Hullo again. Yes, I'm distracting myself from my main fiction with another one-shot. Very predictable, I'm sure. But, I have been meaning to write this one for a while. It's been tempting me subconsciously for about . . . 3 months? Mwah. Anyway, this is a one-shot involving Raven and Van. Now, I leave it up to you to interpret it how you will. If you want to take the shonen-ai route, be my guest. It's open for debate. But mainly I hope you like it.
Zoids does not belong to me, nor do any of its characters or trademarks.
Too Little, Too Late
The Geno Breaker tore across the desert, lilting slightly to the left. Sand blew up and expanded in its wake, like a comet's tail. Barely a kilometer back, three Gunsnipers and a Command Wolf were hot on the pursuit. They were falling behind steadily though as the pilot of the Geno Breaker forced the thrusters as far as they could go.
But Raven was anything but focused on his flight. Sitting cold in the piloting seat, the same horrible image kept playing over and over in his mind. He couldn't banish it, and nor did he want to. And yet, he couldn't cry either. He wanted to. He wanted to release some of the pain inside him, get it out, clean himself. Forget. He knew that he wouldn't.
"Shadow . . ." he breathed, hanging his head. What was there left to do? There was nowhere for him to go where he'd be accepted or saved. Despite his hand in bringing down the Death Saurer, there was still a price on his head. By fleeing the site of the battle so soon after its end, people had been too suspicious about his "alignment" with Hiltz and Prozen. Reese had come with him, for a while. After two days though, she'd told him that she had to go elsewhere. "Unfinished business" she'd said. He'd seen the look in her eye, and knew it wasn't anything he should interfere with.
And so he'd gone off alone. Into nothing. He'd drifted the deserts of the Imperial and Helic nations, with no real purpose or destination. The Geno Breaker, still damaged from the final battle, fell into worse disrepair, and he hadn't asked Shadow to repair it. He'd been afraid of losing the organoid again; there was no telling what might happen if he fused with the Zoid and they got into a fight. He'd also fallen into disrepair himself, so to speak. Because he was a wanted criminal, he couldn't exactly walk into a supermarket and buy the groceries. Eating had never been high on his priority list anyway.
A warning light started to flash on the display screens. He glanced at it. Thruster power down to 10. Looking away again, he focused on the dry lands ahead. He'd had no choice but to run from the Zoids pursuing him. They had spotted his distinctive Zoid from afar, and knowing its value had given chase. Taken by complete surprise, he'd barely managed to get into the Zoid and start to run. He had no illusions as to what they'd do once they found him. They were desert bandits, pure and simple. He would be killed, and his Zoid sold off in the black market in separate pieces.
It doesn't matter anyway. I don't care anymore. Watching the power metre drop to 3, he saw a dark cluster on the horizon ahead. A quick scan proved to him that it was an abandoned town of some sorts, with all the buildings arranged around a central open square.
"All right then," he said, altering his course fractionally and aiming for the town. "If I have to make a last stand . . . better to do it there than in the desert." Raven disregarded the dull pain and brought his battle instincts to the forefront. It was a case of revenge now, if anything. He'd take at least half of them down, to pay them back for what they'd done.
Skimming low over a roofless hotel, the thrusters finally gave out and the Geno Breaker landed with a crash, right in the square. Disorientated, Raven tilted the controls and brought the beaten Zoid back to its feet. The footlocks clamped down in preparation, but he didn't start charging the Particle gun just yet. He'd wait. He was a very patient man.
Sure enough, within two minutes the first Gunsniper had charged into the opening on his left, and turned on him. The other Snipers and Command Wolf were seconds behind. They fanned out and made a semicircle around him. His comm. unit crackled into life.
"We're taking you down. Nothin' personal, you're just worth a lot of cash, dead or alive. And I think we'll take you dead." Raven curled his lips into a sardonic smile. He flipped the charged particle gun to charge.
"Over my dead body."
"That's the idea." The Command Wolf lunged.
