Tides of Darkness

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

By Sh33p, CultofSh33p@aol.com

Chapter 9

Into the Fire

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

Sh33p Disclaimer: Only crap I own are the original characters, and even then I don`t own five of them in full. Consider this disclaimer valid for the whole story.

Foreword:Soundtrack is as follows.

Scene One: Rurouni Kenshin - The Wars of the Last Wolves
Scene Two:
Korn - Alone I Break
.hackSIGN - A Stray Child
Scene Three: Guano Apes - Open Your Eyes
Scene Four: E.S. Posthumus - Pompeii
Scene Five: Witch Hunter Robin - Flame
Scene Six: Witch Hunter Robin - Tactics
Scene Seven: Linkin Park - Crawling(Reanimation version)

Roughly an hour ago, Leon Tauros had still been wiping his eyes after a rather awkward reunion with the mother he never expected or believed that he would see again. Granted, it was a one time thing and it would never happen again, but it had left him feeling as if a few million tons from the weight of the world were lifted from his shoulders. Even though she had told him, to his face, that he was probably going to be seeing death up close and personal tonight, she'd had faith in him. She believed that he would be able to survive the night with flying colors.

She had actually compared him to Van Fleiheit, no less.

Roughly an hour ago, Leon Tauros had spoken to a woman who, practically speaking, had as much power over the city and fortress of Champton as the Champs themselves. Over the course of ten minutes, she had explained to him that he was effectively being drafted into the local defense forces with a full military commission, equivelent in rank to a full-fledged Captain, which was also the highest rank his boyhood idle had ever achieved. When it was all said and done, she had slapped a new registration key into his hand, his father and Leyon had both slapped him on the back and the three had done the same thing as his mother.

They had all compared him to Van Fleiheit.

Roughly a half hour ago, Leon Tauros had finished assembling a half-squad that took the term, rag-tag and redefined it. Two Lightning Saixes, a busted looking green Shield Liger, a Gordos with more guns than a small battalion on it, and an Aro Saurer with a set of laser chainsaws mounted on a Berserk Fury-like backpack, among other things. He'd only known two of the pilots from prior experience - namely the Tasker sisters - and everyone else just happened to have the right look in their eyes drew his attention. Berke, Walter and Howard.

The six of them didn't even have a squad name. The closest they'd come to one was Howard's suggestion of calling themselves Firemen. It fit, given that Leon had informed them that they would be rushing around roughly three quarters of the battlefield, trying to 'put out brushfires,' a less common term amongst military planners for reinforcing places where a defensive line broke. Unfortunately for Howard, nobody else, Leon included, had taken to the name, resulting in both a chorus of bland looks and some head shaking.

Roughly ten minutes ago, the nameless half-squad had taken position just behind the front lines, which were in turn scattered all over the city-turned-enormous ghost town. Everything had been tense, nobody was speaking and everyone felt ready to implode - Leon included.

Roughly thirty seconds ago, the calm was shattered into oblivion when not one or two, but eight charged particle beams had blown straight up into the skies above, literally tearing through the ground and shattering eight different buildings like glass in the process. The squads nearest the explosions were thrown into shocked disarray in spite of their preparedness, and a few Zoids were just plain thrown. A few hundred yards into the air, no less. After that, the ground had started breaking apart simultaneously, almost everywhere in the city and even a few places within the fortress itself. Claws ripped up through dirt, cement and asphalt, while teeth sheered through reinforced steel bars like so much tin foil. Somewhere along the way, what looked like bubbles of violently shifting water literally erupted from the ground with enough force to send debris and even a few Zoids flying.

In those thirty seconds, Leon Tauros had felt the whole world falling apart around him. He had heard his fellow pilots mumbling things to themselves, or trying in some miserable way to make light of the situation, and he had seen the firefights and melees breaking out almost everywhere at once.

In those thirty seconds, Leon Tauros had realized why everyone had compared him to Van Fleiheit.

It was because he was the only one who actually had any idea of what he was doing.

"Get into formation, everyone. We're going to work."

There were a series of acknowledgements as Leon brought the Red Blade forward, feeling his stomach twisting into a knot as he activated his shield. The Gordos brought up the rear, Aro Saurer took the left flank, Shield Liger at the right and the Saixes shielded from direct sight by Leon himself, effectively rendered into a pair of arrows on a drawn bow.

With little else to be said, Leon and his squad dove into the fires, and somehow, he doubted any of them would come out alive...

