Let's just say keeping a forty-six-ton robot quiet isn't easy. It's especially difficult in a forest filled with trees, bushes, and rocks. Steel feet the size of a small bed are not going to avoid the crackles made from crunching such obstacles.

Over the last two years I had had enough time in my Command Wolf's head to know that stealth maneuvering was impossible. I wished I could get promoted to the Shadow Fox Brigade. Those guys somehow know how to keep their fifty-two-ton masses of steel quiet. Fortunately for me, stealth was not of importance this day.

And what a fine day it was. The sky was nearly cloudless, with the sun beaming out in all directions. There was little shadow from the tall trees scattered across the mountainside.

Driving was easy thus far. It was a simple perimeter patrol, with no reports of any negative activity coming from anyone else.

"Oh-Dub-Two to Oh-Dub-One. Jeremy, what say we take a break up at the top of that hill. It's too nice of a day to be searching for bugs. Let's take a lunch." I'd been wondering when Kavid would get bored and break radio silence. He was an excellent soldier in the Republican Army, but endurance was not one of his finer traits.

"Sergeant Deen, you will refer to me by rank while we're on duty, understand? As for a break, it'll be noon in thirty-five minutes. Lunch will take place then."

"Ouch. I mean, yes, sir, Lieutenant Kelt, sir!"

I didn't enjoy being authoritative to my friends, especially my life- long buddy Kavid, but I knew that respect was something a good commander insisted on. Besides, conversation on a patrol is recorded. I knew that as soon as we were off duty, Kavid would make me pay.

My Command Wolf patrol squad, the Orion Unit, consisted of four Zoids. Our simple daily duty was to patrol the base of Mt. Hoploy. Although it did not appear of any importance on the outside, the mountain hid the largest sub-surface Helic Republic Army base on the edge of the Southern Frontier. It would make a delightful target for Forces of the Guylos Empire, who had long debated the Republic for these lands.

Naturally, as Patrol Commander, I drove Command Wolf OW-1. No need to make jokes about what the abbreviation spells, I've heard them all. OW- 1 was armed with a long-range single-barreled cannon. Kavid piloted OW-2, the heavily-armed Wolf. It carried large double-barreled 250mm long-range blasters and needed leg thrusters just to get around. Its cannons were not something to be trifled with; Kavid was an excellent shot. Corporal Sifen and Private Mansod piloted lightly armed Wolves, OW-3 and OW-4. Their Wolves were old, but although they did not carry much in firepower, they were easily the most maneuverable Zoids in the group, even without leg thrusters.

This was Private Mansod's second patrol with my unit. He was still in training under Corporal Sifen. Sifen was the ideal teacher. Although still just a Corporal, for reasons he wouldn't explain, he had seen more battle than the rest of us combined. He was also the best tracker in the entire base.

Mansod showed enough natural ability, but his comprehensive skills were thus far disappointing. Plus, he was too darn perky.

"Oh-Dub-Four, stay in formation." It was Corporal Sifen trying to keep Mansod in line.

"Sorry, Corporal, I thought I saw something."

Although under-experienced drivers always seem to "see something," I've learned that it was a good idea to follow any suspicious sign. Imperial Zoids were very stealthy.

"Orion Unit, hold up." Our formation came to a smooth stop. I turned OW-1 around and trotted back to Mansod's Wolf.

"What do you think you saw, Private?"

"Um...well, kind of a white flash then a short streak of black. I ran a scan in the area but nothing was over there. Maybe the sunlight's just getting too--."

"Unit, pull your Zoids around and head towards the disturbance." I'd seen this before. "Weapons and scanning systems at full power."

Helcats. There was no doubt about it. Apparently the Private hadn't completed his research on cloaking Zoids. Whenever a cloaking device is activated, there is a brief flash from reflecting light, then a dark blur as the Zoid's image fades away. Helcats are the smallest Zoids equipped with cloaks, and about the only ones that can hide from view, with or without stealth technology.

"Lieutenant, I've found fresh footprints over here." Reported Corporal Sifen. "Something had been sitting here a while, then took off quickly. I'd guess a Helcat."

"No doubt in my mind, Corporal." I replied. "We were being watched." Looking down the hillside I saw a trail of Helcat footprints leading away from the mountain. About 500-meters away, new footprints were almost magically being added to the line, two-at-a-time. Kavid's Zoid was fifty meters behind me, so I couldn't wait for him. My single-barreled cannon was all I had time to use.

I quickly jumped OW-1 over Sifen's Wolf, climbed to the top of a boulder and took a firing stance. It was almost too long of a shot for my Zoid's gun. The targeting system would help, but wouldn't be perfect.

600 meters.

As I strained to steady my Wolf's cannon, I tried to avoid the questions coming in from my fellow pilots.

First shot... off by twenty-three meters.

700 meters.

The Helcat took a fifty-degree turn east and sped up.

Second shot... looked like it may have singed the backside of the escaping Zoid; the tracks stumbled for a few meters then sped up again.

800 meters.

Aiming to the best of my ability, I gave the target a little more lead, and fired.

A small explosion lit the mountainside as the cloaking device shorted out, followed by a red burst and puff of black smoke. The now- visible Helcat flipped and rolled twenty-five meters before it finally stopped.

