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Rematch, sans Backdraft – I Hate Titling Things!

Rematch, sans Backdraft

I guess I should introduce myself—I'm Bit Cloud. You probably know my name if you like Zoids, 'cause me and my Liger Zero won the Royal Cup last year. It's really only been eight months, but man, has it been some fun times. We've had all kinds of great battles in Class S, and some with our old rivals too. I don't care about the class differences, real class is the stuff people like them show in battle. Yeah, bad joke, sorry! I wouldn't be hanging around writing if I didn't have a cool story to tell, so I'll get to that. It's about me and Liger, Stoller, the Elephander, and us finally getting that rematch.


Stoller showed up at the base one day, walking in quietly like some blue cat, or some blue cat-eyed man. I don't remember what everyone else was doing, but I was working on Liger's leg, chatting about the suspension. He said had a challenge for me. Not the rest of my team, just him and me and the Elephander. Was I interested? Like he didn't know my answer! I told him I'm always up for a fight, and he just nodded. He looks like a cat when he nods too, with the way he kinda dips his chin.

"How about some stipulations...to make it more interesting?" Interesting meant fun in Stoller-speak.

"What kinda stipulations?" I said, and he told me. I'd be using plain ol' Zero, no armor changing. Before I could say too much about that being unfair (he was good at interrupting for a quiet guy), he told me the rest. He'd have his Elephander, the fighter mode with the energy saber trunk. No shield, no gatling, no tricks, he said; just claw versus sword and Zoid versus Zoid.

This was going to be great.

I slept in Liger's head the night before the battle. I do that sometimes, it's cozy and smells a bit like snack food because of the bags I shove under the seat. Chips help me think, and he likes the company.

We headed to battle alone. The only guy who'd see us fight was the judgeman, and that was how it should be. Liger agreed. I could feel him getting all wired and fired up, same as me. I wasn't so much riding him into battle now as we were running together, and I held back a growl as we reached out destination and the Elephander came in sight. We were in a plain studded with rocky hills, plenty of room for me to run but cover for the Elephander. Fair's fair.

The judgeman rang things in. I twitched in anticipation and Liger's toes twitched with me before we were rushing forward, boosters blazing and claws tearing up the ground. It really was like flying as we weaved around the shots fired our way, but the real fun started as we got close to the Elephander and Stoller whipped out the saber. He was serious now, and so were we.

We finished with the fancy charging business and lunged into a hard right spiral of a turn, rolling almost onto our shoulder and swiping lefthand claws at the 'Phander's knee along the way. Stoller kicked for our head and boosters flared again, trying to pull us far enough away. He'd missed, but so had we, and he didn't miss the second time he kicked. We learned the hard way not to get right behind the Elephander then, in a bone-jarring kick to the ribs sense of hard.

That didn't keep us down for a second, and we were waiting for the saber trunk as the Elephander turned, meeting sword with flaming Strike Laser slap. Sparks flew along the Phander's trunk and past our eyes as we reared up, parrying Stoller's second lunge with equal fury. The Elephander trumpeted, shifting ever backward as we clashed. For every bit of power it and Stoller had, we had momentum, we had speed, we has us. There could be no better match—it was like dancing and fencing all in one, with the swords replaced by your own two hands and a partner twice your size.

Our claws grew chipped even as the lightblade grew dimmer—no dance could last forever. There were rocks, now, where there had been grass seconds ago. The Phander took stand against one of them, blaring defiance and lashing out with a rearing two-legged kick far harder than the last. What had been the swing of a claw became two impossibly loud cracks as its attack connected, flinging our legs around and our jaw to the sky. We lashed out blindly, left claws raking a satisfying tear in the Elephander's belly and shoulder as we flew back to hit the ground hard. The tips of our claws stayed behind, overheated razor edges snapped off. We saw them for a split second, lodged in the Elephander's chest and glowing red-hot, and then the trunk came around for a follow-through, whipping across our already battered face.

Stabilizers screamed and blood spilled, but what were loose caps and a bitten lip? Nothing! We roared, both of us, and flung ourselves at the 'Phander, teeth and claws flailing for the prize of the saber generator before it could recharge. The Phander roared right back and reared again, raising its trunk out of reach and slamming its feet into our chest with all the rage of a cornered animal. That's what it was, with Stoller guiding its fear and anger into focused skill the same way we rode together. For all the slashes of burning metal I drew across its flanks as we snarled and rumbled and snapped, it paid things back equally with the crushing force of its feet.

At last we stopped, settling back and moving a few lengths away from Stoller and the Elephander. Some understanding passed between us, and it charged its trunk again, energy conduits struggling to keep the sword's shape. We charged our claws in turn, shunting power from what was left of the left set entirely to the right until it burned, laser-feel tinged with the tingling pain of overload. Lightning fast, we jumped, boosters taking us into the path of an upward cut in a spectacular light show. It was blinding, almost beautiful, and gone in a flash. The trunk shorted out as our claws poured out the last of their charge and we rocketed forward. For a moment, we thought of the past: tearing through the Phander's shoulder as Jäger, breaking a blade the same way as Schneider. It wouldn't go that way this time.

Claws dulled and legs kicked to pieces, we hit the Phander's shoulder hard and drove into it like a linebacker, whiplash proving cruel as the clawed end of our leg stayed put and the rest of us continued on. We broke free as we backflipped into the rock, and we fell. Fell, and stayed down. We tried to rise on three legs and failed, the Elephander's shredded trunk blindsiding us and sweeping us in front of its feet with the subtlety of bricks on string. Slowly, its right leg wobbling, the beast raised one great foot, bringing it down over our neck.

Stoller stopped it short of a crushing blow, too honorable a man to finish a downed enemy when his victory was already won. We surrendered then, combat systems shutting down in a gesture of amused defeat.

The judge took off, and that was it. I jumped down from Liger and watched my buddy shift his ruined leg around until he'd gotten himself into a sort of dignified cattish lounge. He rumbled weakly and I grinned right back. He'd had fun too. I waved to Stoller as he walked over. "That was awesome!"

"You continue to impress me. Fencing is not commonly a skill found in Liger pilots." He sounded tired and happy and calm all at once, which is about how I was minus the calm. He offered his hand, so I shook it.

"Well, me and Liger aren't exactly common, y'know!"

"No, you certainly aren't." I'm not sure if Stoller thought I was funny or if he was thinking of other things. But he was smiling, looking at me and then at Liger. I think he could tell Liger was staring right back.

"So, Bit Cloud. Same time, same place, a month from now?"

I grinned and Liger roared approval. "Wouldn't miss it!"

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