whether or not any of it was his, and he didn't care even if it was.

"I've given him the 'nudge,'" She had managed to think out after ripping the wall open. It hadn't taken very much effort, especially not with her club, but even if it had, she couldn't help but feel the nagging suspicion that the Acolyte had intended her to escape like that all along.

Good. I take it you are on your way back now?

"As much as I'd rather stay and work out some of my frustrations..."

Feet hit a mixture of snow, ash, mixed grime and dirt, all of it heated to the point that a human would've been nervous just to be near it. In Madison's case, she landed in a perfect crouch, club held out in front of her. It had been a six or seven hundred foot drop right into the stomach of Hell, and she didn't even look as if it had effected her at all.

Wordlessly, she stood up and brushed herself off, craning her head to look back at the countless Zoids still strewn about from the battle that had taken place just hours before. A few had just been missed during the pick-ups by the repair and salvage crews, but a good many were little more than stone cold corpses that happened to weigh around fifty or a hundred tons. Most were also starting to melt from the hundreds of narrow rivers of magma that still flooded around the area under the Dome like a glowing orange and red spiderweb.

"I'm on my way. Wait for me," she half-ordered, half-requested, though the tone of her thoughts would've never revealed it to someone who didn't know her as well as Roc did.

For a few seconds longer, she lingered, staring at what seemed like the face of death itself before finally taking off into a run as quickly as her legs could carry her. By the time that Bit had looked out to see what had happened, she was little more than a barely visible speck, dragging her club through the air and running with enough speed to outpace some Zoids.

"Damn it," he thought as a stream of bullets whipped by his right ear, hit a wall, pinged off and narrowly missed his left leg on the way back down. The corridor that Madison had directed him to had become little more than a blur of movement, gunshots and screaming over the past two minutes it had been since the Guardian had left him, and it was all starting to become slightly repetitive. It was mind numbing too, he hadn't felt a thing for all the deaths that he had already caused, and some mental defense mechanism was probably going to keep it that way for quite a while at this rate.

"GET THE HELL OUTTA THE WAY, YOU JACKASSES!"

It was only barely audible over the howling gunfire and the agonized screaming, but at least a few people seemed to get the gist of the message. Four of them dove down into another corridor and a fifth simply threw himself up against a wall after dropping his weapon, but for every one of them who stopped, three more seemed to pop up.

It was actually quite infuriating.

The smoke-filled hellzone they were fighting in had also changed, mainly because the corridor that Madison had pointed out seemed shorter than most. It had lead to a reasonably large room though, serving as what appeared to be a junction between three elevators, three corridors and a maintenance hatch or two. There'd been a few people sitting watch at a desk, but they were dead by now.

Belatedly, Bit had noticed that same desk, and was now in the process of trying to get to it.

A Handleblade haymaker helped clear his path, another stream of gunfire slipped by the back of his head and his unarmed hand instinctively shot out to the side. Barely an eighth of a second later, someone's faceplate shattered and Bit's ears failed to register the sounds of breaking cartilage and bone. Blood splattered across his already soaked glove and someone fell over in pain, but by then, he had become airborn with a single jump that carried him all the way across the room.

He landed awkwardly and with a skid on the surface of the desk, with blood soaked papers flying everywhere and being shredded within seconds by more bullets. He was starting to wonder when the hell any of these guys would actually run out of ammo, but the notion was kicked aside when his skid carried him right off the desk. He landed in some poor dead twit's lap in a crouch, with both their weight supported by a computer chair that promptly spun around and threw both him and the dead body into the nearest wall.

It was probably for the better, considering that the upper half of the chair ceased to exist another half a second later. Being shot by thirteen assault weapons at once was enough to do that.

"This is gettin' real old, real fast," he managed to half-sputter out in thought, grappling his free hand onto the dead body's shoulder, then using the other for added leverage. At the same time, his legs curled inward, trying to tuck up under his body and then-

The gunfire stopped.

His heart raced, and the sounds of clips being pulled out of their respective guns could be heard as footsteps clattered and echoed this way and that, pulling back from the desk. He only had a few seconds, at best, before the lot of them started firing again, and he used it as best he could. By the time the clicks and smacks stopped, Bit had gotten into a crouch, holding the dead body in the same way as before, but keeping one of his own shoulders braced against the underside of the desk.

There were no offers or demands for surrender on either side. His ears, sore as they were at this point, distinctly registered the sounds of shoulder straps falling away and guns being raised, yet before any bullets could come, he acted.

"BANG!!!" He screamed, at the exact same instant that he'd heaved the body towards the furthest wall and thrown himself up to his feet, his shoulder causing the desk to flip up off of the floor and violently sling up into the air from how hard he'd done so. It was the equivelent of trying to turn one's own body into a flashbang grenade, disorienting his would-be attackers with a flurry of movement and sound.

For the most part, it worked. The body he'd thrown ended up being ventilated in mid-air, while the desk and scream simply caused several of the troops to not even open fire.

