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PSZAROD Chapter 5: A Parting of Ways! The Wind, the Clouds, and a Disgruntled Shadow Fox – I Hate Titling Things!

PSZAROD Chapter 5: A Parting of Ways! The Wind, the Clouds, and a Disgruntled Shadow Fox


(pointless recap of previous episode)

The Liger Zero, now sporting its new coat of armor, flew from the Hover Cargo in a flash of shinyness as Bit yelled...

"Go! FLAUSCHIG!"

(end pointless recap of previous episode)

 

"Well, at least my Gun Sniper didn't get its leg chopped off. Pity about the Fox, though. Bet it'll be a pain to fix."

"You know, I really HATE stalling for him." Ballad was still sitting in the Fox's cockpit, although said cockpit, and the head of which it was a part, were lying quite some distance from the rest of it. The Gun Sniper merely had a neat stab wound through one shoulder and a missing ear, and was sitting looking almost battle-ready, except for the slight list to one side that betrayed the system shutdown it was actually in.

The Fox's head would have keened a reply, but it realized the systems it needed for that were in the part of its neck that was currently sitting on that rock over there. How it was able to realize this when its core was 61.2 meters due south from its head, it wasn't sure. Probably some sort of emergency power link that was there in case of its head being severed. Doctor Leyon had been rather fond of bizarre systems like that. And to think people had mocked him for it! Well, the Fox was certainly grateful, although it couldn't exactly say so.

No one listened to it these days anyway. Ballad sometimes had, but now he mostly paid attention to that girl. It must be her shiny hair, the Fox decided. It was even shinier than its gold trim, and shinyness seemed to be so important to that Doc fellow that it must be important to other humans too.

Deciding that long rambling trains of thought wouldn't help it get reattached, the Fox's head shut down, not caring it left its pilot in the dark. It was sick of people for the time being.

 

And then there it was, over the horizon, glistening in the evening sun and roaring as it bounded towards them, towards Vega and the Fury.

If you had to compare it to the earlier armors, it probably looked the most like the Schneider in that it wore blades. But these were thicker, deadlier, the side ones more like a Blade Liger's, and a shorter one on each ankle pointing outwards and up, vaguely like the Schneider's fins. It was sleek like the Jäger, too, every line of it seeming to perfectly walk the boundary between aerodynamic and a high ability to Blow Stuff Up. The ion boosters hadn't been forgotten, although they weren't to so large of a scale. You had to leave room for the rather ominous-looking cannon on its back, after all, as well as a decent amount of Panzerlike missiles, all neatly arranged as to not leave it as heavy or bulky.

It was also two rather bright shades of pink and purple. Shiny pink and purple...and sparkley, at that.

"I didn't want to have to use this."

"I can see why." Vega was trying rather hard not to laugh. This was supposed to be a serious battle, after all, a chance to beat his rival and Fury his. But he couldn't help it. Especially not with how it was even glittery.

"...I meant I haven't had the chance to test it."

Vega could only manage a squeak that sounded rather like 'pink' before he collapsed into a rather un-Vega-like fit of giggling and the comm link shut off.

 

"Doc, I told you we should've just left it plain for now." Jamie sighed. "Poor Bit."

"Nooo! I couldn't leave it plain! So what if I was out of normal colors of paint? I like those, they're shinyyyyy."

 

A few moments passed before Vega collected himself enough to attack the pink-and-purple-clad Flauschig—not much time, but it was enough time for Bit to mount an attack of his own, the Liger leaping for the Fury, Strike Laser Claw hitting Buster and deflecting both to the side. The Liger jumped back only enough to land on its hind legs, swatting for the buster claw again and hitting e-shield as Vega's lightning reflexes brought it online just in time.

Silver blades swung around in pink sockets, and the Flauschig's paws drove into the e-shield, sending it flickering.

"Twin-Blade Shield Buster!"

The shield fell, and Vega found himself having to jet to the side as the Flauschig came closer than he liked to slicing through Fury's shoulder as well. The buster claw folded up from its shield position awkwardly, too slow, blast it, and missile fire grazed the lavender Zoid's side before Vega settled for jetting clean up into the air, the boosters being pushed to their limits. For a brief moment, the Fury managed hovering flight akin to a Geno Breaker's, until it came crashing down where the Flauschig had been seconds earlier, swinging its tail and grazing the hindquarters of the fleeing Liger with a SMACK! and sending it loping in a rather undignified manner out of close range.

 

A resounding howl filled the Hover Cargo as the Command Wolf of DOOM! announced its return to the land of the living. Mach had simply fused with it to complete the more minor of the needed repairs, and its orange cockpit shimmered blue for a few seconds before it jumped onto the launch ramp.

"Let's go, Mach."

 

Vega grit his teeth from the shock as lavender armor slammed into white, the Flauschig's head snapping back. Fury had literally headbutted it, using its weight and size to its advantage. The shiny-clad Liger staggered back to its feet, Bit urging it forward, screaming a battle cry and apparently unrattled from having been tossed around in the cockpit.

"Ghhh." Swinging the remaining set of blades forward, Vega parried a thrust from the Flauschig's front ankle blades. Dodge, stab, parry, slash, look out for the other foot, block...for a few insane seconds the two were evenly matched, sparks flying freely as Fury's blades charged and the Liger's did too.

And then, Bit's usual crazy luck came through again: he struck home, hitting between the base of where the two blades met, and the buster claw tore off.

Twisting away and leaving the Liger to deal with untangling itself, Vega jerked the controls to bring Fury into another Geno Breaker impression. The Fury complied, its roar echoing along with the boosters screaming in protest...and yet, they held it in the air, perhaps partially from the sheer force of Vega's will, or something equally mysterious and dramatic.

"Crud!" He may have rid the Fury of one of its main weapons, but he'd also left himself rather open to attack. Cursing his mistake, Bit swiped at the former buster claw with the Liger's free paw, trying to slice himself loose—ack, toolate.

Gravity all too willing to reclaim its hold, the Fury half-flew-half-fell straight onto the Flauschig's back. The Liger snarled in protest, over a hundred tons of pointy angry lavender metal dinosaur keeping it from doing much else. Kicking and struggling awkwardly, it tried in vain to get up as Bit pounded at locked controls and muttered about how stupid he'd been.

Clack-WHUMPH!

Great, now he was footlocked to the ground, the Fury standing with one foot on the Liger and the other stuck in the ground...which would be rock, of course, and not something easy to break out from like sand. "Blast it! Come on, Liger, we can't lose just because he stepped on us!"

WHAM!

"Okay, make that stepped and now is stomping on—gyaaaah!"

Stomp...stomp...stomp... "Fnrg. All that pounding's making it hard to think." Bit shook his head. "Liger, you holding together?"

I really don't like being stepped on any more than you like getting shaken around like that.

 

"Ack! No! HE'S SCRATCHING THE PAINT! Not my shiny paint!"

