"Here we go," the shopkeeper informed. "Everything you asked for: food, water, and other supplies for your trek in the desert." The stranger pulled money out of a pouch on his belt and laid it on the counter. The shopkeeper accepted the Imperial coin, recognizing the amount to exactly equal to price in Republican currency, before he looked at the man and wished him well. "I hope you find who you're looking for, Mr. Chen."
"Same here," the stranger replied, taking his gear and exiting.
Strangers didn't often frequent this town, not since the days when war hero Van Fleiheit was a mere boy of fourteen and journeyed Zi in search of the elusive Zoid Eve. In the six years following Hiltz's devastating attacks on the planet and the revival of the Death Saurer and Günther Prozen, travel through this sector of the Republic had been slow. Occasionally, Fleiheit would stop by on his way home to the Wind Colony or Guardian Force soldiers would when they came to tear him and his wife from helping care for his sister and her young son. Otherwise, they were left alone. Rumors flew that the war criminal Raven had been seen in the area, but he, his Organoid, and his Geno Breaker had disappeared off the face of Zi five years earlier. So that didn't prevent townspeople from assisting this man, Donnie Chen, in his journey across the brutal sands. He needed the supplies and they needed the economic boost.
He was twenty-four and the only son of the late James and Elsa Chen, Zoid researchers killed by their own experiment. He had been raised by the military until he was fourteen and began wandering Zi. When he was eighteen, he had taking refuge in his parents' old lab during the Death Stinger's onslaught. Now he had returned again in the hopes of finding their killer.
His black hair blew in front of his violet eyes and got caught in the bandage on his right cheek. He lifted a gloved hand to remove it, revealing a fading red mark that once gave away his identity easily. But his hands were even worse: a burn across his right palm had become somewhat of a calling card for him once the Guardian Force had taken notice of it and pieced together his mysterious survival ten years ago.
Children happily played in the street in front of him, and he had to sidestep to avoid them. Six years ago, these same children would have run screaming from him while he merely waited for them to get out from underfoot; he hadn't even considered them worthy enough to step on. In horror, he realized that he was smiling at the memory. He was getting as soft as Fleiheit!
Next thing you know, I'll be so sentimental that I'll be struggling to save my reputation like that mercenary friend of his, he predicted wryly.
A walk across the dunes later, he reunited with someone ten years ago he wouldn't dream of calling his partner. The black Organoid was the whole reason why he could walk around without being recognized so easily. Constant need for the human to merge with him had altered his physique, darkening his hair and all but erasing the mark on his cheek.
The Organoid growled a feral hello that only amounted to the human's name.
"Shadow," he answered. "Have you spotted him?" The response was the Organoid equivalent of "no." "Fine then. Let's head back to the lab. Maybe he got as nostalgic as we did."
Panels of Shadow's body opened to free cables that secured Donnie Chen in his innards. When the panels re-closed, both man and Organoid flew through the air to the old lab on the outskirts of town. The panels then opened once more, but an entirely different man emerged. Wanderer Donnie Chen was gone, and in his place was maverick Raven.
A blue Micro Sworder buzzed past the terrorist's ear, but he knew better than to crush it. It belonged to the hive of which his partner-in-crime Riese was in control. To compare them to old Earth history, she was the Bonnie to his Clyde.
"Checking up on me again, Riese?" he asked. Her husky voice laughed on the other side of the telepathic channel.
"As if I had nothing else to do," she remarked. "You'd better finish what you set out to do. Our little 'bundle of joy' is getting even more joyful by the minute."
Raven tried to remain as expressionless as possible, but even he was a tad worried. A little more than nine months ago, he'd found that he and Hiltz had at least one thing in common: Neither of them could take his alcohol. Hiltz had been unfortunate enough to sleep with Maria Fleiheit during a drunken stupor when he went to the Wind Colony to finally confront his adversary-to-be, the great hero Van. The poor sap died at Fleiheit's hands before he learned about the results of his accidental one-night stand. Though it had been funny when Riese had a Micro Sworder spy on Van when he arrived home to find his sister with a maroon-haired baby…
Riese and Raven's…moment…had been just as inconvenient and unlucky if not as humorous. Raven had been forced to re-adopt his birth name of Donnie Chen in order to buy needed groceries and get lodging and medical treatment for Riese. And it had all interfered with his need to go out and hunt down the reborn monster that had killed the Chens to begin with. This was the first time he'd been able to get away from Riese and little Corvus in order to continue his quest.
"So, have you thought of a last name yet?" he finally questioned. "It's getting pathetic seeing our wanted posters with only our first names."
"I already have one," she replied. "Obscura. It's the Zoidian word for 'the darkness that envelops the word at the end.'"
Corvus Obscura. Riese Obscura. Raven Obscura. It would take some getting used to, but it was better than some other names she might have chosen. Days earlier, the Micro Sworders had picked up a discussion between Fleiheit and his wife, Fiona Elisi Linette, as they tried to think of any baby names that rhymed with "Van." Elisi Linette wanted star names or "Bit," an adaptation of the Zoidian word bitv, meaning "free-spirited." The newly named Obscuras were among the first to know that the Fleiheits were expecting in spring, and they pitied the poor child that had to suffer with one of those names.