Before any of the gunmen could recover from what he'd started, Bit blindly reached out with his free hand and grabbed what was left of the chair from beside him. Almost instantly, he slung it out at the group of men and women by an armrest.

The world became a blur all over again as about half of the group fell or got pulled down by people who were hit by the chair, and by the time any of them could recover from that, Bit had run up over the desk and jumped across the room, landing with a hard thud with his feet on someone's chest. The unlucky trooper went down, Bit stood up on top of him and, in one simultaneous whirlwind of movement, kicked his face in through the visor, used the Handleblade to rip out the throat of his nearest compatriot and then grabbed the dying woman's gun with his free hand. With that, he'd yanked it free, somehow managed to get a grip on its handle and started shooting.

Barely five seconds later, it was all over. Aside from those that had run out earlier, there weren't any survivors at all.

The world slowed down once more, and Bit stumbled forward towards the nearest wall, propping himself up on his knife-wielding arm while dropping the gun limply to the floor. His heart felt like it was about to explode in his chest, his throat felt like it might start bleeding from the inside from how dry it was and his lungs felt like vacuums. Aside from that, the rest of his body was just hurting right now, mostly from the strain of trying to keep up the pace he had been maintaining for the past minutes, but also from at least a few minor injuries he'd taken along the way...

Belatedly, he noticed that his neck was bleeding from where a bullet had cut through the skin but somehow missed the vitals. It was the same case with about a half a dozen more such wounds, scattered across his body as if the bullets themselves had literally avoided hitting anything important.

"'Hangar's that way,' my ass," he sputtered out between heaving gasps for air and the occasional gag, caused mainly by the fact that the mingling scents of a few dozen gallons of human blood and enough gunsmoke to fog the air was enough to make anyone a little sick.

A second or two ticked by in relieved, exhausted silence, and then, he registered the distant clatter of more incoming security forces. His face twisted in disgust, and a low groan of annoyance finally escaped him as he leaned a bit more heavily on the wall, his head rested against his forearm. The footsteps came closer and finally, the look of annoyance faded to one of resignation.

His arm straightened out and his body limply turned to face the furthest corridor. He could see warped shadows coming in the red light, swirling across the floors like spilled oil. No doubt this batch was coming with as much heavy duty firepower as the last, and no doubt they would have the advantage since there were probably two more groups coming from opposite corridors. He was cornered.

"Looks like they're gonna parade my head too," he muttered out, slumping back against the wall for just one more moment's rest. It felt like he'd run three marathons through the desert by now, and he needed every moment he could get to slow down, even if it wasn't long enough to do more than feel himself hurting all over.

The shadows lead to full on outlines, and then there were a series of telltale thunks. They were sounds that Bit recognized as being grenades of some sort, then-

"Tear gas. Looks like they're gonna try and choke me out," he mused.

Gas began to flood the room, Bit held his breath and remained where he was, slumped against the wall still. Masses of people began to flood into the corridors, no longer hidden from sight and that...

Was when the elevator doors he was leaned on slipped open.

Without even realizing what had happened, Bit stumbled backwards into the elevator, having forgotten that there were three of them and having failed to realize that he had been leaned against one, its detail more than slightly obscured by the fact that it'd been covered in as many scorch marks, blood stains and bullet holes as anything else in the room. From there though, even as he fell over and scrambled to get back up, the elevator doors slammed shut. He could distinctly register the sounds of bullets pinging off of them, even a few that managed to find there way through the half-dozen holes in the doors, and then, it was all replaced by the dull hum of the elevator's motor and the sensation of going up at a slight angle.

"... What the hell?"

It was all he could think to say as he stood up, wary to check for any concealed guns or explosives - even checking for an escape hatch of some kind. There was nothing though, and after a seconds longer, he checked the small console that elevators had to choose floors from.

The only button that was glowing was the one that said Observation Deck. Whatever that meant, Bit didn't know, but he had a feeling that he wasn't going to like it.


"Harry?" A grating, high-pitched voice asked, its tone as irritating as it was inhuman.

"What's wrong?" Harry Champ asked with a slightly exhausted tone of voice, sitting somewhere between uncontainable glee and bland depression. It had been odd to be in his shoes, as of late... Especially without the platforms to make him appear taller than he actually was. In fact, it was downright strange to actually feel the ground beneath his feet again.

"Oh? Nothing, sir... Nothing's wrong at all, I was just... Err... Worried about you since you haven't been answering your calls an-" "Leena threw my comm into the microwave," Harry casually interrupted him, thumbing over his shoulder without so much as a backward glance. It was obvious by his lack of emotion over the thing that he hadn't exactly cared for it too much. An over glorified military-level cell phone with a fancy name didn't hold much meaning to him these days, even if it cost more money than most people saw in a month.

"Oh... I see," Sebastian replied a bit blankly.

"Real firecracker, isn't she?" He asked with a slightly whistful tone.

"... Yes, yes of course..."

There was a shortlived pause as Harry finally stepped back from where he'd been staring out of the window and turned to face the pudgy looking service robot that had been one of his two best friends for the past year or so, whether he'd ever admitted it to anyone or not.