Figures, that would get the Doc to show some interest in the battle. Other than talking about the pretty shiny armor, he'd been pretty much ignoring it. Sighing and deciding that there wasn't much point in him staying in the room, Jamie left to go sulk with his Raynos. The Doc didn't notice, of course he wouldn't. No one ever pays any attention to me. Angst.

 

The Command Wolf of DOOM! arrived then, galloping on swift little blue paws. The Liger Zero was still being stomped on, and Shineryuu decided it would be best to do something about it. The Wolf produced a set of foot anchors from somewhere on its ankles, driving them into the hard ground with a series of sharp clacks.

"Hey, kid! Over here!"

Vega turned, leaving the Liger Zero still trapped. He saw only a Command Wolf, to his surprise...and then he watched as it unfolded sets of vents along its back and side and lowered its head in an all-too-familiar manner.

"A charged particle cannon? On a Command Wolf?" Deciding there was little time to dodge as he could already see the energy gathering around the thing's mouth, Vega settled for bracing the Fury, the sleek Zoid rumbling a slight concern for his safety before removing its foot from the Liger and turning to face the Wolf as it fired.

The world went white-hot, the Wolf a focus for a blazing line of energy that seemed to grow wider than it was. Somehow, it managed to not hit the Liger Zero for the most part, and the Fury bore the brunt of the impact. Much of its front armor fairly disintegrated, breaking away as it absorbed the CPC's power. The intakes for the boosters switched on, taking in some of the charged particles as best as they could to siphon them away. They whined in protest, managing to stay on as the Wolf's beam dissipated.

The Fury stood, unharmed...other than the lack of armor on it, anyway. It growled angrily as the Wolf raised its footlocks and the Liger staggered to its feet, knowing it was in rather desperate need of some good ranged weapons about now.

"Time for my surprise. Sarah!" The Fury jogged off, heading for the transport from which it had come. The Wolf and the Liger gave chase...at least until a quick spatter of fire forced them both to stop.

"Rev Raptors?"

"He's using them to stall. I bet he's up to something!"

"Well, duh."

"Quiet, Mach."

Bit swung the Flauschig's side blades down and charged them, heading for one of the Raptors, which skittered out of the way only to bounce back in front of him.

"Argh! Go away! Burning Mane!" The Flauschig merely launched a couple missiles from near its neck at the thing, which both missed. "Aw, man, what kind of stupid attack name is that? Let's just do this. Strike Laser Claw!"

The Raptor went down at about the same time as Shineryuu's did, although the one she'd been after was now short a tail as opposed to two of it legs. "I think we're too late."

The transport—whatever strange kind it was—was reopening, and something was launching.

That something was the Fury, but not half-naked anymore. Nay, it sported a shiny new set of armor too. "Berserk Fury Sturm, CAS completed!"

The Zoid in question was still more similar to the original than any of the Liger armors, although it now was more pointy-sleek, designed for cutting through the air. The large boosters that had replaced the buster claws made it clear how it would be doing said cutting, and it still had claws. Someone from a long-forgotten era would have probably said they looked like a Geno Breaker's, and they did bear some resemblance in that they were a pair of pincers with shields. But these were smaller, mounted on the Fury's shoulders, and looked as if they were still more suited for stabbing than any actual crushing of things.

"Well, what do you think? You're not the only one with a new armor."

"I think the red on the shields clashes," Shineryuu said, in a tone similar to the acidic one that her organoid was so fond of.

"Oh, and pink and purple is so much better?"

"Hey, I didn't paint it!" With that, Bit and the Flauschig charged, the blades again whipping out to the Liger's sides. The Command Wolf of DOOM! followed suit with its Mach-energy-blades, howling a challenge as it accelerated.

"Sturm boosters...on!" The giant ion boosters on the Fury's back sprang to life, unfolding top and bottom in panels like the Jäger's. The foot boosters activated as well, and the dinosaur Zoid shot forward at speeds that would make the aforementioned Jäger look painfully slow. It unfolded the side claws, slicing at the two Zoids rushing it as it sped past them. Both the Wolf and the Liger hopped out of the way, turning around to see the Fury already disappearing into the distance.

"Well, this just got really interesting."

"Come on, Liger, after him!" The Flauschig's own boosters were on before Bit finished the sentence, and the chase was on. The Command Wolf of DOOM! joined in, the blades dropping to be replaced by the booster-wings it had used before.

The three Zoids were all now moving at speeds that would rival even a few flying ones. While they weren't breaking any sound barriers, they were certainly breaking speed records. The cameras focused on the battle fought to keep up with them, the view finally shorting out on one channel's feed, much to the annoyance of many viewers, a good deal of whom were betting on the outcome. The station switched feeds, and the static was replaced with the Flauschig and the Command Wolf of DOOM! gaining ground on the Fury, although it was obvious the Flauschig was reaching the end of its limits and the Fury wasn't.

"Bit! Don't waste all that energy. Let me catch him, and when I get him slowed down a little..."

"I get to blast him."

"That's the general idea, yes."

"Gotcha." The Flauschig slowed somewhat (if dropping to 371.2 kph can be considered slowing), its boosters still on, but not at full. It settled into an even lope more suited to a wolf or hyena following behind faster prey, biding its time. It would have its rematch, once it didn't involve a boring chase across the desert.

 

The Wolf, meanwhile, continued to gradually gain on the Fury. Running in great leaping strides like a Saix and aided with the addition of the wings, it fairly flew, seeming to skim the ground. "Hey again, pointy dino."

The Fury snarled and added its regular boosters to the mix, screeching ahead at an even more painful pace. Vega was enjoying the whole thing, of course, clinging to the controls and half-laughing as his Zoid accelerated to four hundred and fifty kilometers and hour. The only ground Zoid to ever best that speed had been some fragile obscure one only found in museums nowadays, not at all like his Fury. It was freedom, this sort of thing. Nothing to worry about. Just a nice pleasant cruise through the desert while your opponents all wore themselves out.

"There's no way you'll catch me—the Sturm Fury is the fastest Zoid alive!"

"That may be true, but if it is, it's TIED for that record! MACH!" The Command Wolf of DOOM! howled, defying all sorts of laws about armor strength and energy output limits as the entire thing glowed blue, and it pulled up alongside an astonished Fury. The tyran Zoid growled, and probably would've tried to stab it with the right claw had Vega not stopped it.

"Hey, wait, you'll shear it off! See those rocks over there?" The Fury growled its acceptance of the plan, knowing what it was without need for explanation.

Veering to its left and heading for the cliff Vega had pointed out, the Fury dropped a little in speed in turning as the Wolf followed. Not able to turn all that quickly either, it was left running as close behind the other Zoid as it dared. Skimming alongside the cliff face and tearing off pieces simply from all the wind and energy whipping around it, the Fury increased its speed to full again, leaving the Wolf eating rock shards.