"Crap!" Lars Torson screamed to himself in-mind as the Bladeler(his new name for the Redleresque Zoids that were covered in switchblades) stabbed by, raking at least three four of its knives across the Foe Hammer's outer hull. Plating gave way like tin foil, spewing out sparks and leaving kinetic and flame retardent gels and foams to come spewing out before automatically hardening into the most makeshift of seals. Without even thinking about the numerous laws of physics he was probably on the verge of breaking - not to mention a few laws of common sense - the mechanic-turned-transport pilot swerved his Zoid into a wild banking turn as the Bladeler was coming about.

At the same time, he'd squinted his eyes shut behind his glasses and pulled every trigger he could get his fingers about.

Roughly a tenth of a second later, there were a few dozen loud cracks of armor piercing slugs and plasma bolts across the Bladeler's back as it came around, narrowly missing an attempt to shave off the Hammerhead II's nose. By the time he'd opened his eyes and looked around, he was able to clearly see the shot-up Redler freak limping back around and trailing enough smoke to gag a firehouse in the process.

"I don't have time for you!" Lars shouted out, and felt himself becoming giddy with excitement that he'd managed to say it with a straight face. Almost as if timed in a movie, one of his missiles fired almost on the dot with the end of his exclaimation. Another tenth of a second later, the projectile hit the Bladeler in the face and detonated, sheering its head off and leaving it to tumble out of the skies-

And after that, he had only barely been able to right himself with a laugh when a charged particle beam shot out in front of him. The world had gone silver and a few minutes later, Lars had regained consciousness, only to find that he was no longer alone, nor in control, on his ship. The flight wheel in front of him shifted about as if entirely on its own, and virtually every monitor on the bridge seemed to have been rerouted to internal surveillance cameras that he hadn't even known existed until now.

The sights he was greeted with were not pleasant ones. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Straightening out his glasses and staring with wide eyes into the nearest screen, Lars was left to be a silent observer to a scene playing out in the middle of the newly crowded Zoid hangar. Backlit to the statuesque figures of the Berserk Fury and something closely resembling the Liger Zero with a few new weapons and gold armoring, five figures stood in close proximity to each other.

He only recognized three of them. Vega and Specular, plus a golden Organoid, a woman who rather frightened him just with her appearance and a man he'd seen before only a few times in person.

Bit Cloud.

The blonde looked as if he'd gone through Hell, and so did Vega and the woman for that matter. Vega had some dried vomit on his flight suit, the woman was covered almost head to toe in grime and Bit was practically coated with a few dried out layers of blood stains from the forehead down to the soles of his boots...

And he had his fingers wrapped around Vega's throat.

What was even more disturbing was that Vega wasn't even fighting back, and all that Lars could do was sit there in shock while observing it all. He couldn't even will himself to have a gaping jaw.

"Your... Fault... I could've stopped... Everything..."

"No, you couldn't have," Vega replied without missing a beat, even though Bit was trying to strangle him.

"Shut. Up," the bloodier pilot growled out so viciously that Lars felt his spine tingling. "If not for you and your fucking brother getting in my way... I could've stopped... All. Of. This."

"No, you couldn't," Vega replied again. He didn't even flench when Lars watched Bit start to lift him up off the ground by his throat... Didn't even bring his hands up or stand on his tip-toes to try and keep the strain off of his neck.

"Yes. I. Could. Have," the blonde snarled again, and Lars could now see that was all but trembling as he said it. "You're just like Kale... You've always been getting in my way... Holding me back and... And throwing me off course..." "Take a look in the mirror, Bit," Vega ordered bluntly, and at once, Lars could see that he truly lacked any sense of compassion or self-preservation at the moment. "I'm not the one trying to strangle a twelve year old."

Something... Snapped.

In an instant, Bit's grasp failed completely. Vega dropped several inches and landed perfectly on both feet without even bending his legs. A few seconds ticked by as the blonde drew his hands back, staring at them and muttering things to himself before finally sputtering out: "I need... To be... Alone... For a while..."

"I understand," Vega replied, finally easing out of what now looked like war mode. The woman had already turned away and-

She was already gone.

"Shit," Lars had time to think to himself before trying to shove back from the console, only to find his nostrils greeted by the stench of ash and fading sulfur, while the chair itself refused to move no matter how hard he pushed it.

"Calm down," an abnormally blunt, apathetic voice ordered. Lars winced again.

"Don't s'pose you could tell me what the hell's going on, couldja?" He asked, half-expecting to be clubbed to death before he could even finish speaking.