"Is there anything you came to tell me?" He asked, idly remembering to pull his pants up. He still hadn't put another shirt on.

"Yes, actually," Sebastian answered. "That Sarah woman said she'd like to see you... Something about bolstering defenses or some such."

"Figured," Harry replied, motioning for the robot to shut the door. Sebastian did so without a sound, while a figure draped in half-moist bed sheets squirmed around a bit irritably in her sleep nearby. Sebastian would probably gossip about it to Benjamin or something, but at this point, Harry had more important things to worry about.

"... Am I missing something here?" Sebastian finally asked, utterly oblivious to what the girl in the bed meant.

"Huh?"

"Well, it just seems like everyone has had something odd happen to them today... I haven't seen one person who doesn't look like they've done... Err... Whatever it would take to make you humans freak out so bad," the robot stammered out, somewhat annoyed. Harry cut it a bit of slack for once.

"Perhaps," he thought, "machines can't see the dead."

And with that notion buzzing around between his ears, the heir to the Champ Corporation's vast wealth and resources - and one of the only remaining world leaders of any prominence in the neutral territories - waltzed across the room and yanked open the dresser. All that he saw were rows upon rows of yellow jackets with lengths of string and ribbons hanging off the sleeves, frilly-pinky-fashion-disaster t-shirts, the occasional green t-shirt with Leena's chibified face emblazened on it, the old orange jacket with the mutant yellow trim and enough pairs of chaps, sets of codpieces and plain black spandex pants to make a male stripper weep...

Granted the codpieces had at least served a purpose. Leena was fairly well known in the old days for being able to punt someone's balls into their throat.

Harry knew as much from personal experience. Hence the reason said speedoesque codpieces were also armored.

That didn't change the fact that it was like staring into someone else's closet nowadays, though.

"See if you can't order me up some new jeans... And a long sleeved green shirt. With a Gun Sniper and an Iron Kong on it," he murmured out, though Sebastian caught every single word of it.

With that, Harry Champ randomly picked one of the old yellow jackets and yanked off its hangar. A few seconds later, he'd stopped to stare at the old ribbons on it. Originally, it had just been something he thought looked cool, but now...

Now, he needed something that made him look strong. People needed leaders, not sleep deprived little worms with ribbons dangling from their sleeves. Without a second thought after that, he proceeded in ripping off each and every single ribbon. Given that the jacket was a particularly tough brand of leather, nothing but the ribbons themselves actually ripped away. Once that was done, he reached in and blindly fumbled around before grabbing a pink shirt and throwing it on over his head.

The jacket followed suit, then the pajama pants were thrown away in favor of a worn pair of brown slacks that looked as if they hadn't been thoroughly washed in a week. After that, he had gone back to the couch, grabbed his socks and sneakers, then crammed his feet into them and tied the laces before finally standing up once more and straightening himself out.

He had been staring out at the parts of the city and the countryside that his apartment-like room gave him a view too. He had been mulling over a particularly awkward conversation that had ended in a warning that he would probably never forget, and he had been trying to bask in the afterglow an hour or three after the fact, but it was over now.

Meaningfully, he cast a sidelong glance towards the bed and the young woman in it, and then...

"Sleep good, my sweet..."

Harry Champ the lover, poet and philosopher crawled back into his little hole in the ground and died once again. Harry Champ the leader and protector had re-emerged from the shadows to guide the largest remaining neutral city through what was probably going to be its darkest night.

"I'd like you to stay here, Sebastian," he ordered as an afterthought while heading for the door. The robot, despite lacking a face, looked taken aback.

"Why?"

"For her sake," Harry answered bluntly as a pillow fell out of the bed and the girl responsible babbled about blowing things up in her sleep.

"... Oh. Okay. Whaddaya want me to tell her?" Sebastian asked somewhat tersely, almost twitching out of his way as Harry got to the door.

"That I'll be in my office or the war room, and that she'll need to be ready to pilot a Zoid before nightfall."

And with that, Harry pulled the door open and stepped out without another word.


The elevator slowed to a stop and the lights dimmed for a moment. There was a pinging sound and Bit felt his insides shifting around while straightening up. Logically speaking, it would've made the most sense to try and duck to one of the elevator walls, maybe use the Handleblade to cling to the ceiling somehow or just crouch down and lunge forward, but logic was like a language that Bit didn't know how to speak right now.

Instincts were his guides and he followed them no matter what that meant doing.

It felt like slow motion as the doors slid open, clearing away to reveal a normally lit hallway lined with computer monitors and equipment that was probably meant to keep track of the once ever-changing state of Nyx. Without a word, he tightened his grip on the knife and stepped forward with an unintended limp from his own exhaustion. It turned out that the hallway was another junction, connecting to another two at right angles - one directly to Bit's right, the other in front of him. Everything seemed empty.

As soundlessly as he could manage, Bit started to walk forward in something of a daze, feeling blood dripping from his clothes and skin by what felt like the bucket load.