"Oh no you don't!" The Wolf couldn't raise its shield without losing ground, so it instead bounded up onto the side of the cliff face. Tilted at a crazy angle that by all means should've sent it falling, it tilted its wings to match and kept up its equally crazy pace. It claws jammed into the rock with every stride, leaving an odd trail of paw-shaped holes in its surface, and worsening the damage the Fury was doing to what had been a pretty rock formation scant few minutes ago.

The Wolf fired the CP-04 cannons, Mach somehow absorbing the recoil. The Fury responded by raising the ion boosters a bit higher, causing it to skip against the ground, but sending the exhaust back into the Wolf's face.

"Yaaaah!" The Wolf put on one last maniac sprint, taking it further up the cliff face, directly above the Fury...and before the saurian Zoid could pull away, the Wolf was leaping for its back, and everything was chaos: the Fury trying frantically to stop and not hit the cliff and get the 71 tons of screeching angry biting fury that was the Command Wolf of DOOM! off its back, and the Wolf trying to hold on and not get blown back to where the boosters would crisp it and attack at the same time.

It was over in a split second to those watching, a barely visible flurry of motion in lavender and blue. Both Zoids were flung into the dirt, clouds of dust and shattered glass that had formed as the Fury's boosters grazed the ground flying every which way.

As it cleared, you could see the Command Wolf of DOOM! and the Sturm both standing, miraculously unharmed...other than the fact that one of the Fury's standard boosters was sparking, and the other was sitting in the Wolf's mouth. The blue Zoid spat it out, the metal sizzling and melting into the sand. Its claws were blunted and a few of its teeth were missing, but it had succeeded in what it had intended to do.

"Heh. Not the fastest Zoid any more, buddy."

"Fury! Check the booster integrity!" Vega winced as the graph came on screen. While the boosters were still attached and functional, they weren't going to be going as quickly as they had anytime soon. Curse that stupid Wolf! "Let's get her!"

"Uh-oh."

"What do you mean, uh-oh?"

"I mean I think I—" With that, Mach's fused-with-Wolf voice cut out, and he was flung from its core in a sputter of blue light only to re-materialize on the ground. "Over-did it a bit. I think you might want to run until I can...re...fuse." The organoid fell over with a clank, his eyes losing their normal gold glow and fading to brown as Mach essentially...well, fainted.

"I think I'll second that uh-oh." Shineryuu said, as the Wolf staggered into an uneven run. Mach had been helping the thing more than she would have liked, and now she was paying for it. The core was strained, the legs were overheating and sparking in places, and the electromagnetic fang was down. "Where's that Liger when you need him?"

 

"There they are! And the Wolf looks a bit smashed up. Hurry, Liger!" The Flauschig went to top speed again, trying to reach the Wolf in time.

 

"You go stabby now!" Having caught up with the Wolf easily in its weakened state, Vega was now attempting to skewer it. The Wolf didn't want to be skewered and was bouncing around like crazy in an attempt to avoid it, but that made it even more fun! Wolfy shish-kebabs, yes.

And then the Fury paused, growling at the horizon from whence they had come. "The Flauschig...well, we need to take care of her first," Vega said, noting that the controls became stiffer in his hands the second he said that. The Fury was getting impatient. While normally a perfectly nice, friendly sort of Zoid, it did have a rather nasty temper. "Just stab her, and we'll be done with it, buddy."

Growling about team battles not being its cup of tea when there were rivalries to settle, the saurian Zoid again hovered, this time with a bit less effort thanks to the Sturm boosters. The Command Wolf of DOOM! limped away, all too slow, and it soon found itself in much the same position as it had found the Liger Zero: being squished. Except this time, the Zoid doing the squishing wasn't going to wait for her to fall apart, no. It had blades, and it was angry.

Raising a claw and not taking any time for dramatic flair, the Fury unceremoniously charged it, turned it, and brought it down again, straight for the Wolf's neck—

"Noooo!" The Flauschig arrived too late, rocketing into view as the Fury stabbed, leaving the Command Wolf of DOOM! on the ground screeching, but unable to do much of anything. Now knowing how the Shadow Fox must have felt, the wolf Zoid diverted all remaining power into keeping the combat system online...even if it couldn't move, it didn't want to freeze just yet. It might be useful somehow, and it wanted to see what happened, darnit!

"Shineryuu! You okay?" Bit sounded hurried—he was. Snapping its teeth at a clawtip, the Liger Zero ducked and rolled like a cornered animal, trying to protect its fallen comrade and get the battle to move someplace else.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Watch it, you almost stepped on Mach."

"Sorry." Bit cut another clawstab short, the Flauschig's modified versions of the Schneider's bunny-ear-like shield generators flipping out to block the attack.

"Got you cornered now." Vega grinned as the Fury leaned forward, putting its full weight onto both claws. They were pointed right at the Liger: the second the shield cut out, the Liger would be a shish-kebab too—happy day! Of course, Bit had other plans.

"Liger, just what can that cannon of yours do? I mean...what's it fire? Beams? Missiles? Confetti?"

Not in the mood for a joke at the moment, the cat Zoid growled and brought the data file online.

"Oooh, variable weapons system. Look at all those different things! Hmmm...eenie meeny miney moe, catch a Liger by the toe..."

Just PICK ONE!

"Okay, okay. Here, this one! Laser vulcan system...on! Ready, Liger? NOW!"

The Flauschig dropped its shield and fired at the same time, sending the Fury dropping right into a hail of gatling fire. "Uwaaa!" Vega managed to bring the claws back up to shield the Fury's face, but this ruined his nice stabby plan. Hissing through his teeth, he threw the foot boosters on in reverse, hopping away from the Flauschig, which merely continued fire, the cannon on its back folding out and upwards for a better turning radius like the Fox.

"I don't like gatlings." Whirling the Sturm around, Vega turned the boosters on full, rocketing away and leaving the Flauschig to deal with the backwash of energy from the things.

"Well, if he wants a chase, then let's give it to him. Come on, Liger, let's see how we can keep up with him now! Booster...ON!" Roaring, the cat Zoid picked itself up from the ground and took off, clouds of dust swirling in its wake.

No one heard a tired yet familiar voice complaining that hey, someone stepped on my tail.

 

Jamie, meanwhile, was currently debating whether to even bother taking the Raynos out. At the speeds both Zoids were moving, the only chance he had at giving the Fury any trouble was skimming low to the ground far faster than he'd like—he remembered his battle with that Saber Tiger all too well—and if Lineback could take him out of the air, what good was he against Vega?

"None, that's what."

"Eh? Did you say something?" Doc had been staring at the screen since the Flauschig had re-appeared, utterly fascinated with his new creation and its shinyness.

"Nothing...never mind." Honestly, it seemed all he was good around here for was cooking and collecting angst that nobody noticed. And that couldn't be healthy.

 

Gold claws barely touching the earth as it boostered along, the Flauschig pursued its rival, gaining ground quickly. Seeing the time for running was over (and not really caring—it was getting boring), Vega waited until the Flauschig was nearly on top of them to make his move.