"That was good work Zeke!" Van exclaimed happily as the Blade Liger streaked across the desert. "We made record time on that run from Helios to Guygalos. Be proud, buddy." An approving growl came from the organoid, and Van grinned. It had been rather fun to see just how quickly he could cover the distance between the two capitals, whilst delivering some Guardian Force reports to the Emperor. The missions these days were so easy; nothing at all like bringing down the Death Saurer. It was a welcome change of pace for the Republican.
"It's a nice night. Look how bright the moons are." The twin moons of Zi hung low in the sky, both full and vivid against the satiny black night.
More than anything, Van was looking forward to meeting up with Fiona and Thomas again. He'd been the only one available at the time the mission was issued, seeing as Fiona was studying some newly uncovered ruins with Doctor D and Thomas had gone to work with Karl for a few days. If he'd known where they were, he'd be looking forward to seeing Moonbay and Irvine too. But, them being them, they had vanished somewhere or other after a couple of days of monotony around the base. The two of them had very short attention spans, after all.
A sudden short roar from Zeke brought his attention back to reality. "What is it Zeke?" He looked all around, and finally saw something unusual. Bright flashes of light were erupting in the distance, about three kilometers west of where he was. Van frowned. "That looks like . . . there's a battle going on over there."
He deftly moved the controls and the Blade Liger arced around and was soon running towards the site. "We should check it out. Nobody should be fighting now that the war's over. But, there's always someone who has to ruin it for the rest of us."
As the Liger drew closer, Van could see that the fight was taking place behind some ruined buildings. He could hear the explosions and impacts now, and judging by the fleeting glances he got of the Zoids, there were at least three involved. Once he was close enough, he sped the Liger up and pushed it into a jump, clearing the outer houses and landing on the other side.
He never expected what he saw.
Two Gunsnipers stood to his right, tail guns smoking and obviously just finished firing. Another Gunsniper lay in a twisted heap behind them, half buried in the rubble and wood of a collapsed building. In the middle of the clearing, a Command Wolf had its front legs buried deep in the armored plating of . . .
"The Geno Breaker!" Van cried in surprise. It was a right mess, half crushed and sparking at the joints. He couldn't even see where the cockpit was, as the Command Wolf was in the way, and it had fallen forwards. Familiar burning anger at seeing an unfair fight flared in him, and he flipped on his radio unit to broadcast.
"This is Van Flyheight of the Guardian Force. Stop what you're doing immediately and get out of your Zoids." The Command Wolf roared and pulled its feet out of the Geno Breaker's side, and circled around to join with its teammates.
"It's only one Blade Liger. Let's take it, then we can flog it along with this sorry wreck. Might fetch a better price too," came a defiant voice, presumably from the leader of the gang. Van scowled, and extended his blades.
"I'm warning you! Attacking me will earn you a life in prison."
"Yeah, and killing you will earn us a lotta dough. Get him!" The Gunsnipers dashed sideways and opened fire on him. Quickly Van executed the shield, which sprung outwards and deflected the bullets. The Command Wolf moved as well, and came in head-on for the attack. Van spun the Liger out of the way, feigning to the left but moving right. Jerking awkwardly to a halt, the canine Zoid came at him again. They began a deadly dance, each darting in and out of each others attacks in turn. This guy is good, make no mistake, Van thought as he just got out of the way of a machine gun volley. But I can't believe he brought Raven down so easily . . .
"Shit!" he shouted aloud, both in response to the battle and his realization that Raven must surely still be inside the Geno Breaker. He allowed Zeke to take over the difficult part of piloting, still dodging the Command Wolf's assault, and switched the comm. over to Raven's wavelength. He'd used it enough times to know that only he would be able to hear what he said on it.
"Raven! Raven, are you there?" The Liger skidded into a building with a crunch, before jumping straight up and landing on the advancing Wolf's back, pushing it down. There was silence from the other end of the link, and Van was about to try again when he got an answer.
"Of course I'm here, you moron. Where else would I be?" Well, at least he wasn't dead. That had to be good for something.
"What did you do to piss these guys off?" He used the Liger's jaws to grab hold of the Command Wolf, swinging it around and throwing it into a building.