"There's an... Organoid-thing named Roc bonded to the Foe Hammer's core right now," a new voice answered well after Lars had asked his question, followed by another swish of the door. It was Vega, and with his arrival, the spikey haired woman with the club stepped away, heading towards a nearby seat and nonchalantly taking it without even a word.

"Uh... Other than that."

"All Hell just broke loose."

"... Again?" Lars found himself asking numbly.

"No. For real this time," Vega answered with the same cold and merciless tone with which he'd used on Bit just a minute or two earlier.

It was all a blur of indistinct movement, gunfire and virtually unreadable chatter across every single channel. Her insides felt as if they'd been yanked into her spine and compressed up into her lungs as the blue Command Wolf nimbly landed, then jumped again, causing the Daemon it had been standing on to roar in anger. In another instant, she had landed, facing a standard colored Rev Raptor with blazing skulls painted on its chest, hips and cheeks, only to watch it all but blur into a jump of its own right over her.

Another scream followed, and when Leyla Tsun brought the Wolf around again, the Raptor was little more than a pile of scrap with its core ripped out. For all of a tenth of a second, she was able to stomach watching the Daemon's jaws clench shut around the now dead Zoid's heart, and then found herself having to turn away or face the urge to gag.

Another instant later, there was an inhuman shriek as a dark red Iron Kong charged into view and delivered a straight punch into the Daemon's cheek, almost bowling the larger Zoid right over only to be smack aside with a tail swipe. The Daemon staggered for a few moments, and then hurtled off of its feet and crashed into a former shop with a resounding explosion when a pair of Supercannon rounds hit it in the side. The offending Gojulas, Travis Paxton's own, wasn't far behind either, literally stampeding in from another street and slamming into the Daemon from behind as it got up.

Were Leyla able to think clearly, she probably would've called the man completely insane.

And chances are, she would've been spot-on in her assessment.

"Back-up!" Echoed over the comm, and Leyla responded before anyone else had even finished hearing the words. Trampling over the dead Raptor's metallic corpse with little conscious regard for the fleeing pilot, then slipping in past the Gojulas as it staggered back from a massive slash across the chest. Even as sparks blew out of the bigger Zoid's chest, Leyla had shut Paxton out and gone on the offensive-

And the Daemon was ready and waiting for her.

Smashing through what was left of a battered brick wall, the Wolf literally slid to a crouching halt under a clawed swipe from the Daemon's left arm, while Leyla brought the heavy rifle to bear on its left hip at the same time.

Two trigger pulls later, a 150mm slug and four smaller standard rounds punched into the Daemon's armor, leaving pock marks and a small crater in their wake. The recoil from the shots, and the angle at which they'd been fired, allowed the Wolf to continue sliding, even as Leyla tilted the gun straight forward and instinctively rolled her Zoid onto its side. The decision was one that kept her from being nailed with a whip-like crack from the beast's tail, which in turn shattered the wall of another nearby building and-

Leyla was unable to see what happened next. The Command Wolf crashed feet first into the back wall of what had once been a flower shop, and the building promptly collapsed a second later.

"Tsun!" One of her team-mates cried.

There was a grating screech of metal on metal, then something went flying and crashed nearby.

"I'm fine!" She managed to shout right back, ignoring the cracks in her cockpit glass and coaxing the Command Wolf back up from under its pile. When it emerged, it was completely covered in dust, and Leyla was greeted by the view of a Red Horn with both hiblits blazing as it plowed straight into the battered looking Daemon, which she could now see boasted a pair of very nasty looking craters in its right side. The Horn bellowed, driving harder and harder into the Daemon's shin before finally causing it to trip and falter back a few steps, being pelted with gunfire all the while-

Only to be all but immolated by a return salvo from the Daemon's own rifles and pulse rifles. The pilot didn't even get to scream.

"Son of a bitch," Paxton could barely be heard, biting out over the broadband. An instant later, two Supercannon rounds plowed into the Daemon's head and causing it to again stagger back, vomiting fire and smoke from the long abandoned cockpit in the head. Another salvo from the Gojulas' quad-cannons rocked the Daemon, but failed to do anywhere near as much damage-

And then the Kong came flying back into view, the thrusters on its back spraying so brightly that they were almost blinding. A single massive hand slapped down onto the top of the Daemon's head and, as the Kong landed, swiftly forced it down into the ground, where it punched straight through a century of concrete and hit the former store's basement-

Which was in turn followed by the entire floor of what was left of the other shop giving way. The Kong and the Daemon both vanished in the ensuing cloud of dust and debris, while Leyla's Command Wolf fought to retain its footing.