"Hyaaa!" The Fury came to almost a dead stop, instead shooting clear up into the air, letting the Flauschig fly past it before coming back down, claws at the ready. Bit's reflexes didn't fail him either, though, and the Liger whirled around, its own blades swinging partway forward to block an incoming stab.

"So, it's slicey time again?" The Flauschig fired a few missiles at the tyran Zoid, following on their heels with its claws blazing.

"Indeed." The Fury responded by using the claw-shields to swat first the missiles and then the Liger, the latter's claws leaving melted gouges in the armor.

The Fury jetted around with far more ease than you would expect from a creature of its size as the Liger continued its assault of claw-swats and blade-stabs. Each Zoid grew faster as its respective organoid system kicked into overdrive, leaving spectators watching an ever-accelerating swirl of slashing claw and stabbing blade and other such things associated with angry giant mecha animals. Neither seemed to have the upper hand, although it was pretty clear this was a fight out of almost any other pilots' leagues, even as Bit and Vega made it look so deceptively simple.

"Man, I lost them again." Rinon was trying to watch the battle on her Gun Sniper's screen to little success, as every time she tried to zoom in, the battle moved elsewhere. "Hang on, Bit-channnn..."

Ballad rolled his eyes at that. He'd moved to sit on the Gun Sniper's head after the Fox had shut down, since it was the only thing with sensors that worked, and he wanted to know what was going on. "I don't see them either." Peering through a pair of old binoculars (amazing what you could forget you'd left in glove compartments), he looked for any sign of the two Ultimate Xes.

"Aaaah! There!"

Putting down the binoculars, Ballad looked up to see both Zoids approaching at high speed, the Flauschig trying for a blade slash to the Fury's leg, as the other Zoid jetted to the side and they both got way too close.

"Aw, cra—"

A flash of blade and a whirl of wind and dust from all the boosters involved, and both Zoids were gone.

Rinon's Gun Sniper keened sadly, falling over with one leg sliced off.

"AAAIIGH! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU TOO, VEGA!"

There was a slight pause, after which she realized that Ballad was no longer sitting where he had been. "Um, you alive down there?"

"...oh, just spiffy. Other than the fact that I have a gatling gun crushing my foot, quite splendid, thank you!"

 

Harry was holding what looked to be something very much like his original letter, set on fire and then stomped on by a rather heavy Gun Sniper. "You sure that's a bad sort of response? Look, she included a drawing of me."

The König Wolf nodded and growled. It was lying down with its still-damaged legs splayed out in front and back of it much like those of a real canine when it was tired. It twitched one ear as the sensors shorted in and then out again—its pilot should be fixing that, not angsting.

"Okay, so it's me getting stepped on by her Gun Sniper, but it's still good."

"Ruuuu."

"I guess nobody appreciates good poetry any more."

Maybe someone would pay more attention to it if it bit one of those noisy robots in half, the Wolf pondered. Or it could try and get Harry's sister...what was her name, Mary? to fix it without her squealing over how pretty it was like when she'd first seen it.

"Aaaah! The battle's on, and I forgot!"

Well, there certainly wasn't any hope of getting his attention, then. The Wolf grumbled and shut down once more.

 

The Flauschig, meanwhile, was making full use of its shield. The Fury had taken their fight into a forest, which seemed harmless enough. Unfortunately, said forest was rather scraggly and dry, and both Zoids' boosters were running hot. It hadn't taken very long for it to catch on fire. It now was a mess of rolling flames and burning trees, and smoke billowed dark and thick as Bit and Vega both fought to keep track of their opponent.

"I can't see a thing past the shield," Bit lamented, only a measly blip on a screen telling him where the Fury was. "Oh, for a good 3-D radar system."

At that, the cockpit went dark, the lights dimming to near-imperceptible levels, as the entire top gave way to a wireframe display in shades of neon green. Had Bit not been trying to stay in the battle and alive, it would've been quite fascinating. There was the Fury, slicing through a falling tree and using the claw shields to keep it from getting burnt. Not that it cared much, but Vega did, and it was determined to do a better job of protecting its pilot this time.

"Man, why didn't you tell me you could do that before?"

Shrugging, the Liger murred a warning as the Fury caught wind of their sensor lock, using it to find them as easily as they had it.

"All right, let's get him!" Bounding over a falling tree, the Flauschig plowed through a wall of flames with its shield, bursting through it as the Fury brought its blades forward, leaving the two to clash again. The Fury won, hurling the smaller Zoid into a tree, which promptly fell on it. Only the shield saved it, nearly cracking already from the intense heat.

The Liger was relatively unscathed so far thanks to its shield, but the Fury's armor, while tempered to resist heat from some things, wasn't fairing well in the smoke, and was changing color. Of course, it was going from lavender to a nice shade of ashen grey, so it wasn't going to complain. Nay, this was fun! It enjoyed a good scrap, why couldn't anyone see that? Well, other than Vega, anyway. And as much as it hated that Liger...

Picking up a burning tree in its jaws, the Fury rumbled a challenge, swiping it at the Flauschig, which caught it fearlessly, its eyes blazing a brilliant orange to match the rising flames.

That Liger understood too.

Both Zoids snarled, each trying to push the other over. Fancier weapons forgotten for the moment, they focused only on the tree, like two giant dogs playing tug-of-war in reverse. Neither was going to let go.

Bit caught sight of something on the radar, something at the very edge of his vision—

"Liger! Vega! LOOK OUT!"

The two Zoids jumped clear just in time, a decidedly larger tree crashing down where both of their heads had been seconds before. Battle-lust slightly sobered by the prospect of being crushed, they stared at each other from either side of the treetrunk, flames licking at both of their feet.

"Ready to give up?" Bit quipped, running a hand through somehow still-pointy hair to try and get some of the sweat out of his eyes.

"Heh...not on your life." Vega stared back at him from the video link, which seemed so much brighter against the backdrop of black and green wireframe.

"You know, your hair kinda looks like a mop."

 

The members of Team Tigers had been practicing their whole Zoid-acrobat thing, at least until the whole incident with two of the Tigers colliding. They had long tried to figure out why the Zoids had such a penchant for going down in dramatic explosions, but now was not the time for such things.

"Five bucks says they both go crispy."

"Have a heart, man. Besides, Bit's way too lucky to go crispy."

No, it was much more interesting to watch the ongoing battle on the portable TV one of them had dragged out. Even the Tigers themselves had curled up behind it, though one was missing a leg and another looked quite burnt. They, of course, favored the Flauschig, but kept quiet about it.

 

The Flauschig came flying out of the forest then, its weakening shield sparkling with both its own light and bits of burning tree as they swirled around it. It landed, the shield breaking, and roared, looking far more suited to the name "Helcat" than the original Zoid itself. Shaking embers off its back and mane, it turned to face its rival as it too came barreling out of the forest.

Looking even more like a demon than the Flauschig did, the Fury was now a rather charcoal shade, streaked with black and highlighted by a few still burning pieces of former foliage clinging to it. Echoing the Liger's roar, it rushed the cat Zoid, taking advantage of its lack of shield by again going for the skewer.