"Raven, Ambient is going to pass near you," Riese continued. "He's probably heading for the Fleiheits at the Wind Colony. No doubt he senses the child with Hiltz's blood."
"Van better not think I'm doing him any favors for this," Raven answered, quickly getting down some dried fruit and water before climbing into the Geno Breaker. "Shadow, wait until the battle to merge. This is my fight." The Organoid growled his disagreement. "I don't care if he's your brother or not. This bastard killed me and my family fifteen years ago. I've been waiting for this confrontation since then. Elisi Linette nearly stole my chance when she tried to kill Zoid Eve. But Van stopped her, so I suppose I have to thank him for that. Gave Ambient the opportunity to be reborn only for me to kill him again." He looked at the monster of devastation he piloted. More importantly, he looked at its red color. Once upon a time, Ambient and Shadow had been brothers locked in stasis. Once upon a time, elder brother Ambient had been black like Shadow. Once upon a time, Hiltz reawaked and had Ambient murder James and Elsa Chen before letting their blood become the paint on the Organoid's metal frame. Once upon a time, Ambient resurrected the Geno Saurer, transferring the red blood color to its next evolution. When this was all over, Raven would see to it that Shadow put the Geno Breaker through another evolution, one that wouldn't have the red chrome job.
A black cloud passed overhead, waking him from his thoughts.
"He'd better hurry," Raven muttered, closing the cockpit. "Rain's on the way."
A streak of red jetted across the sky of the only path to the Wind Colony, next to the very ruins that had begun this mad journey that led Fleiheit and Raven to their constant battles. A few shots from the Geno Breaker knocked Ambient from the air like some kind of wingless bird. The red Organoid hissed at the pilot of the lone Zoid before merging with and instantaneously evolving a dead Zoid beneath years of sand. Raven looked at his opponent and smirked.
"A red Blade Liger? Didn't think you were one for irony."
The red Zoids charged each other under the cover of thick black storm clouds. The Geno Breaker fired its charged particle gun constantly in the melee, angrily trying to defeat the Liger, which merely shielded itself or cut through the beam. Giving up on that, Raven attempted his blades and guns, only to be met with more blades and guns. The Liger bit on the Geno Breaker's tail, so Raven spun his Zoid around rapidly in an attempt to throw the enemy against the wall of the nearby ruins. It worked to dislodge the other Zoid, but the Liger rebounded off the wall and propelled its blade toward the cockpit. Raven then madly fired the charged particle gun again, blowing off the Liger's legs. Ambient fell, allowing Raven a chance to breathe.
Some final confrontation, he reflected after catching his breath. The battle was just so unrewarding, so…short. It was hardly the slaughter fest he'd been waiting to unleash since he was nine. But his life had never managed to please him in any way. Each time something relatively good happened, something just plain awful followed on its heels—
As demonstrated when he fired his gun, preparing to finish off the sorry beast.
The second the beam was released, the Liger's legs somehow reattached, and it sprung out of the way. Raven only just managed to scream out "How?" before Ambient exited the Liger and careened kamikaze-style into the Geno Breaker's systems.
The possessed Zoid thrashed wildly, trying to eject the pilot. Raven gripped the controls desperately, his burned hand barely able to keep such a mad hold. No manual controls functioned, and their secondary uses as handholds failed as the Breaker threw itself against the ruins, ejecting Raven high into the air before he landed in the jaws of the waiting Blade Liger.
He groaned as he tried to sit up, his battle suit torn and bloody from the cuts the Liger's fangs had given him. Cracked and broken ribs moaned in agony when he did rise.
"Shadow?" he recognized. The Organoid with in the Liger growled affirmatively. Fatalist humor decided to arise in Raven then. "Never thought we'd be in one of these, right, Shadow? Fleiheit would be having a heart attack from laughter." He groaned and moaned again as he climbed out of the mouth and into the cockpit, ignoring the raging battle and dangerous maneuvers Shadow made as if they were as casual as the clouds above.
He settled into the cockpit and took to the unfamiliar controls like, as the old cliché said, a fish did to water. But this fish was Prozen's protégé and one of the few men that had bested Van Fleiheit—he had nearly been adopted as Van's brother, in fact. It would be a surprise if he didn't adapt quickly.
Then in that case, bro, he mocked—for he would never under any circumstances admit their near-brotherhood—I guess you won't mind if I take your catchphrase. "Shadow, this is it! It's showtime!"
The morbid impersonation of Van Fleiheit's Zoid leapt into action against Ambient. Where Raven had earlier cursed the regeneration of the Red Blade Liger's legs, he was now grateful for their presence—at least, as grateful as he ever got.