Without even thinking of a proper complaint to God for what was going on right now, Leyla brought the rifle to bear again, blindly firing into the basement.

"Cut the crap, Leyla!" Paxton ordered angrily, only to be followed by a blue-and-black blur with gold sidelines. Something roared its way into the cloud and, over the next few seconds, there were only the repetitive sounds of gunfire, roaring, bellowing and the sounds of metal sheering through metal, and then finally, a single loud crack.

The Daemon went flying, all two hundred-and-fifty tons of it going airborn with a number of its teeth missing and a new fist-shaped dent on its throat. Again, without even thinking, Leyla took aim and fired for where she knew the gap would be...

When the Daemon landed next, it literally shattered into a thousand pieces upon impact with the ground, even as a stunningly bright red-and-white soul shot up from its chest and back, arcing high into the skies before blipping out of existence as if it had never even been there at all. Even though it was dead and in pieces by now, she knew her one shot had pierced through the same spot as the one before it, rupturing the core as a result.

Were she in any frame of mind to actually consider what she was doing, she probably would've been rather satisfied by what she had just done.

"One down!" Jack's voice rang out enthusiastically as the Blade Liger Simulacrum emerged from the former basement of the shop, followed in turn by the battered looking Iron Kong.

"Too many to go," Travis replied bluntly, and Leyla found herself agreeing with him before she ever even wrapped her mind around what he'd said.

The battle breaking out in every direction was so violent that the word itself may as well have been going out of style just to describe it. To the North, ancient minds even older than his own were being shut out of existence so methodically and with such speed that he would've felt ill if he tried to put any attention in the matter. To the South, newer minds - human ones - were being snuffed out left and right. It was the same in the East and West too. The whole area was little more than a death trap at this point, and still the humans kept fighting it out.

To the North, a glowing metal talon stabbed down through a Raptoresque creature's head and tore back out through its mouth. Gunfire rained and a second later, the Raptor died like so many others. To the South, his attention was captured by the mid-battle roar of a Red Liger, shield ramming into the gut of a Daemon while a pair of Lightning Saixes boosted in and jumped over it, effectively dive-swiping the gattling rifles from its back. His fractured mind's eye shifted from there, ignoring it all in favor of a glare to the East, where an iron curtain if firepower caught a pack of freak Molgas completely off guard after they'd swarmed and destroyed a pair of Command Wolves.

And then to the West, he was inexplicably drawn from atop his perch. Organic-metal feet shifted this way and that, gripping into age-old concrete for purchase while a pair of three-taloned hands fiddled with each other. Mismatched optics tilted this way and that, struggling to avoid looking at that which called him. Finally though, his red-and-blue head tilted uncontrollably, as if gripped by a muscle spasm, before focus was brought to bear on a single target: A light blue Command Wolf with a long-range rifle.

With a majesty and precision that defied its own make, the underequipped Wolf darted between friend and foe alike, its rifle swinging about in every direction and firing seemingly at random. Everytime a shot went off though, something took a hit - be it a freak Molga, a Raptor or a larger beast like the lone Dark Spiner that was currently carving a murderous swath of death through Champton's defenses, step by tedious step. It looked as if enclosed in a surging bubble of water, and with each step it took, the ground formed an increasingly steep, increasingly wide crater around its position, which in turn lead to a gigantic ditch almost a tenth of a mile long by now and-

And nothing being thrown at it could pierce the bubble. Every attack from a heavy missile to Supercannon rounds to a Megalomax, even a misfired charged particle beam seemed to hit the bubble, swirl into orbit around it and shoot off in some unpredictable direction or other. Each step was a tenuous labor that he knew well enough to predict by heart: One foot was locked at any given moment, the other scraped along the ground to move forward, locked down and the process was repeated with the other. It was slow, yes, and it probably would've been a mind numbing process for a human pilot, but the Dark Spiner wasn't human.

It didn't even have a pilot now.

Only the desire to fight. To fight and to continue fighting - to kill until it was destroyed or deactivated again.

Finally though, someone in the blue Command Wolf's squad seemed to get an idea of how to stop it. An Iron Kong stampeded around in front of it like a football player going in for the roughest tackle possible, then all but dove into the Ion Field, keeping at least one limb planted into the ground at all times. A few seconds later, he heard the shudder of alloy contacting alloy in the form of a punch to the knee. A second after that, it was repeated, until finally, the Spiner let out a viciously distorted shriek and dropped the field all together. The Iron Kong, unfortunately, was caught in the blowback of the ceasing distortion, and ended up being sent flying all the way into one of Gyran Fortress's time-tested walls with such force that he almost lost his balance from the way the whole base seemed to rattle.