Calling up the cannon menu, Bit randomly punched a button, and the Fury found itself driven back by what was now a high-density beam gun rather than a gatling. Undaunted, it blocked with the claw shields and pressed forward, driving the Liger back.

Trying the blades again, the Flauschig went for the Sturm booster on the left, but soon regretted it, when the Fury took advantage of its improved foot boosters to literally backflip over it, smacking the Liger with its tail in the meantime. The feline Zoid turned around, a fraction too slow, and both Bit and the Liger screamed as one of the claws found its mark in the Liger's shoulder.

"Waaaak! Let go!" Kicking out with its non-skewered leg, the Liger left deep slashes in the Fury's leg armor before it was tossed away. Of course, that did him little good, Bit knew. The Flauschig could only use three of its legs, couldn't run, couldn't jump.

Well, well...how about a Liger shish-kebab to go with my Command Wolf?

I still have a few tricks up my sleeves, you Geno Breaker wannabe.

If it's Breaker you want, it's Breaker you'll get. Vega!

"I don't think you shoulda said that, Liger."

Unfolding tail and neck armor, the Fury hovered backwards a bit and then up, charging a CPC. Sturm boosters readying to absorb a lot of the recoil, the Zoid did indeed resemble a Geno Breaker. Of course, Bit didn't know this, and if he had, he wouldn't had cared. All he could focus on was the fact that the Flauschig and he were going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble if they didn't get out of the way, and fast. Hobbling at far too slow a speed to be of use, the cat Zoid rumbled with concern.

 

"I don't see why it needs to watch too."

"It just does. Besides, are you going to tell a hundred-ton cat that it can't have the good TV?" Leon gestured towards the rebellious Zoid in question, which sat with the 'good' TV held neatly in its paws.

"Mmm, good point." Naomi squinted at the screen of an older model flat-screen that they'd kept in case the main one shorted out—NOT in case the Blade Liger commandeered it, blast it—wishing it were in color. "Uh-oh."

Nearby, a red Blade Liger sat with its nose inches from the screen, snarling angrily at the Zoid about to roast the Liger Zero. If it did, who was it supposed to party with then?

 

Energy danced around the Fury's snout, collecting in a ball of deadly soon-to-be-crispy-Liger-ness. Vega grinned as the Flauschig attempted to limp out of the way. No, there was no way it was going to stop him like last time. The Fury smiled as well, its silver teeth somehow taking on the appearance of one...of course, when using a CPC, no one can see you smirk. It really was a pity, the saurian Zoid thought. Oh, well.

Time to die, Liger Zero.

Bit could only watch as the beam reached critical. The Flauschig's leg had given out completely, and it was left dragging it...deadweight. Literally, if what he'd seen that CPC do before was any indication. Didn't Vega realize that he could kill someone with that thing?

Ah, but main characters can't die. No, someone would have to save the day, and someone did.

CRACK! The Fury rocked with the impact from heavy fire, its CPC losing most of its charge as what was left of it ended up shooting haphazardly into the sky. It and Vega whirled as one, the latter's face livid with rage. But who...?

Of course.

"Hey for a third time, buddy." Shineryuu's voice was hoarse, sounding rather tired. The Command Wolf of DOOM! stood some distance away, large portions of it held together by flickering blue energy. "This thing won't last much longer. Bit, catch!"

"Whu-huh?" A branch of energy split off from the Wolf, striking the Liger Zero before tapering out. The Flauschig stood once more on four legs, its brilliant armor reflecting both the burning forest and glowing Wolf in a way reminiscent of a disco ball. "All right!"

"Grah...Fury!" The saurian Zoid sprang into the air again, the matte shades of its burnt armor a dark shadow against the fire in the background.

"What do you say we fight fire with fire...one last try, old friend?" The Wolf didn't voice its agreement, but instead answered by clamping footlocks into the ground again after turning to face the Fury.

"There's no way you can take that. And then it'll be back to me and fluffy here." The larger Zoid's CPC charged again, glowing far brighter than the crippled Wolf's.

The Flauschig, however, did indeed have a few more tricks up its sleeve.

"Awesome, it's got a CPC too?" Bit read over the stats for the variable cannon again. Sure enough, he'd missed that part before because he was being lazy and only reading the stuff in kana. Charged Particle Cannon blinked at him in now red kanji, the Liger emphasizing it for his benefit. "Well, let's use it! Hurry!"

The Flauschig's ankle blades swung around to point downwards, and it slammed its paws into the ground as if they were pickaxes. Its frame stiffened—even the tail straightened, whipping around with a snap as the cannon moved into firing position. Already worn cooling systems readied to go into overdrive again.

screeeEEEEEBOOM!—the Wolf and the Fury fired simultaneously, the two beams meeting in mid-air and creating a horrible cacophony of sounds that rather resembled the dial-up modem from Hell.

"Hang on, Wolf, Mach! We can't let everyone down! It wouldn't be nice!" Shineryuu clung to the controls, shielding her eyes with one arm. The Wolf's cockpit glass was starting to crack.

"Stupid thing, you'd better not explode with me fused with your core."

"Shineryuu! Fire, Liger! FIRE!" The Flauschig's cannon glowed from within, outlining one of the only darker-colored areas on the Zoid a burning shade of hot pink...and then its own CPC beam joined the Wolf's, the two merging into a raging spiral that soon threatened the Fury.

"Ryaaaaah!" Digging in its claws, the Flauschig diverted everything it had to the cannon, ignoring the fact that it was melting it own systems. Too absorbed in the battle, Bit didn't even notice the cockpit growing hotter, much less all the warnings blinking on screen.

"No...I can't lose! I WON'T!" The Fury, too, was overheating, struggling valiantly to counteract two CPC beams and hover in mid-air at the same time. It would not let Vega down. It would not lose. Never. Not if it had to take the Liger Zero on with a blunt spork.

Something had to give, really. It was inevitable. The sandy ground had long since melted to glass and now the glass was melting, and everything was growing more blinding and noisy in an exponential sort of way.

 

The entire area rocked with the force of a massive explosion. The Shadow Fox's head bounced and landed upside-down, and Rinon's Sniper fell over again, causing Ballad to plunge to the ground for a second time, cursing. He had just gotten back up, and—oh, how nice, a shockwave, complete with lots of dust.

Coughing, he tried to get enough dust out of his eyes to see, but to little avail. "Rinon! Can you see anything? Are they alive? Where's Shineryuu?"

"How should I know? Argh, I can't tell if they're even moving, it's so thick." She started coughing too, as she'd made the mistake of opening the cockpit soon after the initial dust wave. "That took out my sensors. BIIIT!"

 

Still-cooling glass sizzled and crackled. Occasional bits of Command Wolf of DOOM! were spread throughout. The main body of the Wolf lay half-melted into it, a portion of its front seared with lines of CPC energy. Mach sat on its head, though, Shineryuu leaning on his shoulder. He'd gotten them both out in time.