"Doesn't seem to be anyone up here at all," he mused, continuing forward down the hallway at a less-than-relaxed pace, his knife still clutched so tightly that it almost hurt.

A few seconds into this walk however, the doors that had been on either side of the elevator he'd come through split open. Without even looking back, he knew what was coming and he'd started running. His legs throbbed, gunfire rang out and bullets started pinging off of everything around him, but he kept going. His entire body seemed to curve forward until he looked as if he were running up a wall, and if nothing else, this kept his head from being blown right off of his shoulders as a result.

Four seconds into this, he had hit the end of the first hallway and bolted down the next to his right, hearing what sounded like a close-quarters grenade being fired and hitting the wall behind him. The explosion was small, there wasn't any shrapnel and he didn't pay it anymore mind. Slowly though, he started to notice that the floor was slanting upward a bit, and the walls were curling as if he were racing down a track. Finally, he came to another straight-away, then slowed to a stop as he looked around.

No one in sight once again. It was just another well lit corridor with polished looking metal walls and only a single door at one side. Without another word, and with only his instincts to keep him going, the blonde started walking again. Slowly but surely, he came to the door. He'd expected it to be locked or guarded by some sort of security system, but instead, it opened almost as if it were automatic.

"I don't like this," he thought, finding a middle ground between instinct and reasoning as he stepped through the doorway.

The door shut and locked behind him without the slightest notion of a touch. With that exit now out of the question, he looked around, only to find that the room he was in was little more than a glassteel-enclosed mesh of metal support bars and stairs. The floor was made of a smoothly polished concrete, the room itself was perfectly squared and a staircase that started in front of him angled sharply up each wall, all the way out of sight from where he was at its start. Barring the door he'd just come in through, he had a relatively clear view of every feature of the terrain around him, from the churning stormclouds that hung above to the barren wasteland that now looked so much like a continent-wide graveyard without tombstones.

Somewhat hesitantly, he looked up once more, only to see something fade out several flights up. Every single muscle in his body tensed involuntarily, and were it possible, his hand would've tightened its grip even more on the Z-shaped knife held in it.

"Someone's expecting me," he thought numbly, feeling stupid that he hadn't managed to figure it all out beforehand.

With that, he slowly started to climb the steps. One at a time, heedless of the outside world, yet keeping a very weary eye out for whatever it was that had faded a way but a few seconds earlier. At the rate he moved, it took around ten minutes to finish ascending the stairs, and at every turn, he constantly felt as though he were being watched... Like someone was about to jump out from above him and gun him down before he could even register them.

Finally though, he made it to the top, only to find himself stepping up into what seemed like a cubby with a door in it. The door itself was old fashioned in appearance. It was hinged, had a knob and even what looked like a peep hole of some sort, but upon touching it, he could tell that it was probably made of steel or some other metal.

Hesitantly as before, he turned the knob and gave a push, only to find himself almost stumbling into a room that, put simply, did not fit with the rest of the base that he had seen so far.

The room itself was little more than a giant glassteel dome with a very solid looking central support beam with what looked to be a toilet stall built into it. The floors were covered in a fine, velvety green set of rugs and it was furnished in a manner that suggested fine taste in spite of the fact that the facility was in the middle of Hell. A lengthy couch-styled bed that looked as if it hadn't been used once was placed near the furthest wall, several small tables with potted plants on them stood here and there, a number of uncomfortably formal looking chairs scattered about and a heavy brown oak desk, with several monitors of varying size spread out across it, along with what looked like stacks of completed, neatly kept paperwork and a few randomly placed picture frames.

What drew his attention though, was the man seated in the throne-like reclining office chair behind it.

He was a bit on the tall side, with neatly kept black hair and the greenest eyes that Bit had ever seen. He was pale too, with a narrow nose and thin lips that looked as if they were meant for smiling death at someone, with a naturally sophisticated expression on his face. He wore an emerald green shirt of some kind beneath a black business suit that looked like it had cost more than it took to feed a family of eight for a year, with thick soled loafers that looked as if they'd never touched dirt once since they'd been put together. His feet were kicked up almost lazily onto the desk and his hands were placed casually in his lap, held together as if he'd been twiddling his thumbs.

"Hello, Bit Cloud... Or is it still Three? Or should I just call you Guardian now?" He asked, and immediately, Bit knew who this man was, recognizing him from earlier in the day.

It was the face of the enemy.

It was Vilhelm Rommel himself.

"You," Bit spat out immediately. Every fiber in his being was screaming to throw the knife at Rommel's face and kill him right then and there, but for reasons he would've never been able to put into words, he didn't. He stopped short of even raising his knife hand up and instead grit his teeth together so harshly that his jaw hurt.

"Not one for intelligent greetings, are you? No matter. Shut the door, would you?" Rommel asked with a disturbingly polite tone of voice while taking his feet off of the desk. It was as if the temperature in the room had dropped below freezing, but Bit complied anyway, slamming the door behind him and locking it as he did so.

"I'm gonna kill you," he growled out with an utterly feral sense of satisfaction, his face contorting into an animalistic glare.

