Disclaimer: I don't own Zoids.
The southernmost tip of the Elemian sub-continent of greater Europa, a few miles away from the tip of the edge of the polar regions. It's the winter time, and that meant that the normal desert terrain of the area had been iced over to the extreme. Snow reached out for miles around, up to five feet deep in some places. It was early morning now, around 4:00 AM, just before sunrise. Tracks lead from the iced over beach straight up to the snowed in facilitiy once known only as "Project X." The place was once the home of the Death Saurer revival project, and more than a few black ops projects before that.
As the sounds of an old defense program kicking in ring through my ears, it's also the place that I didn't want to be in at the moment. For several seconds, the sounds of something being sprayed echoes through my ears, and then, as rapidly as it had begun, it stops. The Zoid entrance slides shut and there's a vague crackling sound.
My name is Lieutenant Thomas Schubaltz. I'm a member of an elite task force commissioned jointly by the Guylos Imperial and Helic Republican governments known solely as the Guardian Force. And you... Well, you're not exactly catching me at my best, alright?
That sizzling sound around the cockpit is was tips me off first. Acid. If the sound isn't enough to tip me off though - and it is - the wretched stench of metal being seared by what sounds like sulfur sure as heck is. The hesitation lasts less than a second as Beke beeps and screeches frantically, cold or no cold, I have to get ou-...
The cockpit's been sealed shut by the burn of the acid. I'm trapped like a bug in a glass jar under a magnifying glass...
"Hello there," an automated voice kicks in as that crackling sound returns, followed up by a blurred, slightly distorted hologram. Older technology so it's to be expected. "My name is Professor Arnold Schubaltz, you are trespassing on Imperial territory that requires a Class X clearance code. You only used a Class G. Did you really think the Empire's greatest minds would be unguarded, even after abandoning this place?"
Dad? I always knew he was in on something but the project that started the revival of the Death Saurer?!
"You have one hour before the acid eats through the material of your Zoid cockpit and consumes you. You will die an extremely... Unpleasant death."
... Well... All things considered, this really isn't looking to be one of the good days.
Maybe, like me, you're wondering just how I got into this whole mess...
"So you want me to investigate this... 'Project X' place?" I asked.
The Emperor, a boy who has more maturity than most grown men I associate with on a weekly basis, simply nods to me.
"Yes," he says with another nod. "'Project X' is a relic of harsher times within the Empire, when Prozen had some power and my grandfather's influence was starting to wane." I pause and ask another question.
"Is there some reason you want me to do this alone?" I asked.
"Yes. As much as I trust Van and the other members of the Guardian Force, you're the only one with the right combination of technical skill, piloting ability, loyalty and caution for the job. I'll leave it at your descretion as to whether or not you allow them to come along but if possible, I'd prefer you do this alone," he tells me with a grim look on his face. Kids shouldn't look that old...
But I just nod again. "In other words... Fiona wouldn't understand the layout and would get lost and taken out by the defenses, Karl would get blown to smithereens, Irvine has no loyalties to the Empire or anyone else but himself and would leak it to the press for cash, and Van would blindly charge in and get killed because he lacks common sense," I reply sarcastically.
"Excluding the fact that Van and Fiona are also on their honeymoon, yes."
Joy.. He just had to remind me of that...
"'Project X' is an embarrassment, Thomas. It has no place in Guylos history, let alone in Guylos territory."
"I'll do it then. Alone, as ordered," I reply before heading for the door. "Be careful Schubaltz," I hear him order.
I probably didn't even need to bring along Beke, right?
"Let it be said that the Guylos Empire is not entirely coldhearted. At the heart of this base, there is a pool loaded with a solution designed to regenerate and stimulate Zoid growth and development. As a side-effect, it can stop the effects of the acid now ravaging your Zoid. Reach it within the hour and live..."
... Gee... I never thought Dad had it in him, ya know?
"Fail and die a prolonged, agonizing death."
Yeah. Dad always was a bit weird, but this? I think if I live through this I'm gonna have to have a nice, lengthy talk with the old coot.
But when he puts it that way...
I wheel around the Dibison and Beke screeches to the left, pausing our movement and allowing me to get a full view of an old pair of Iron Kong-type Zoids. Hm. Firewalkers. Big, a little outdated by about ten years and still packing enough weaponry to level a frontline Zoid even with as outdated as they are. Sleepers or Zoids with warped Cores, I'm not sure which given how they're moving but I do know that all of that ordnance and all of that armor is weighting them down. That makes them slow, even compared to the speed of the Dibison.
Charging forward, I swerve to the side and smack off of one of the huge walls of the base, avoiding a wall of lead and plasma that could make even Van feel a little lightheaded. I'm honestly glad I skipped breakfast today...