But the Spiner didn't get the chance to restore the field. The Wolf was too quick. A single shot knifed through a spine, two smaller ones blew out the one next to it and a diving claw-swipe shattered two more after those. In an instant, the Command Wolf landed with a skid, its rifle swinging about and firing point blank into the Spiner's knee before it ran off again, weaving between collapsed buildings and piles of burning rubble as the larger Zoid staggered to the side, only to come about and open fire-

Just before heaving its head lopped off by a diving leap-swipe from a Blade Liger Simulacrum, which landed and promptly took off all over again, all but plunging headfirst into another Molga swarm to try and bail out the group's other Command Wolf.

Again, his attention shifted, leering over towards the trio of Gun Snipers positioned atop Gyran's highest reachable point. A red one shooting South, and two blue ones for East and West. Nothing for the North though, which was also the least destroyed part of it all. Considering that they were the least interesting though, he again tried to find another aspect of the battle to focus on...

And instead watched as one of the Snipers, along with a rather sizeable portion of the Western wall, ceased to exist. It all happened over the course of a few hundredths of a second, impossibly fast for a human to register but disturbingly easy for a creature like him. A charged particle beam had been fired from somewhere in the very thick of the battle, the Sniper pilot had tried to stop it by scoring a round down the barrel and the Sleeper had been knocked back enough that the beam instead went upward and sliced through the wall. Suffice to say, it hadn't stopped there, and by the time either of the other Gun Sniper pilots had even begun to register what had just happened, it was already over.


It was a scream so loud, over so many frequencies that Borealis felt static surge through his ears, cringing as a human would at the sound of nails on a chalkboard. The vaporized Sniper pilot's apparent sibling was so shocked that she even unlocked herself to go and try to see if, by some miracle, her sister had survived...

Welcome to the new Endtimes, Borealis thought with a grim clarity that his fractured mind shouldn't have possessed. Without even bothering to watch the remainder of the morbid spectacle, he again turned away. It was going to be a long, bloody night...

The targeting reticule was little more than a blur across the screen as the Dark Horn's hiblit swung about, trying - and failing - to keep track on the movements of a single Raptor. Rounds sprayed in almost every direction as the smaller Zoid dashed around the larger, closing in from behind with a pair of rather nasty looking beam saws in place of its descendent's scythes.

And that was where she caught it with a last ditch swipe of the tail, all but hurling her Zoid into the blow with grit teeth. Suffice to say, the attack connected and the Raptor went flying with a colossal dent in its chest, screeching all the while before it finally crashed back first into a nearby building. Before tonight, it had been a grocery store. Now it was little more than a pile of rubble being used to bury a little monster.

Without even thinking about that though, she brought the Dark Horn about to face the pile and opened up with the Zoid's heavy beam cannon, not to mention the triple impact cannon on its back.

A few seconds later, there was a blinding flash of bluish white light and the rubble became little more than a funeral pyre to a creature that had undoubtedly become nothing but a statue by now. With that, Marry Champ heaved a small sigh and turned away, her tunnel vision giving way to the clarity of the big picture as a Godos went flying by, ripped in two by some kind of beam weapon.

Another Zoid ripped itself apart in an explosion in front of her, sending shrapnel flying in every direction as a pack of those freakish looking Molgas churned towards her-

Only to be intercepted from the side by a stampeding Red Horn, all of its guns blazing as it crashed into the mob and singlehandedly started ripping them apart.

"Gotta be somewhere else I can help out..." She thought, turning away for a moment only to hear a mind numbing scream from the pilot of the other Horn. By the time she looked back, he was already dead, the head of his Zoid slagged with acid and its insides being mulched by the Molga freaks.

Without even thinking, she blurted out a few curses as loudly as her lungs would allow, then pulled the triggers. All of them. The ensuing barrage killed nine out of ten Molgas and left the Red Horn dead as well, leaving the tenth Molga to go airborn for a few moments before a razor freak Redler crashed into it at mach one. Both Zoids erupted into a fireball and crashed into one of Gyran's ancient walls, though the old structure absolutely refused to give even to that.

And speaking of Gyran...