The Liger Zero and the Fury both slowly got to their feet, breaking free of the ruined ground in showers of blackened glass. Both shed armor as they did so, what was still left of it and not fused into the glass ruined anyway.

No words were exchanged. No words needed to be. The two Zoids, armorless and both near collapse, sprang for each others' throats, the Liger leaping over the fallen Wolf before lunging for the Fury. They hit the glass—you couldn't really call it dirt any more—scratching and biting and clawing. Both seemed berserk at this point, rolling on the ground snarling and hissing at each other.

Finally, the Liger got hold of the Fury's neck, laser fangs finding vital systems even as it started to slump from exhaustion. The Fury gave one last screeching cry, slamming a foot into the Liger's belly and sending them both into a command system freeze at the same moment. Flopping to the ground half on top of each other, neither Zoid moved for a few seconds. Then the Liger's tailtip twitched once, the Fury muttered something that Vega thought sounded like "oh, fishsticks", and the two Zoids shut down completely.

"Ghhh...hey, Vega, you okay over there?"

"Yeah. What, you though I was gonna miss half the excitement like last time?" There was a pause, and the Fury's cockpit opened. Vega clambered out slowly, an exhausted grin on his face. "That was fun."

"Yeah," Bit said, also smiling in a rather dazed sort of way. "I haven't heard the judge call it a draw yet. Maybe we blew him up." He leaned out the side of the Liger's now-open cockpit, enjoying the feel of the wind in his hair as it started to clear away the smoke.

"I think we kinda blew everything up." Vega gestured to the ring of glass with a tired hand. "'S kind of pretty, you know."

"Yeah, it's all shinyyyy."

Suffice it to say, both pilots were rather out of it.

 

Jamie, too, was wondering why the judge was still standing there, its arms crossed impatiently. He'd taken the Raynos out to the edge of the Hover Cargo's ramp after the explosion in an attempt to see what had happened. Wait. The Raynos. It wasn't frozen.

Jamie hopped the Raynos off the edge of the ramp. The second its feet left it, the judge spoke up.

"Took you long enough to realize that, didn't it? Oh, well, at least this is done and I can move on to my next job. If I even get there. Battle...all over! Winner, Team Blitz! Bye now."

Jamie blinked. That meant...he'd won the battle? Him? Jamie? "Hey, cool—"

"ALL RIGHT! Woo! We wonnnn! Way to go, Bit!"

Bit had done a lot of the work, but if his Raynos hadn't been around, they wouldn't have won on a silly technicality, would they? Was it too much to ask for a little credit? "Um...I was the one who—"

"You rock, man, that was some fight."

It seemed so. "That's it, I'm gonna go sulk again. And I don't care if that makes me a clichéd angsty teenager, darnit, I WANT to angst!"

The Raynos squawked in protest to such an immediate return to the Hover Cargo, but knew it was better than being stuck with an angsty pilot. They tended to ramble, and it couldn't handle much more rambling right now. The Shadow Fox had taken to it since the whole Shineryuu thing, very distressing. Perhaps it should get its pilot to talk to the Fox. They could ramble angstily together. Was angstily even a word?

The Hover Cargo trundled slowly out to the battlefield, going to pick up the scattered pieces of Team Blitz' Zoids.

 

"Talk about cheap! Fury's gonna be bummed when he wakes up." Vega was sitting on the Zoid's head, picking bits of glass off of it and his jacket. He had quite a pile of them now, all sharp and shiny. "Hey, Bit?"

"Mmmm...what?" Bit opened one eye and then closed it again, resuming the nap he'd been taking. The edge of the Liger's cockpit wasn't the best of pillows, but he didn't care. "So tired..."

Vega shrugged and resumed his glass project. There wasn't much he could do about it. Fury'd have to be content with a draw in spirit, if not a real one. Stupid rules. Stupid—ooh, a piece of glass shaped kind of like a Cannon Tortoise. You didn't see that every day. Yawning, Vega decided that Bit might have the right idea, and curled up on Fury's head, being careful not to knock the glass off. Sarah would probably make him get rid of it. Too dangerous, she'd say, never mind he'd piloted the Zoid that'd MADE it.

Falling asleep...yep. Maybe Fury'd be up and moving when he woke up. That'd be nice. They could play card games again.

 

Final Excerpt From "Vega's Stupid Boring Diary Thingie":

At least this time they're more experienced at fixing Fury's armor, but that same person is still playing that dumb radio station. Do you have any idea how weird it is to have someone else having a song stuck in your head?

I think we're going to retire from Zoid battling. Travel. See the world. We could maybe join up with Team Tigers—I heard they were quitting and instead going on the road as the first ever team of Saber Tiger acrobats. Of course, lavender doesn't really go with yellow. I don't think Fury'd want me to paint him. Maybe Team Tigers would paint their Zoids lavender?

 

"You did WHAT now?"

"I ate your necklace. I'm sorry, really. I was so tired. I was out of it, and wandering around the base, and those blue things turned out to be part Zoid Magnite."

Like the proverbial cat caught with the canary, Mach was sitting with a lone feather dangling out of his mouth. Ballad looked as though he were going to scream.

"AAARGH!"

Correction, he was going to scream.

"Please don't shout like that." Shineryuu, not wanting to see anyone fighting, was trying to pull Ballad away from her organoid. "And no strangling."

"But he...gah...that necklace was special. I can't remember why, mind you, but it was."

"Come on, let's get some coffee and go sort out which scorched pieces belong to which Zoid."

 

Finally fixed, Harry's König Wolf stood proudly in the hangar door once more, taking in the view of the sunset. The snow white of its armor reflected the fading light, giving normally sharp angles a watercolor appearance. Its pilot was sitting nearby, rather quiet by anyone's standards, and very much so for him. Harry seemed to have given up on poetry for the moment, although the fact that he was also reading a book on the painting of Zoids made the Wolf wonder if it would stay in its present color scheme for long.

So long as it wasn't pink or labeled with anything involving that girl.

"You know, I could paint you to match her Gun Sniper. Stick a few gatlings here and there. Ah, that's a no, isn't it." Harry had correctly identified the shadow that had fallen over his head as being the Wolf's foot. "Just a gatling gun, then?" The shadow disappeared, and Harry grinned. "Oh, yeah, that reminds me...about that poem. Woah!"

Harry wasn't quite sure why his König Wolf had dropped his sister's Leoblaze on his head, but he did take the hint.

"Well, I don't suppose you'd want to hear this."

To his surprise, the garishly-painted Zoid curled up happily in front of him. A captive audience that didn't hate him, tell him to get a life, or threaten to step on him after a few hours? This was new.

He now had no idea what to say. It was such an unusual occurrence.

The Leoblaze wondered what was up. Reaching out with one silver claw, it carefully nudged Harry's shoulder. Harry fell over. Harry was now yelling at it. Oops, perhaps that hadn't been very careful.

"Ow! Hey! I'm trying to think, gimme a minute!"