"You'll try, no doubt... But you'll fail. The hero types like you always do, after all," Rommel replied as breezily as if they were discussing the weather over a cup of coffee. With that, he pushed the chair back and stood up, giving Bit the once over as he did so.

"Not one for bathing either, I see," he commented at the fact that Bit was all but covered head to toe in peoples' blood.

"Is that all you've got to say?" Bit sneered, readying for the knife throw.

"Not at all, my good lemming. In fact, I've been looking forward to a chat with you for quite some time now... A shame I couldn't do the same with Leyla and that Obscura boy," Rommel replied. "Come, have my seat."

"I'll pass, thanks," Bit spat, making it a point to try and shake blood onto the rugs.

"Now, now... I'm going to kill you, Bit, rest assured of that much," Rommel said with a thin smile, and Bit felt a chill run down his spine. "But also rest assured that I'll give you a clear warning in the interest of fair play," he added, still smiling.

The most disturbing part of it all was that Bit really believed him.

"What the hell do you wanna talk about?" He demanded, edging towards the desk as Rommel stepped aside completely and instead seated himself in a different chair all together.

"I just want to get to know you," Rommel answered pleasantly, waiting until Bit finally got around to the other side of the desk to take his eyes off of him.

"Why?"

"Know thy enemy. I don't have any plans for recruiting you, Bit. You've been a very odd person to deal with, do you know that?" He asked casually, motioning for Bit to sit down. The blonde remained standing, and instead of insisting, Rommel simply shrugged while scooting up to the desk and propping his arms against it.

"Odd?" Bit asked, finding it harder and harder to not want to look down at the monitors. This had to be a trap.

"Yes, very odd indeed... On the one hand, you've constantly undermined Rommel Corp, yet at the same time... You've constantly been helping me. Don't you find that perplexing in the slightest?" Rommel asked.

"Biggest mystery of the fucking universe," Bit replied bluntly.

"Yes... Curiouser and curiouser, I find it. Everytime you've sought to cripple my efforts, you've simply aided me in some far-flung way. Every man and woman you've killed is someone who's been taken out of my way, and every battle you've fought since the Royal Cup has helped me along. When I kidnapped Bill Chapman, for instance," he paused for a moment, waiting to see if Bit would appear angry. When he didn't, Rommel continued. "As I was saying, when I kidnapped Bill Chapman, you had helped me by weakening him beforehand. Granted, I could have just as easily taken you, but... Well, Bit, we all have a tendency to go with our own kind, don't we?" He asked with a shadow in his eyes.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Bit sneered, finally looking down into one of the monitors in time to see what looked like a fully grown titan of a man being beaten into a cockpit while wearing some sort of metal bowl on his head. Cords were promptly jammed in and then... Nothing. The screen flipped over to another area.

"You'll figure it out sooner or later... Probably when you're dead, but I have that much faith in your intelligence," Rommel replied idly before continuing. "You helped me again, you see, when you began picking off those useless Geno Saurer pilots - with one notable exception. Likewise, when you killed so many of the local Zoids that the Corp had been testing out here..."

"... What the fuck kind of idiot kills his own people?"

"They weren't my people, and I assure you that their deaths only serve to convenience me in the long run," Rommel answered simply. "I take it none of my logic makes any sense to you at all, does it?" He asked.

"None. You sick freak," Bit snorted out, finally realizing that the hand holding his knife was shaking.

"I should have guessed as much... You know, you're rather like the last men who had the nerve to try and stop me," Rommel... Complimented him? "Though I'll admit that they were better than you, in their own ways. One was a better man, another was a better being and another was just a better shot," he commented. "But you... You would be a thorn in my side all on your own, assuming I didn't kill you here and now..."

Bit started to raise his hand, but Rommel held up both of his own to show that he wasn't planning anything. Yet.

"I said clear warning, Bit," Rommel pointed out with some amusement. "Or do you want to die now?"

"I'll kill you before you can even call security," Bit spat.

"I prefer doing my own dirty work in these kinds of situations... Even if it's still only second-hand, you know?" Rommel asked before standing up.

"Go on," Bit ordered as Rommel began to step away, turning his back on the blonde completely and crossing his arms as he did so.

"You want a motive, I'm guessing?" Rommel asked, walking up to one of the clear glassteel walls and putting his hand onto it.

"Yeah. What the hell kind of bullshit reasoning do you have to justify this, anyway?" Bit demanded, finally putting his free hand onto the desk, along with one foot. Rommel had his back turned and his guard down, it was the perfect chance to do him in here and now...

"Two of the oldest reasons in the book, Bit. Power and revenge," Rommel answered simply. "Just as it was Rommel's destiny to be my Acolyte, so is it also my destiny to accomplish what Aionios was stopped from doing..."

With that, Bit lunged forward and Rommel whipped around, slinging a rather large, dangerous looking handgun out of his coat and firing without so much as a word. Bit only barely managed to twist in mid-air in time to avoid having his face blown off, and the round tore through the top of Rommel's former desk chair before being stopped by the glassteel - and even that cracked.