"Shit!" She bit out at the sight of where a charged particle beam had burnt right through one of the upper walls and taken off part of the top of the fortress itself. Before her mind could even wrap around that though, she noticed that one of the two remaining Gun Snipers was firing almost angrily at something. A quick turn to her left and she'd spotted exactly what that thing was: One of the larger red Sleepers had taken position to fire at the base once again, even as sniper rounds pierced into its armor with a relentlessness that bordered on insanity.

With every shot though, the huge beast did little more than shake a small bit, its armor barely breaking open at the points of impact as a hellish glow began to come from its gaping mouth, caused by a sphere of some kind of energy swirling into existence there.

"No you don't!" She heard herself shouting, not even realizing what she was saying at the time. Fingers again clenched on all triggers as the Dark Horn began to gather speed, chugging forward with all guns blazing as a result.

Where the Sniper's rounds had done little more than annoy the beast, the Dark Horn's onslaught caught its attention and, to put it bluntly, pissed it way the Hell off. Without so much as an ounce of hesitation, the creature shifted its weight around almost violently and turned to face the coming Dark Horn, its armor quickly covered in minor dents, dings and burn marks from the stampeding Zoid's arsenal. With a speed that would've made a Geno Saurer weep, the gun finished charging and the Sleeper readied to fire-

Only to take Marry's Crasher Horn right in the chest with enough raw force to throw its head straight up and back. Instantly, the beam fired and the shockwave of pressure it released almost pushed the Dark Horn's feet inches into the ground, while the blast did shove the larger Daemon down. Like a pillar of light from the darkest reaches of the underworld, the beam shot up into the skies, eviscerating a Hammer Head and blowing a Pteras off course enough that it crashed face first into a Bladeler, sending both Zoids falling down to the ground somewhere nearby.

More sniper rounds careened in, but for all the good they did, the Gun Sniper's pilot might as well have come out and jabbed at the thing with a pointy stick.

Finally though, the beast began to recover and tilt its head down, but Marry was as fast as she was desperate, flinging the Horn's head up once again and stabbing its namesake weapon right into the Daemon's stomach while firing the hiblit and beam cannons, causing some real damage at long last. Still though, the creature kept struggling to lower its head, finally grappling onto the Dark Horn's sides with its oversized hands, then cutting the beam all together.

The next thing Marry knew, the world was a blur and the damage indicators were screaming - as was the locator. Where equipment screamed though, she held her tongue - chiefly because she had a deathly fear of biting it off when she landed...

And the landing was anything but gentle. Every single ounce of raw force jolted through both her and the Zoid as it crashed side-first into the same wall that had only recently been shot up with a charged particle beam. Within a matter of microseconds, the Dark Horn sank almost a dozen inches into the ancient structure, only to finally grind to a halt and slump back out, falling what must've been another twenty yards straight down and into the ground below.

A wave of dust kicked up on impact, and Marry felt unbelievably lightheaded as she opened her eyes, feeling bruised all over her right side and in the places where the harness straps ran over her body. It almost felt like she'd been cut a few times as well and-

"Crap," she muttered out with a sideways look, the cockpit glass having cracked hideously in that direction. Alarms were blaring all over every console as she looked down, seeing a damage read-out that indicated most, if not all of the armor on either side of the Horn was missing, while the right leg stabilizers were on the verge of exploding all together.

"Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap," Marry felt herself grit out while hastily ripping one hand from the controls and all but dancing it across the consoles, diverting as much power as she could towards regeneration. It wasn't like she'd be able to miraculously grow back a limb or anything, but she could at least manage to reinforce the legs and-

And the Daemon was closing in with a speed that something of that size simply should not have possessed...

Shaking uncontrollably by now, Marry swallowed back on the growing lump in her throat, risking a sideways glance at the creature as it came closer...


And then, finally...

There was a crack of what almost sounded like thunder. Then another after that, followed by a scream as something came whirling in like a bullet, striking the Daemon on its upper right flank with enough torque to violently shove the thing face first into the dirt even as it was skidding sideways. A second bullet-like attack came screaming in after that, crashing into the Sleeper's head as it started to get back up and almost decapitating it in the process.

At about the same time, both bullets faded to reveal a pair of Ligers, one red and the other green, just before both of them leapt aside. A pair of deafeningly quick bolts later, the Daemon shrieked and rolled onto its left side, smoke and fire vomiting out of a pair of gargantuan holes in its right hip.