The Wolf wished it had a hangar of its own. Lucky humans, they had rooms. Then again, they also had all these reasons to angst. When was the last time you saw Zoids worrying about what kind of flowers to send a girl? Then again, here it was, wondering if it'd make things better or worse if it did bite that girl's head off.

This wasn't good. And here none of its common sense ever seemed to rub off on the guy. Well, it could only keep trying. It'd be more careful of the angst, though. Whatever caused it, it sure was contagious.

 

"And yet another exciting victory for Team KawaiiSugoiNeko, which seems to be recovering nicely from its devastating loss against the famous Team Blitz. Is there anyone they can't beat?"

"Me." Jack Sisco was stretched out on his Lightning Saix's head, listening to the radio on its external speakers. "Everyone forgets that."

"You mean us."

Kelly and Chris both were out watching the meteor shower that night too, although they were sitting in front of the latter's Saix. Jack shrugged, and the second announcer—a perky woman, by the sound of it—continued babbling mindlessly about the day's battles.

"GET DOWN TO BOB'S RENT-A-ZOID TODAY! BIG ZOIDS, LITTLE ZOIDS, ALL OF 'EM CHEA—"

The sudden increase in bass and overall volume caused both Jack and his Saix to jump, and he found himself falling to the dirt, the obnoxious commercial blabbering on unawares.

"Turn that off! Turn it...geh..." Upside-down, he kicked the Saix's ankle until it got the idea and did so. Chirring raspily with amusement, it watched its pilot get up and straighten his golf-club-like headband with as much dignity as he could muster.

"Told you not to sit up there."

"Yeah, yeah."

 

"Oooooh. Pretty."

Bit and the Liger were the only members of Team Blitz who were out that night. Shineryuu and Ballad were too busy fixing their Zoids—still in pieces—and Jamie was off...somewhere, he didn't know. Rinon might have come out here to follow him, but since he was hiding, she hadn't bothered.

He had quiet, for once. And he chose to spend it in the most logical of ways: blasting loud music. And singing along, too, in between commenting on some of the more shiny meteors. No one there to tell him he was off-key, and more importantly, no one to whack him over the head to shut him up, and then a few seconds later chase him demanding to help him by kissing it to make it feel better. Scary mood swings Rinon'd been having lately, there.

The Liger Zero, too, was content. The Schneider and Flauschig both trashed, it had worn the Jäger out here, opting for the armor that was less likely to be seen. Okay, so it still had white bits...but it could make a quicker getaway. The Gun Sniper pilot's recent actions scared it as well. Why were humans so horribly unpredictable?

"Wonder who else is watching this, eh, Liger?" The Zoid rumbled a quiet reply. "I kinda miss traveling sometimes, you know?"

Bit was in an unusually philosophical mood, it seemed. How he could keep this up and carry on a meaningful conversation while there was rock music playing so loudly the Liger's cockpit shook slightly with the beat was a mystery of the sort that no one can ever solve.

 

"Insert tab A into slot B while rotating joint Q-1..." A book labeled "Shadow Fox Emergency Re-Assembly Instructions" in his hand, Ballad wondered how the heck he was supposed to do something that already required three hands, not to mention holding onto the book. "If I ever meet Doctor Leyon again—" He shoved the book between his knee and the Fox. "—I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind." Trying to hold one of the Shadow Fox bits in his mouth didn't work, and neither did shoving it with his elbow.

"Or at that rate, a piece of your Fox." Blue paw reaching out to steady things, Mach regarded the fluffy-haired pilot with a typical unreadable stare.

"Thanks," Ballad said, his heart not really in it. Besides Mach having eaten his necklace, he never had really trusted that organoid. Sure, he acted nice, but was that just because Shineryuu said to be nice to him? And he was too clever. He'd been about to mutter something about pieces of his Fox. Jerk had stolen his line.

Of course, he could put up with Mach if it meant having Shineryuu around. He thought of her beautiful eyes: elegant orbs of crystal golden aquamarine and shimmering garnet vermilion mauve. Such an unusual color...perfectly natural, though, she'd said. Not contacts, nope.

He'd been half-subconsciously still working on the Fox, and in his daydreaming had gotten its head re-attached. It whirred happily and wuffed a hello, but it went unnoticed by Ballad, who stood there, hearts in his eyes once more.

"You know, you could probably screech and he wouldn't notice you." Mach rolled his eyes. While he understood the whole love thing humans talked about, this was just silly. "Wait, that was sarcasm—"

"AAAAAiiiiiiiieeeeEEEEErrooooooOOOO!"

"...ow. My ears."

"Oh, hey, Fox. Suppose I should get the rest of you together now, huh?"

"Mach? Ballad, dear? Could you guys give me a hand with this?"

The Shadow Fox found itself abandoned, still damaged. Oh, figures. It growled at the side of the hangar containing the Command Wolf of DOOM!, half-assembled, half in pieces all over the floor. So busy growling and glaring, it nearly didn't notice Jamie walking up to it. Stopping for the moment, it turned its head to face the other neglected member of Team Blitz.

"Um...I can't help but think that my Raynos has been saying I should talk to you. I know that's not very sane, but hey, here I am telling that to an AI, hehheh." Jamie laughed nervously, one hand behind his head. "But no one else will talk to me, and I suppose Zoids at least listen..." Looking up at the pair of orange eyes that now focused directly on him, Jamie sighed. "And I suppose I should fix you, too, if he isn't going to."

Now they were talking. The Fox lifted its right front leg, pointing out how badly it wobbled when it did this...

 

A few days went by, the team having taken a week off to recover. Who was going to deny them that? They had beaten a supposedly unstoppable Zoid—twice. One of those times had been doing the ZBC quite a favor in the process, too.

Things were pretty much quiet. Not quiet enough to be boring, thankfully. But there weren't any spectacular explosion of coffeemakers, either. Bit helped fix the Liger's armor, Rinon chased him a few times, Bit hid in the storage bin for the Liger's armor...things like that. The Command Wolf of DOOM! slowly neared re-completion, and Jamie kept from angsting by busying himself fixing the Fox...and then when he finished that, polishing it until it shone almost as much as Harry's ex-Command Wolves in spots.

The Fox, of course, loved it, although it was a bit disappointed that its shinier theory proved false: Ballad still ignored it. Alas. But now it had a new friend, if even an angsty one. Jamie had potential to be a good pilot, it thought, if he'd stop being so nervous all the time. Good pilots took care of their Zoids, unlike some it could mention. The kid had even kept checking up on his Raynos while he was working so frantically on getting it up and running, the Fox remembered.

"All right, everything's in order." Jamie patted his Raynos' snout, the smallish Zoid sitting quietly where it always did. Now for the Fox.

Walking past Command Wolf of DOOM! bits on the floor, Jamie soon reached the Shadow Fox, which greeted him with a swish of its tail. He'd been thinking...Ballad used to always take the thing out for runs, hadn't he? Well, there had to be something to that. While the Raynos was nice, it couldn't really run, and flying was different. So...