Swiftly bringing the Dibison up to point blank, I solidly plant one of the horns straight into the chest-region of the first Firewalker, stabbing it at just the proper angle to sever about half of the connections to its Zoid Core. Karl would probably be impressed, but that doesn't matter. Using the Dibison as an anchor, I lift the flailing Firewalker up and smack it into its partner, unloading with the face-mounted rocket launchers at point blank. The explosions are a bit bad given how close I am, but I'm too pressed for time to give much thought to it.
Beke is a little annoyed that I didn't consult him first, but he'll get over it.
If we live.
"Nothing personal guys, but I'm in a bit of a rush so..."
That said, I forcibly yank the Dibison's head free of the damaged Firewalker, breaking half of it off and leaving the other half embedded firmly into the thing's chest before turning back down the corridor and taking off again.
Making the run for a good few more seconds I pause. I'm in a fork in the pathway and none of the signs are very well lit. I can tell the Zoid's reaction times are starting to fade a little.
"What's the damage Beke?" I ask.
It's not good. While the acid only sprayed across the Dibison's head, it was enough to get at the right places to slowly eat away at the connections to other systems. The smell is getting worse.
This isn't good... Dad is still living in Guygalos, he hasn't left the house without my mother in almost eight years because he's confined to a damned wheelchair...
"How will you die, rebel scum?" Another voice asks. I glance around the cockpit and spot, through the slightly blurred view of the right side, a figure blown way out of proportion standing across from the Dibison. "Will you beg? Scream? Plead for an end to your eternal suffering as the acid slowly boils away at you in your private tomb?"
"Prozen's ghost," I muse with annoyance. "You should've gone into cheerleading," I grumble at him. If not for the fact that he's been dead for just shy of six and a half years, I'd almost wonder if he could hear me.
Wait. He's trying to distract me again... Fleh, door number two just shut so that means he was expecting me to charge down the opposite way, which means the opposite way is the one that leads straight to... Okay, nevermind that. Door number one just shut too.
"Beke, calculate the base layout from record and pick a door - quick," I order feverishly, slowing to a snails pace just to try and keep moving. Beke bleeps out twice, so it's through door number two that I go. A shriek of tortured alloy and the door rips apart violently under the weight of the Dibison's charge. I would have just shot it with the main guns but I need to conserve ammo here. No telling what other nasty surprises they left here.
The cockpit light flashes red. Damn. Red light means the system link-up from the cockpit to the main part of the Zoid is beginning to fail. I have twenty minutes before I can't move anymore.
And on top of that, door number two happens to be guarded by a real Iron Kong. It's a Mark 0, the prototype model for the actual Iron Kong. Bigger, faster and more powerful than the Firewalkers, it's also packing weaponry that's only a little out of date compared to the kind of things on a Mark I.
Yep. This just isn't my day.
The Dibison roars as the Iron Kong smacks it roughly into the hardened alloy of the walls. Righting the Zoid again, I take aim at random and deploy the main cannons. The Dibison shudders briefly and lets loose with a focused Megalomax at the Iron Kong. Thank god the thing's a warped sleeper unit at the worst...
The Kong vanishes in a blinding flash of smoke and then I hear a few explosions on the back of my Zoid. Damn. Again.
The defenses managed to squirt some acid into one of the cannons. Firing them damaged one of the barrels and it blew up when I tried for a second shot on the Kong.
It's stepping back out now, damaged badly though. I guess the weaponry might still be close to par with modern technology but its armor isn't. Leaning back into the cockpit I bide my time and allow the Kong to get closer, looking around.
"Beke, are they any defenses you can detect nearby?"
An arrow appears, superimposed on the cockpit glass. It's pointing towards an area down the corridor. I glance to the side of the cockpit again to make sure of things. Good. The second horn is still there. It's going to be tricky but if I can use the Kong like a battering ram...
I slam the accelerator several times but it's no use. I try a fifth time and then scream. "BEKE! Reroute all power from everything straight into the bindings for the accelerator and directional controls!" I order. Beke cherps a few times questioningly. "I don't care, do it!" Bringing the Dibison back up once more, I press the accelerator. Beke's done what I asked, thankfully, and the Dibison charges forward like a 200-some ton bat out of Hell.
Main connections are running out even worse than before. I have to move my neckpiece out of the way and pull my shirt up to keep from puking at the stench of the acid wearing away at the cockpit.
Think, damn it. The heart of the base... Where would the heart of the base be? If Prozen or Dad designed this place, it won't be at the center. Dad's asymmetrical in how he does things, Prozen used the military logic that the center is always the first target.
... I am such an idiot sometimes.