The Liger, powered by Shadow and guided by Raven, savagely ripped apart the Geno Breaker. It didn't matter that it was their Zoid; to them right now, it was merely a hiding place for Ambient, Shadow's brother and Donnie Chen's murderer. The Breaker refused to give in, though. Living up to its name, it shattered the glass of the cockpit and snapped Raven's collarbone in half from an ill-aimed shot for his neck. He grimaced and fought back the urge to clutch his wound; no other injury on his body had gotten such treatment, so his broken shoulder would just have to suffer.
Ambient then threw Shadow and Raven against the ruins once more. For the first time, the feared warrior knew what Fleiheit felt just before another humiliating defeat at the hands of his rival. He closed his eyes as lightning heralded thunder's crash. Rain poured in through the broken glass and dripped off the shattered remains. Thunder sounded again:
"Welcome to the gateway…"
The inhuman shout outcried the ferocious explosions of thunder and lightning as Raven sent the Liger forward in a leap that would make even hero-boy Van Fleiheit jealous. The outstretched left blade cleaved the Geno Breaker's head clean off its neck an instant before Ambient's merge limit was through. The head fell neatly to the sand, displacing it in a wet, gritty fountain while the overheated Organoid skidded from his drop to the ground. If he hadn't been so exhausted of apathetic, he would have noticed Raven jump from the cockpit of the Blade Liger and run toward his prey, Shadow not far behind.
Lightning flashed once more, but it was not followed by thunder. Rather, the voices of an unsuspecting nine-year-old boy and his father echoed in the sky:
"The stars look amazing tonight."
"They really are beautiful, aren't they? Far across the Milky Way lies our home, the Blue Planet."
"Father, are there Zoids on that planet too?"
"I don't know. I guess there might be."
"I hope there aren't any."
"I don't like Zoids, and I've never liked them."
The once nine-year-old boy drove a fist into Ambient's face, denting metal and crushing bone instantly. He had learned to accept Shadow at least, but Ambient held fame for being probably the only Zoid he hated more than Fleiheit's Organoid and Blade Liger.
The child madly dashed forward to fight the beast, only to be hit with its tail and thrown against a file cabinet to meet a darkness not at all unlike the one his soul would harbor.
Defensively, Ambient swiped Raven in his broken ribs with his tail. True, the pain was like no other, but Raven was no longer a small boy. He took the blow without moving or flinching before he leapt forward and smashed his bloody right fist through the back of Ambient's skull, where his brain was barely protected. Blood, rain, and whatever fluid was inside Organoids streamed to the desert sand, emptying the man of the strength to fight and the Organoid of the strength and will.
Raven, knowing he had to end this now or not at all, tore at Ambient's exposed brain, performing a savage lobotomy. Brain matter soon littered the sand while Ambient stared blankly at Raven and Shadow. Using the last of his instincts, he merged with the Liger for a final time and took leave. Shadow growled a question, but Raven merely sat down in the battle litter and removed the glove from his cannibalized hand.
"Leave him, Shadow. He barely remembers anything now. Donnie Chen can finally rest." Understanding, Shadow turned and prepared to merge with and repair the Geno Breaker. "And Shadow, when we rendezvous with Riese and Corvus, think you can try a new evolution for the Geno Breaker? Hopefully one that's not red." The returning growl was in agreement.
Raven then just stared into the stormy distance, the rain seeming to try to wash away his sins. He didn't notice; he was far beyond anything's reach. Did he somehow know that one day his descendent, also a descendent of Van Fleiheit, would continue his legacy with the Geno Breaker's final evolution and bring utter chaos to Zi as they knew it? Did he perhaps suspect that his descendent would interrupt a battle between a Fleiheit/Schubalz descendent and the descendent of Hiltz? That Shadow would interrupt a battle between Zeke and Ambient? If it would never end, what did he waste all this blood for?
To complete myself, he answered. To put an end to the suffering that plagued my past.
And Raven Obscura returned to Shadow and the Geno Breaker and flew off into the rain.
And now I've finally completed it. Took me forever to start, much less finish, and I have sunburn to thank for my hard work.
I do not own Zoids or this song. The song (called either "The Darkness in My Heart" or "With Broken Wings," as the Diaries Guild is fond of calling it) is from episode 30 of Digimon Frontier's English dub: "O Brother Who Art Thou?"
The constant blood references come from The Sh33p's "Graveyard Symphony," probably the best Raven fic out there, so it's hard for this not to have inspiration from it. But the descendent theory (Vega as both Raven and Van's descendent, Bit as a descendent of both Van and Thomas, and Leon and Leena coming from Hiltz and Maria's line) is mine, even if some ideas were inspired by Sh33p's own theory.
First of all, review policy: Read it at the top of my profile. I want something more or less in-depth. And I'm rating this fic PG-13, but if anyone thinks it should be rated R, let me know instead of reporting me. I honestly am not sure whether or not this needs to be rated any higher.
And don't flame me for the rather crude comments about Van and Raven in here. Most of it is more or less from Raven's point-of-view, so he would be insulting Van somewhat. And you have to admit, with all he's done, Bush would definitely label him a terrorist. These comments do not reflect my opinion at all.