With that, Bit hit the ground on both feet and a hand in a skid, the rug crumpling up in front of him. Rommel gave him a reprimanding look, akin to a parent gently scolding a toddler.

"Now, now... I was going to give you fair warning, but you just had to go and force my hand like that," he said with a tone of utter amusement.

For a few moments, neither of them moved an inch. Neither breathed, neither blinked, neither budged or shifted from how they were posed, with Rommel still holding his gun out and Bit still waiting to spring onto the attack.

"Die."

Rommel swung his gun back towards Bit's face, the Handleblade went flying and the shot misfired into the ceiling. The gun and the knife clattered to the floor and both men became little more than indistinct shapes blurred by movement as Bit lunged up from the ground and lashed out. Two punches aimed at Rommel's face and a simple sidestep carried him a way from both as if it were dancing and Rommel were in the lead.

Bit felt his fists sting while he turned to face Rommel, only to find the sole of a loafer planting itself into his lower jaw. Without a sound, the younger man fell back and rolled away, blindly grabbing the knife as he did so.

Both hands braced themselves backwards onto the floor, Bit flung himself up to his feet and automatically dodged another sidekick in the process. Rommel took it in stride, going with his own momentum and stepping through with a wild right hook that caught the blonde right in the temple. His head erupted in pain, but his feet stayed rooted to the ground and his own right hand lashed out as well. Where Bit had been stunned by the hits he had taken, Rommel simply caught his fist with one hand and threw out the other arm, grasping Bit under the armpit before nonchalantly slinging him over one hip and into one of the tables.

Glass shattered under his stomach and wood didn't exactly fair much better. Bit felt his shirt ripping and his skin bleeding by the time he got to the floor, while Rommel casually took another step or two back out of his reach.

"Thirteen years of martial arts training and he still gets blood on his suits. Ridiculous, isn't it?" The older man asked. Bit spat at his feet in reply and then stood up.

"Eager for another go, I take it?" Rommel asked pleasantly while drawing his hands up into a wavering stance, open palmed and fingers bent. He was jiving about almost like a professional boxer or a dancer of some kind, and Bit was finding it more frustrating than anything he'd ever dealt with before.

Without another word though, he jumped back into things, leading in a punch with his knife hand and watching Rommel sidestep it completely. At first, Bit had thought that the older man had taken the bait and started to swing his body into a cross between a left hook, an uppercut and a haymaker at once, but again, Rommel was faster. Whatever Bit had or hadn't been thinking before, having both of Rommel's hands crash palm first into his face changed his mind completely. It was like being hit with two sledge hammers that happened to have skin, and the fact that Rommel raked his fingernails across Bit's forehead and lower jaw didn't exactly help the sting.

He managed to stand though, and just as Rommel drew back in what looked like preparation to punch Bit's lights out, the blonde reacted. His mind was still reeling, he could barely see straight and his body was acting almost on autopilot as one leg went flying out. Rommel wasn't prepared for the kick and took it for everything it was worth, right in the ribcage. Bit swore he heard something crack, but if he'd broken or damaged a rib, Rommel wasn't showing it very well.

Bit recovered from his attack and struck out again, but Rommel was again prepared for him. He caught Bit's fist and yanked the blonde in, one hand going to Bit's chest in the process. The older man kept his younger foe off balance with a simply twist of Bit's captured fist, just before using the hand on his chest to heave him up. The hand holding Bit's own then gave another shove as Rommel turned around and used the blonde's prior momentum to fling up into the air.

Bit flipped upside down, hit the central pillar and plopped back down on the floor with a dull thud.

"I don't know whether to laugh or just be disappointed," Rommel commented breezily while allowing Bit the chance to get up.

"How about fucking yourself?" Bit asked after a few seconds of scraping himself off the floor.

Rommel didn't even give him a reply other than reaching up and straightening his jacket up. With that, he dusted himself off, wiped the bloodstains that Bit had caused on his clothing, then politely waited for the other of the two to get to his feet. Bit heaved exhaustedly and leaned against the pillar for a moment before shaking his head and rushing back into the frey.

This time, he lead in with a shoulder, but Rommel simply reached out a hand, caught the shoulder and gave a pull while sidestepping. His knee found Bit's stomach and his shin found the blonde's groin. By the time that Bit managed to stumble away, literally hearing little birds and seeing stars as he did so.

Unfortunately Rommel didn't give him such a polite chance to catch his breath this time. Fists went flying and Bit, still in la-la land from the simultaneous beating to his crotch and his stomach, ended up taking every last one of them. A half-dozen punches in all - two to the face, two to the chest and then two more to the throat and right cheek. Bit stumbled back again and this time, he ended up falling over a chair.

The same chair that Rommel promptly grabbed by the leg with one hand and beat him with while he was still down. Suffice to say, wood shattered after the third or fourth hit and Rommel was reduced to grabbing Bit by the wrist of his knife hand and yanking him up to his feet before whacking him one last time with the severed leg of the chair. Wood broke against Bit Cloud's skull and the blonde dizzily staggered away again, his vision literally swimming as he made it to the desk.