The most heavily defended area will be the heart of the base. Just keep going wherever resistance is heaviest, and if all else fails, slam this big ugly bastard of an Iron Kong wannabe straight through the wall into the opposite corridor.
Speaking of the wannabe, right now I've got it impaled on the surviving horn but I'm not sure how long that'll last. I can feel the cockpit beginning to give way now.
Oh god, the acid's breached the main control units. Beke's shorting out, I've lost control and to make matters worse, there's a laser net a few yards up ahead...
Yanking Beke loose, I tear the helmet from its place atop my head and connected to the cockpit. This is a stupid gamble but if I don't do it I'll die and I intend on living to see my twenty-fifth birthday, thank you very much! For several seconds, I smack at the glass of the right side of the cockpit, where it's weakest. The Iron Kong has its feet planted, good. It's starting to slow us down but the cockpit is beginning to crumple up from how the acid's effected it. I'm almost tempted to say better but it's not.
I raise Beke up and take one shot, random since I don't have time to pick this stuff out very much. The glass at the impact point breaks as intended, and that's where the helmet comes into play. I can't touch the glass myself, it'd eat through my glove and cost me my hand, but I can certainly whack it a few times with my helmet. Holding it by the netting on the inside intended to help cushion shock, I backhand the glass once at the impact point. It gives. A second time and it gives more. I finally throw the damn thing straight through and make a hole big enough.
Oh crap, the Dibison cockpit is crumpling and the Iron Kong can't stop us from hitting the laser net...
I dive blindly, I don't care if the fall is too high to safely pull off, there isn't a choice in the matter.
The distance down is at least twenty feet, and moving at close to eighty miles an hour, it isn't a very pleasant experience. I throw Beke away during the fall, I don't need him crushing me on impact and I don't need me doing the same to him while it happens. The Dibison's head crumples like tin foil at the last second, just as I jump clear, and the laser net does the rest. I can hear the Kong roaring aloud as it's cut into Zoid bits, and I can hear the shrieks of metal and circuitry as the Kong's body gets the same treatment.
Breathing hard and feeling a good bit of pain from the fall, I limp my way over to Beke. I don't know how long I was lying there but it was too long for my tastes. I'm bleeding from the temple too, I'll need to get that checked out since my vision in that eye has begun to blur and tint red. One of my arms has to hang limp as I pick Beke off of the ground.
Damn, I'm good, Beke isn't even scratched!
"Prozen! I'm comin' for ya!" I call out loudly, looking through what had been the laser net to see the burning remains of my Zoid and the Mark 0. I'm gonna miss that thing...
Stepping carefully through the huge doorway and into the massive room inside of it, I find that the promise I had of salvation was a load of crap.
There's a pool here, yes. Dead, warped Zoid Cores are all around too, but the pool is empty. Nothing is there at all but the disembodied Cores. Looking around uneasily, I can see a hologram playing on looped feedback. Prozen. A recording. It figures...
"Good work. It almost pains me to say, after all of that struggle you must have gone through to get here, that your efforts were in vain. The pool is empty, which makes it hard for me to say this..."
Ah shut up.
"You see, without the pool, you're going to die in your cockpit rega-" I silence the hologram with one nice shot right into its projector.
My gamble paid off though. It was crazy, a bit suicidal, but it worked. At least something went right today. The acid had worn away at the cockpit so much that a good few shots into the glass could crack it like an egg shell, though it would have been nice if I hadn't had to come close to dying to get out.
Limply, I make my way to the main control station of the heart of the base. It seems they weren't counting on someone coming without a Zoid, so they didn't make the defenses to detect solitary intruders.
Finally, 'Project X' lays back down to rest like the dead body of hatred that it is. With the defenses at ease, I can proceed with what I set out to do in the first place.
After setting the base to self destruct and taking a few last looks at my downed Zoid, burning like a funeral pyre near the edge of the room, I grab a spare winter jacket, probably left behind by someone in the rush to leave this dump, then limp my way back out. It's a long walk, given I have to take the way I came on foot rather than in-Zoid, but it's okay.
Leaving the base behind, I pause almost an hour later, turning back and watching the base explode. I'll miss my old Zoid. The Dibison was all I ever piloted after I got out of the academy and joined the exchange program, but as the black smoke curls skyward, like the bitter, power hungry soul of Prozen himself, I guess it went out for a good cause. Perhaps Project X, a symbol of old hatreds and bitter memories, is finally buried too...
Perhaps now, we can finally start to really think about the future, instead of living forever in the past, going from one conflict to another.
Author's Note: Hope you enjoyed this! To my knowledge, this is the first Thomas fic without any romance or any other characters from the show but Rudolph and Prozen playing any sort of semi-important role. Cool, huh?