A few seconds later, two streaks of black and red came all but flying in, only to grind to a halt towards the downed Sleeper's rear and start opening fire on it. Another shock of thunder followed while the green Liger's sides split down to reveal a set of missile launchers, both of which emptied themselves into the creature and-

And finally, the Daemon let out an unnatural sounding shriek that sounded more akin to a human scream as one or more of the attacks ruptured its core, causing the beast's midsection to rip apart as another pillar of light shot skyward.

Without even taking the time for a thank you, the quartet of Zoids, and the slow Gordos that was backing them up, shifting their focus in the direction of where an Aro Saurer was fighting a losing battle with a Raptor, then took off. Marry only barely had the time of night to even think of what had just happened before her own instincts, however poorly developed they still were, kicked in and forced her attention back to the task at hand.

"It's going to be a miracle if anyone survives to the morning," she thought in an utterly detached fashion while grasping the controls a bit tighter than before, then forcing herself to relax her hold as she pulled the Dark Horn up from the ground.

Static screeched through her ears as the other Command Wolf shrieked and erupted in flames, some of its vitals having taken one too many hits from acid and beam weaponry to remain intact any longer. There was a blast of smoke and fire from the Zoid's right side as one of its legs literally snapped off, followed by a Molga-freak crashing almost face-first into one of its others. The burning Wolf promptly fell, its cockpit opening up as the pilot leapt out.

She knew him from a distance as one Alex Silverman. She didn't know his past, didn't know his age, didn't even know his favorite food. She just knew that he was on her side, and he was not running for his life amidst a virtual storm of ancient monsters that didn't know the meaning of the word, mercy.

Anymore, she didn't even care about his name. She just knew that it was her job to try and save him.

With that in mind, Leyla Tsun guided the blue Command Wolf into a zig-zag, passing between three different Molgas before grinding to a halt and stabbing a claw through the side of a third's head. The smaller Zoid flailed miserably, spewing acid at the dead Wolf in front of it before swift half-twist from the claw struck into its core and ruptured it. Without even waiting for the creature's soul to come pouring out, she shifted her gaze back towards Alex's position, watching the man dive out of the way of another Molga's left wheel and almost get run through by falling debris in the process.

Continuing onward, she managed to leap over another Molga, which was promptly shot to bits by Paxton from a distance, then sideswipe one of its comrades out of the way. She was so close now that she could almost see the look on his face...

"Just a bit further..."

She became close enough to see his expression as he stopped and looked up at her Zoid, smiling as if he were seeing an angel descend from heaven and-

And close enough to hear his bones crunching as a Molga's wheel found him and ran him down. It happened in the course of a tenth of a second, but Leyla was able to see it play out as if it were a two hour movie played in slow motion. It seemed to take an instant for the spike-rimmed wheel to crash into the front of the man, mowing him down so quickly that he was still smiling with hope in his eyes even as his face vanished beneath it.

Speechless, all she could do was stare in shock as it happened, and then...

Time sped back up to normal.

Without even thinking about what she was doing, Leyla whipped the longrifle up and gained a lead on the Sleeper, firing without the slightest inkling of hesitation. Less than a hundredth of a second later, the slug plowed through the side of the Zoid with enough force to knock it over and roll it onto its back, where a barrage from the lesser cannons blew its stomach open. Another second ticked by and it was all up close and personal, with the blue Wolf's head plunging into the flailing, smoking Molga's body.

Leyla heard Paxton ordering her to back off, or watch her flank. She saw the cockpit glass around her starting to crack here and there from the internal movements of the Molga, brought on by its own struggles. She felt her Wolf's teeth slicing into the Core chamber of the smaller Zoid. She smelled the smoke leaking into the cockpit through the cracks, but most of all...

She tasted its blood as her Command Wolf ripped out its Core and bit it in two, shaking its head so violently in the process that chunks went flying in every direction before the original halves had even finished breaking apart.

And as the parts hit the ground, her mind seemed to slow back down out of its killing frenzy, attention splitting in a half a dozen directions at once as she realized just what was still going on around her-

"... FUCK OUTTA THE WAY, DAMNIT!" Paxton's voice thundered through her ears, and she reacted before she'd even recognized it. By the time the man had finished speaking, the Blue Wolf was airborn, taking into a series of leaps right out of the Molga-freak stampede before skidding to a halt down the street, just as Supercannon rounds, missiles and a barrage of regular gunfire came pouring in from behind where she'd previously been positioned.

In a matter of seconds, the Molga swarm was reduced to a bunch of dead or disabled corpses, while the street itself was lit up to the point that it was almost blinding as most of their souls went skyward like so many others.