"I exist. I piss everyone off," came the slightly breathless reply. Though he noticed, Van had to divert his attention back to the Command Wolf. It was time to end this. Slamming on the thrusters, he sped towards the Zoid at top speed and slashed the right blade straight through it. There was a horrible screeching noise, and the Command Wolf fell to the ground in a number of pieces, all detached from the shock of impact.
The two Gunsnipers remained still for a second, and then he heard one of them shout, "Let's get out of here!" and they both turned tail and ran, leaving their friend behind. Van stared after them, seething.
"Lousy no good traitors!" he yelled, getting ready to chase after them. But he stopped, remembering the half-destroyed Geno Breaker on the ground behind him. He turned the Liger back to face it, peering through the cockpit intently at the damage.
"Are you all right in there Raven?" he asked, still trying to see where the cockpit was. There was a very long pause.
". . .No." He blinked. That one word made him nervous.
"What, are you hurt? Trapped?"
". . . Both." Finally he recognized what was making Raven's voice sound so strange. Pain. Quickly he unsnapped his safety belt.
"I'll come get you out. Hold on." Van pushed open the orange cockpit and jumped down onto the concrete. There was a flare of light and Zeke appeared next to him. They both ran over to the Geno Breaker, looking very wretched indeed, and stopped at its midsection. He knew the cockpit was in the chest, but right now the chest was facing the ground. Coming closer, he saw to some relief that the Zoid was actually on its side a bit, and he could see the dull orange cockpit underneath. "Zeke, c'mere. I'll need you to break the glass."
The organoid came forward and they both bent low enough to get under. Van tapped the area of the cockpit he wanted broken, and the organoid slammed his head against it. The glass cracked and shattered, leaving a decent sized hole in it. Van ducked in again and found Raven, twisted at a strange angle in his safety harness and looking at him with a distant expression. "You all right?" Van asked, reaching in to cut away the belt with a knife. Raven winced as he slid free of the restraints.
"You already asked that . . . idiot."
"Would you ease up on the insults just a little? I just saved your sorry neck, after all." The maverick gave him a blank look.
"Sure . . . whatever." Van didn't like the way Raven was so detached from everything. It just wasn't normal, especially not for him.
"Can you get out yourself?" Raven screwed his eyes shut and shook his head. Getting more than a little worried now, Van slid his arms under Raven's back and managed to pull him out without banging his head against anything. He backtracked a bit until he was out from under the Geno Breaker's shell, then laid Raven down on the ground, holding him up with one arm behind his back. He looked exceptionally pale and sick, and kept breathing too fast. Van bit his lip and looked around. Absolutely nothing within sight that could help him do anything, besides the Blade Liger and Zeke. He was beginning to dread the idea of finding out what was wrong, so he stalled for time.
"Seriously, what did you do to get those guys on your back? You haven't done anything in ages, to my knowledge." Raven looked to be on the verge of making some smart-arse comment, but the arrogance in his eyes faded and he just stared straight ahead.
"Nothing. They just . . . saw me and came after me." For some reason, Van didn't think he was lying. The Geno Breaker certainly looked totaled, but he could see that it hadn't been in the best shape before the battle anyway. Something else struck him.
"Where's Shadow?" Instantly, Raven went rigid, though his face didn't change at all. His breathing got worse though, to the point of short gasps. Even before he answered, Van knew.
"They destroyed him," he whispered, still not looking at anything.
"Oh, gods . . . I'm sorry." And he really was. He knew how strong the bond was between a person and their organoid. He couldn't even imagine what it was like for Raven. And he'd lost Shadow twice.
"It was too . . . too fast. I didn't see them coming. I couldn't . . . I couldn't do . . . anything . . ." He suddenly doubled over and started coughing violently. Clamping a hand over his mouth, he heaved and shook, and Van had no idea what to do. He looked at Zeke for help, but the organoid looked just as clueless as he did.
Eventually he stopped coughing, and fell back against Van's arm again. Eyes half closed, he held up his hand and gazed at it. To his shock, Van saw that it was covered in blood. "That's internal bleeding. Oh shit," he said. "I have to get help."
He made to lay Raven down and go to the Liger, but Raven's hand came up and grabbed hold of his shirt. His grip was weak, and he could have easily broken away, but he didn't. Raven turned his dark purple eyes on him. "Don't be retarded Van. You know . . . they won't come. It's too far," he said in a flat voice. Van shook his head. He wasn't hearing this; he wasn't. He didn't want to hear this.