"Hello, Fox. Wanna go for a walk...er...run?"

Uncertain as the request was, it was exactly the right thing to say if you wanted the Shadow Fox to start bouncing up and down as if someone had tied giant springs to its claws.

"Uh, that's a yes, I take it?"

 

The Saber Tiger stood inert as energy crackled around the blades aimed at its face, seeming to not notice. The Fury attached to said blades stabbed—

—and missed by near inches, stopping perfectly short. It roared, spinning the claws and setting off a spectacular light show of afterimages in what was rapidly becoming a night sky as it swiped the arm in neat arcs around the Saber Tiger. Finally, the cat acted, backflipping clean over one of Vega's swipes and firing point-blank...confetti-filled shells, that is, and landing behind him as he brought the second claw swinging over his head like a giant pointed baton.

"Let's see if we can get it right this time. Annnnd...now!"

Two more Saber Tigers, their yellow and blue paint polished to a gleaming shine, bounded over the Fury, landing neatly as it snapped at them in mock-anger, fangs ablaze like its claws. It slammed footlocks down, craning its head upwards as it charged its CPC at a lower power than usual, moving the Buster Claws in front of its face and raising an oddly-shaped shield. The reason for it was made clear when it fired, and the CP beam went swirling up into the sky. Twisting around like some bizarre tornado, it soon formed a brilliant circle of power, much like the ring of fire necessary for many a clichéd circus act finale.

Except this ring could probably slice a Zoid in half...which first Kirkland and then Lineback's Saber Tigers had lost a limb in testament to, until they'd discovered Omari had more of a talent for leaping through the thing.

Snarling a challenge, the middle Tiger charged the ring, the painfully neon pink of the shield reflecting in its green eyes.

 

"I don't think we should go back either," Jamie said. "My Raynos'll probably be the only one who notices I'm gone, and I bet he'll be fine with some other pilot anyway."

The Shadow Fox wuffed in sympathy, continuing along its steady course away from the Team Blitz base and towards the setting sun.

"Yeah, and Ballad's been ignoring you ever since that girl came along. Little Miss look-at-meee, I have an organoid and a horrible tragic past. I bet she made it all up."

"Raoooo?"

"Well, don't worry, you won't have to be upstaged by Liger Zero anymore either." Jamie could have sworn he heard the Shadow Fox purr at that, although he knew foxes didn't purr. "I heard Vega and Team Tigers have quite an act in the works, but they could use someone to jump through the Flaming Charged Particle Cannon Ring of Death. Omari's always worried that his Tiger's going to lose a foot or two. It'd be something to do, at least."

The Shadow Fox yipped in agreement, a bit of a spring entering its step. Finally, a job where it'd be appreciated for its agility and speed once more!

"So it's settled, then. Okay, Fox, here's the co-ordinates where I last heard they were..." Jamie's fingers flew over the console, entering a short string of numbers and information. The Fox paused for a second as it got its bearings, and then bounded off with a cheerful howl. The setting sun caught the golden metal of its cockpit for a moment, sending light cascading over nearby rocks, and the Shadow Fox and Jamie were on their way.

 

From the top of yet another cliff, a dejected Harry watched them from the cockpit of his König Wolf. The sleek creature mirrored its pilot's mood, sitting with its head lowered and ears flattened in what could only be sorrow, even in something as inexpressive as a robotic canine. Needless to say, his second attempt at poetry had been even more poorly received than the first, and even he was starting to lose hope. Sort of. Kind of. Well, maybe. But for the moment, he was depressed.

"There they go, Wolf." The König Wolf growled a soft question, and the controls to the comm system started blinking.

"Heh, maybe we should go with them. We forgotten souls have to stick together." Harry activated a comm link to the running Shadow Fox. "Hello? Jamie? Hello!?" Nothing. "Blast, no answer." Harry sighed. "I think he's got it sent to ignore people. Story of my life, Wolf, story of my life."

"Aruuuuu."

"Nobody likes me, everybody hates me...worms, WORMS!"

"AaaaoooOOORUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuu." The König Wolf raised its goggled head to the sky, howling a story of lost loves, rejection, and...worms. Its call echoed over the landscape, the higher-pitched howls of a few wild Command Wolves the only answer.

 

Back at Team Blitz's base, it was doubtful if anyone was paying enough attention to have heard the wolf-type Zoids. Ballad had discovered his missing Shadow Fox and was angsting about it, while Shineryuu attempted to comfort him, promising to help him find a new Zoid with the help of Mach, who would be more than happy to fuse with something and make it all big and pointy and strong and stuff. Doc was off in prettyshinymodelZoidsland again, and was presently sending a Storm Sworder after a gold Command Wolf. The Wolf grabbed a silver CP-04, and blasted the Storm Sworder out of the sky with much dramatic shouting. And explosions, of course. Explosions were pretty and shiny too.

As for Bit...well.

"There is NO way I'm opening this cockpit, Rinon!" The teen in question was currently cowering in the cockpit of his Zoid, his one remaining defense against the now even scarier Rinon. Being whacked with blunt objects, thrown out windows, that he could handle. But this?

"Not even for this whole box of doughnuts, Bit-chaaaannn~?"

Now that just wasn't fair.

"Promise you won't try to kiss me again?"

"Of course, sweetie!"

"All right, but move back a little."

The Liger growled a warning, but Bit couldn't resist. They looked so tasty, those doughnuts...all covered in powdered sugar, frosting, sprinkles. He opened the hatch just enough to lean out and—

"GOT YOU!" Rinon leapt for the teen the second his hand was on the box of doughnuts, somehow managing to clear the distance between herself and the box in seconds. The only thing that saved Bit was the lightning-fast reflexes he had picked up as a pilot, which enabled him to roll to the right, doughnuts in hand. Rinon missed getting a hold on his vest by mere inches. Unfortunately, Bit also happened to be on the edge of a Zoid cockpit.

That floor sure was a long way down.

He scrambled to his feet and took off in the sort of sprint one achieves when powered by sheer terror, leaving behind several rather smushed doughnuts. Rinon followed rapidly on his heels, shouting something about giving back the doughnuts before she had to hurt him. And then marry him. The latter spurred Bit into an even more frantic dash, speeding through the hallways in hopes of finding a safe haven for himself and the flattened pastries.

Had Jamie still been there, he would doubtless have been sighing.

"Do you think those two are ever gonna stop that?" Rinon's Gun Sniper turned to its two companions. "She's been ignoring me, just like poor Shadow Fox."

"At least your pilot's still here," the Raynos pointed out. "Then again, at least I won't have to listen to Mister Angst any more." It sighed, watching first Bit and then Rinon run past the hangar door again for what it thought was the eleventh time.

"Doesn't look like they're going to be stopping anytime soon," the Liger commented dryly, turning its head toward the other residents of the hangar. "Anyone else want to see if Leon's Blade Liger is doing anything tonight?"

 

End.


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