Finally though, the lights faded and Leyla was left to stare blankly at the Gojulas, Simulacrum, Kong and Gunsniper Wild Weasel that made up what little remained of her squad. For the briefest of moments, she was almost daring them to accuse her of some kind of mistake, and during that time, she was actually numbed enough with shock to think that she could convince them otherwise.

And that was when the world turned white, and all that she could do was scream...

A lot can happen in the course of a single split second. More than any human being could ever comprehend. More than any Zoidian could imagine. More than even the Zoids themselves ever concieved of being possible. A single moment - the time it took for a grain of sand to fall to the bottom of an hourglass - was all that it took for his attention, and his fractured, broken mind, to shift across the battlefield. Everything happened in slow motion for him in this one moment, and as his consciousness shifted, so to did his sight. Like the eyes of a phantom, his vision shifted across the war zone...

From the East, it began to move, sliding by the view of a lone Red Horn suicidally plowing head-on into the ion field of a raging Dark Spiner, then moving onward to the North. There, the lone beast known as the Gun Raptor was caught in the midst of a sideways flip, one of its feet stabbed up into the air and its toes raking across the stomach of a raptor as its handguns fired, the rounds literally streaking before his eyes in slow motion.

He didn't linger long enough to view where they landed though, as his sight was again diverted, passing to the West and slinging back down to the South, where a red Liger was caught in the midst of slicing through the body of a Raptor while a Lightning Saix was in mid-air above it, its claws only scant inches from crashing into the Sleeper's head at speeds similar to the very bullets that had whipped through his vision just nanoseconds before.

And again, it shifted... His sight turning involuntarily to zoom in on the top of the very building that he knew was in front of him the whole time, where a swooping Bladeler's switchblades had crashed into the cockpit of one of the Gunsnipers, shattering glass and sending blood flying in every single direction at once as the smaller Zoid shrieked and started to fall, its head tearing apart in the process.

A lot can happen in a moment, but none of it compared to what happened the very instant it all ended as his vision turned again, homing on a single figure, perched atop a narrow tower and framed by a mixture of explosions, black smoke rising into a starry night sky and the appearance of red moonlight glimmering off of a checkered blue-and-red body.

And as he zoomed in to meet his own eyes, he felt it happen.

He saw it too, because as he zoomed in, his eyes were not his own. Within a fraction of the time it had taken for him to orbit the battlefield, the Organoid known as Borealis felt something surge from within him. A power, left dormant for far too long... And with it, a link that had once been best left forgotten like the burden that it truly was.

Finally, consciousness slammed into his own body with such force that the Organoid threw its head back and shrieked - sounding almost vaguely human in the process. Simultaneously, every single blue panel on the creature's body lit up, as a similar colored energy lit up around him, forming into a circle at his feet.

The scream was not his own. As it died down though, the link gained power and momentum...

I'm coming...

In the same way he'd done so many months before, the checkered Organoid's head whipped down to point in the direction of a single person, seperated from him by almost a mile and more explosions, death and destruction than could be tallied. With that, boosters tucked away in the shoulderblades popped into view, and the death grip that had held him in place until now gave way.

Borealis slipped down, gracefully falling into the air before catching himself as the blue glow shifted, covering every single inch of him and then...

He bolted for it.

Blue lightning shot over the edge of Gyran's ancient West wall, dropping down towards the ground at speeds that defied human comprehension. Before it ever hit dirt though, the bolt arced forward, almost into a right angle turn, skimming through burnt out streets and bypassing Sleepers and regular Zoids alike as if they weren't even there. Right by a Dark Horn, between the legs of a Daemon, through an ion field and over the body of a Molga freak, and just as the charged particle beam faded away, taking Hacksaw Squad with it, the bolt found its destination...

Once there, it turned straight up and arced right back down, passing right into the back of the blue Command Wolf.

In that moment, in that very instant, it happened.

Leyla Tsun stopped screaming, and started waking up.

End Chapter Nine

Author's Note: Bgah. Sorry if this one is sub-par compared to what's been put out so far, but after a month or so of hacking at it with a battle axe, I had to get this damn thing out, even if it may or may not lower people's expectations. I can't promise the next chapter will be much better, but I'm gonna try like Hell nonetheless.

Oh, and death to Leyla Tsun, damnit.

A painful, pointy, agonizing one at that.

But kudos to Lars and company. They actually wrote easily...

And kudos also to Phelan, who beta read this sucker.

Sh33p out.

Tides of Darkness by Sh33p

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