"No, they will. But I've got to call them fast or –"
"Van . . . shut up. There's no one around . . . for miles. They won't get here in time." Much as he tried to deny it, he knew that what the renegade said was true. It was too far. And that meant . . .
"Look, Raven, you can't just . . . give up. You have to fight, like you always do." Raven gave him a slightly annoyed look.
"Much as my hatred towards you has faded . . . I swear . . . if you tell me not to go into the light . . . I will punch you. Somehow." Van had to grin a bit, even though he was going to pieces inside. "Besides," he sighed, still in that horrible dull voice. "At least I'll be out of everyone's way now."
"Oh don't be like that," Van pleaded, feeling incredibly guilty all of a sudden.
"It's true. People know I'm better off dead."
"That's not true!"
"You at least then. You want me dead." Van felt like someone had slapped him hard across the face. He opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again. Did he want Raven dead? No! Of course not! That was only during battle, when he'd been in his prime and killing hundreds of people. He'd thought he wanted Raven to die but . . . looking at it now, he couldn't honestly say he wanted that. Not anymore.
"No I don't." He locked eyes defiantly with Raven's mystified ones. "I wanted you to stop killing people. I wanted you to leave us in peace. I didn't want you to die though." Raven's eyes slid further shut.
"You nearly killed me . . . a lot of times . . ."
"That was different."
"I . . . damn it, I don't know how it was different, it just was!"
"Mmm. Well . . . I appreciate your change of heart. But it doesn't . . . matter to me anyway. I deserve to die . . . I want to . . ."
"Oh would you stop it with the pity party!" Van practically screamed, very frantic at not knowing how to handle this sort of thing. "You don't deserve to die, you lunatic!"
". . . Done too much . . . I do deserve it . . ."
"Is that it? All the people you killed? Well for goodness sake, you think I haven't killed people? You think Karl hasn't? Practically everyone I know has killed people, I don't think they deserve to die." A long time passed before Raven spoke again.
"What . . . is your point?"
"Damned if I have one," he said vehemently. "I just don't want you to go thinking it's the right thing. 'Cause it's not." For once, Raven met his gaze. Van could see the haze of eternal sleep entering his eyes, and knew he wouldn't be there much longer.
"You really believe that rubbish?" Van twitched.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"All right then . . . does that make me . . . forgiven? Or . . . something?"
"I suppose so. Never thought I'd see the day. But then, you were pretty helpful during the battle with the Death Saurer."
"Huh . . . that was . . . an accident . . ."
"Liar." A ghost of a smile flickered across Raven's face.
"Oh shut up . . . you naïve ass . . ."
It took Van a long while to realize that he was gone. It took even longer to accept it. Blinking back hot tears, he looked up at the stars. Get out of this place, and go to Shadow. It's what you wanted. He picked his body up, and returned to the Blade Liger. With Zeke's help, he was able to get him into the passenger seat. He'd get a proper burial back at the base; he'd make sure of it. There would be questions . . . lots of questions. And then he'd have to explain to Fiona, and Thomas, and the others. Would he be able to? And would he cry later? Such things he couldn't foresee, not right now. Nor did it matter. What would come would come. He couldn't stop it.
Once in the pilot's seat, he twisted to look back at him, silent and still. If he hadn't known better, he'd have thought he was just asleep. This is really . . . not the way I thought it would end. He sighed, and turned back to the controls, and endless desert ahead. But perhaps this was the better way, in the end.
"Let's go Zeke. Let's go home."
Notes: Well, not much to say here. That's the first character death I've written, and I'm hoping I stayed close enough to the characters to make it believable. The main inspiration for this story came from various episodes of Cowboy Bebop; namely, "Jupiter Jazz: Part 2", "Waltz For Venus" and "The Real Folk Blues: Part 2".
That's about it for this one-shot. I promise to update "I'll Pity You When You're Gone" by the end of the month. Pinky swear.
EDIT 28/04/05 – Removed song lyrics due to new TOS.