"Everything has a purpose, Bit," Rommel casually began as Bit turned to face him, barely even able to stand at this point.

"Yours, just like all of humanity's..."

Rommel reached into his jacket with a breezy look on his face. With that, he drew another gold-plated magnum handgun, just like the last one, and leveled it on Bit's face.

"Is to die."

Bit threw his left hand up, bringing the knife with it, and smacked the gun across the barrel as Rommel pulled the trigger. The bullet ended up screaming through his hair and left his scalp bleeding, but he survived it anyway. Unlike before though, Rommel simply lashed out once again, his gun still in hand. The barrel cracked soundly across Bit's temple with enough force that Bit went all but blind for a split second, blood spurting out of his nose and his right eye bleeding from the inside.

And then, rather than just shooting Bit and ending it there, Rommel reached out with his free hand, grabbing the blonde by the back of the head and using his gun arm to capture one of Bit's own in something resembling a hammer lock. With that, he wheeled him around to face the desk and then nonchalantly stuck a foot in the younger man's path, tripping him and then driving his face right into the desk with enough force to shatter the oak in two.

Bit finally let go of the Handleblade once again, his face busted open completely and his nose broken in at least two different places. Every one of his front teeth felt as if they were about to fall out and his eyes were starting to fog with red by the time that Rommel stood up, again dusting himself off before aiming the gun down at the back of Bit's head.

He was going to die here. Rommel was going to put a bullet through his skull, executioner's style, without even bothering to face him.

"Good-bye, Three."

It was all over...

Rommel pulled the trigger.

And the whole room rattled about as something roared from within the very bowels of the Dome itself, throwing off Rommel's shot once again and leaving the man to stagger back. Bit never would've been able to explain it, but that roar woke him up right then and there, giving him enough wherewithall to reach for the knife once again and blindly roll onto his back before throwing it out. Rommel's gun clanged against the blade, there was a scream and the man fell back, his forefingers all cleanly severed in a diagonal line from the second joint of the index finger to the first joint of his pinky.

"Checkmate, bitch," Bit laughed out dizzily, watching the gun, Rommel's fingers and the Handleblade all rain to the floor.

Rommel's only reply was to scream and hold his bleeding hand while stumbling back several steps, his mannerisms seeming to undergo an entire shift as he fell over onto his backside. Then, slowly, biting his lip to keep from screaming more than he already had, Rommel looked up, and once more, he and Bit made eye contact...

"Run," Vilhelm ordered desperately, his voice wheezing out with only shadows of its former sophistication and grace. Even that evil air of supremacy seemed to leave as a pair of decidedly purple eyes stared into Bit's own.

"Wh-" Instinct kicked in while the mind was still puzzling, and before Bit knew it, he had rolled from his former spot. The floor promptly erupted into a pillar of green light that shined like hellfire, stabbing through the glassteel ceiling and howling up into the skies before coming right back around once again. Before Bit even realized what he was doing, he had scrambled back over to the desk and used it to throw himself up to his feet, again throwing a look at Vilhelm's face.

That's when the realization truly dawned upon him.

"You're nothing but a puppet..."

"RUN NOW!" Vilhelm cried out, his face covered in tears as the green light bolted back in.

Bit dodged once more as the ceiling exploded again, though the bolt of green light promptly collected into a perfect sphere, then rapidly took shape before broken glassteel could even hit the floor. Stale air wafted in from outside, and Bit stumbled back, looking up to see the towering form of an eight or nine foot tall cross between a raptor and a dragon. It was slender, gracefully proportioned like the predatory beast it looked to be modeled upon, covered from head to toe to the tip of the tail with emerald green metal plating that bent and formed into an almost skin-like appearance. Then there were the eyes, bright and intelligently golden, yet surrounded by the darkest shade of black imaginable, as if it were wearing some sort of eye liner.

So much for second-hand, eh? Spectacle asked with the notion of a grin.

"You're the cause of all this?!"

Do you honestly think so many of you stupid little monkeys would flock to such a genocidal cause if someone wasn't manipulating them all?The Organoid asked with palpable amusement as the black lining between each of its countless panels of green, metallic skin lit up with the same hellish light as before.

Once again, Bit's body reacted before his mind could even wrap itself around what was going on, and as Spectacle bolted forward, the Guardian had jumped aside, feeling the dried blood on his skin rip away from how close he came to being ripped in half. Glassteel shattered around the Organoid by the time Bit landed, and Spectacle left little more than a gigantic hole in its wake.

"I... Said..."

His attention shifted from the spectacular green bolt of energy that was coming back around for another strike, back over to Vilhelm, who had clumsily grabbed and raised the same gun that Bit had cut from his hand barely a minute ago.

"RUN YOU IDIOT!!!"

"St-AH!" Bit screamed, stumbling back and feeling his right shoulder, the same one that Kale had scarred only two or three months earlier, explode in pain as a bullet plowed through it. He heard his bones cracking and breaking around it, felt his muscles ripping and saw his own blood literally geyser out of the wound with such force that it seemed like it would throw him over.

"FUCK!" He screamed out, slinging his free hand up to his shoulder as his arm went limp. Within a second, he had fallen down to his knees, just as the glassteel shattered again, peppering both men with shrapnel and leaving both of them covered in their own blood, though this was far more visible in Rommel's case since he wasn't already covered in it to begin with.

With that, the green bolt re-materialized as an Organoid, just in front of where Bit was starting to stand. Patiently, Spectacle waited, allowing the blonde to get to his feet before jumping up and twisting around, that whip-like tail crashing across Bit's injured shoulder and breaking his good hand's fingers in the process. Without even screaming, Bit was thrown back into the broken remnants of the desk, almost falling through the hole where Spectacle had first entered the room.

"Goddamnitsonofabitch," he rambled out incoherently, feeling the handle of his knife and again managing to grab it, though he had to use only his left thumb to do it.

Spectacle waited a few seconds, then slowly began to walk forward. Again, Bit fought his way up to his feet and again, he had to avoid falling to his death through the Organoid's first entrance.

You humans... Always taking so long to die, Spectacle commented, flexing his claws and his jaw before getting ready for what looked to be the death blow.

"If you hate us, why did you use Rommel?" Bit asked out of nowhere, trying to buy time at this point. His vision was starting to come back, and without even bothering to stop himself, he had turned to face the Organoid head on.

Irony's sake, Guardian. That and I know that I'm not smart enough to have assembled so many of you rotten monkeys for one cause without killing myself from the exertion...

Spectacle tensed, giving another mental smile.

So I reprogrammed someone else and let them do it for me.

The Organoid lunged, Bit screamed and felt his leg give out from another gunshot wound, leaving him to fall out of the way while simultaneously starting to bleed to death.

"RUN!" Vilhelm screamed out again, no longer able to steady the gun and seemingly unable to just aim it at Spectacle and fire. Either way, the Organoid simply landed with its feet spread to either side of its original hole, then shifted a dangerous glare towards the knelt Rommel.

Bit heard Vilhelm's screams, looked up to see his eyes starting to change color and then rolled away again, feeling the world start to slip away and go silent. Everything was a blur by the time that he hobbled up, supporting his weight on one tired leg and trying to cling to the Handleblade with only his thumb and palm to do it. A few seconds ticked by as he hobbled back, facing the duo, and Rommel's eyes finished turning green all together.

He said something that Bit didn't hear-

Behind you.

- and raised the gun as if the pain in his other hand had ceased to exist, though blood was still oozing out of each severed finger.

Jump!

Bit felt his chest seizing up as Spectacle turned to leer at him, with the human puppet mirroring the Organoid master's notion of a satisfied smile.

JUMP NOW!

Without even looking back, without even thinking about the order, Bit used every ounce of energy that remained in his leg to hurl himself back and into the air. Without knowing it, he slipped through one of the holes in the glassteel and went flying over the edge, just as Rommel pulled the trigger.


Author's Note: Do you have ANY IDEA how long I've been wanting todo this? XD

That said, if you want evidence of when I first started leading up to this: Madison called Rommel an Acolyte. In one of Henry's flashbacks, Rommel has naturally purple eyes. Aaaaand If you can't figure out what the purple eyes and pale skin means when taken into context with a few other things, I ain't tellin' ya >.>

I'm also proud of the Harry scene. That came out of nowhere to Bridge the Gapô between scenes three and five... And yeah. Harry got lucky. And Harry did talk to the dead. A whole lotta people did, if Sebastian's whining didn't clue you in.

Maybe everyone kept banging their heads on something? XD

And yes, I've been planning this chapter and the next two, three, maybe even four ever since I got good into ROC.

LET THE AHBL BEGIN!

Akino Ame: The kid was actually fathered by both o.o; It's one of those random Acts of God that can't really be explained, though plink gave me a pretty good idea a while back involving Fiona's physiology and how it might've reacted to having human DNA shot into it. I don't remember most of it though >.>; Anyway, glad I got the Van thing more spot-on than I thought.

Kegger007: Good luck with your fic :D And yes, the Handleblade is very sharp, or else Vilhelm would still have his fingers right about now...

Father Malvado: That is propaganda o.O; Anywho, have fun cursing my ass off.

Illidan: Better than the poetry at least >.>

VegaObscuratheKing: I'll elaborate on it sooner or later, but it's a long story on its own, let alone just trying to work it into something else in any detail. Suffice to say, it ties into Aionios.

Engar: Bah XD My toe's at least healing, though it still looks like it'd start bleeding again if I gave a small pull to either side of it. As for the TT fanfic... Yeah x.x It's a decent show, but there's so much room to develop everything and... And... Do you have any idea when the hell they'll come out with new episodes? I wanna see Terra die already! x.e

Anywho, hope this all sated the 'ASS NEEDS TO BE KICKED!' needs that everyone seems to have had >D

Sh33p out.


Tides of Darkness by Sh33p



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