I couldn't help but cheer out "Yes!" It was a lot of stress, and I was happy. But I was thankful I'd shut my Comm off.

"Jeremy! What the hell are you doing?" called out Sergeant Deen. I could tell he was pissed that he didn't get the shot.

"Lieutenant, that was incredible!" cheered Private Mansod.

Corporal Sifen didn't say anything, he just kept up a searching position looking for other intruders, as the training manual would require.

"At ease, team, at ease." I wiped the sweat from my brow. "Sifen, Mansod, come with me to inspect the intruder's wreckage. Deen, stay up here and cover us. I trust you can protect us with your superior cannons from way up here?"

"What is that? A joke?" Kavid huffed.

Barely able to talk because of the big grin on my face, I ordered, "C'mon, guys. Lets go before the pilot gets away. Deen, relay the information to headquarters immediately."

"Yes, your highness!"

Our three Command Wolves approached the smoking wreckage of the Helcat. The shot apparently smacked the robotic feline straight in the butt. Somehow I knew that even Corporal Sifen was smiling about that.

"Corporal, keep a watch around for any other intruders. Private, let's go see if the pilot is—-."

In a dark flash, the ground erupted, spewing dirt and rock into the bright summer air...but this was no surface explosion. Something wanted out from underground. A massive fist and forearm punched up from below. Although straining to see around the flying debris, I knew exactly what it was.

"An Iron Kong!" Mansod's cry of fear was no surprise.

"Stay focused!" I barked. "Pull back and follow me!"

Our Command Wolves sprinted back up the hillside. Behind us, the enormous robotic gorilla kept digging its way up. Climbing out of the new crater, it rose to its full height, nearly eclipsing the sun from our view. In a flashy show, the Kong took a step forward and crushed the Helcat with its foot. Raising its arms, it then belched out the loudest roar that I had ever heard. I should have taken that as a sign.

At the top of the hill, we met up with Kavid, who spun around and joined the run.

"What are your orders, Jeremy?" he asked.

"That's Lieutenant Jeremy to you!" Oops. Realizing my blunder made me lose track for a moment. "Keep moving back up to a safer position and wait for reinforcements."

"What reinforcements?" asked Mansod.

My panic was delaying my thoughts, but I managed to clear my head long enough to think about what to do next. "Corporal! Call in for reinforcements! On the double!"

"Yes, sir!" replied Sifen.

Looking back, I saw that the Kong was ignoring us completely and heading full speed towards the main gate into Mt. Hoploy. Command Wolf OW-1 slid across the grass as it game to a hard stop and whipped around. The other wolves, surprised at the stop, ran a little farther but came to similar stops.

"What are you doing, Jeremy?" asked Kavid.

"We've gotta stop that thing from getting up the mountain and destroying the main gate." I ordered in as stern a voice as possible. "Are you crazy?" barked Kavid. "We're just a bunch of wimpy Command Wolves. There's no way we can stand up to an Iron Kong! That suckers' armed to the teeth!"

"That's enough, Sergeant." I growled in a surprisingly sterner voice. "Prepare for Spread Eagle Attack."

A couple "Yes, sirs." could be heard.

The Orion Wolves raced back down the hill with my white OW-1 in lead of a wide formation. Sifen and Mansod broke off left and right, while Kavid's Wolf came to a stop and braced itself for long-range fire.

The Iron Kong continued its ascent up the hill, and did not seem to even notice us--it had bigger fish to fry. I opened fire on the massive Zoid, nailing it directly on the left shoulder joints. No effect. Sifen and Mansod began their assault, making small hits along the Kong's arms. The Imperial invader didn't break pace at all.

Kavid opened fire. His Wolf's more powerful cannons slammed into the Kong's face, smashing glass and cracking armor, totally blinding it with explosions and smoke. Finally the Kong was annoyed. It came to a stop and slowly aimed it's massive missile launcher at OW-2. Thundering screams echoed as the missiles began flying out of the launcher. Kavid's Wolf jumped up, fired its thrusters and sprinted down the hill. Although the projectiles erupted right behind him, Kavid managed to keep his Zoid from tumbling over itself. The Command Wolf's twin 250mm long-range cannons kept slamming shots into the Kong's face. Kavid's aim amazed everyone.

The enraged gorilla slammed its right hand onto the ground, lifted up a clod of dirt and hurled it at OW-2. The Wolf swerved out of harms way, giving the Kong enough time to aim its left wrist blasters. Waking back up from my awe at Kavid's assault, I immediately broke off my useless shoulder attack and fired at the Kong's left hand. Luckily, the shots had just enough power to knock off the monster's aim.

I could here Private Mansod screaming lame insults to the massive Zoid, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was moving in too close to the invader. "Private!" I called, "Pull back! Keep your distance!"

"But I've got him now, sir!" the Private cheered.

"Get out of there, now!" I screamed. But it was too late. The Iron Kong noticed the choice target, turned to its left and jumped at OW-4, grabbing the Command Wolf and lifting it into the air.

"Orion Unit, open fire on the Kong's hands!" I ordered. The blasts hit the invader's fists, causing it to drop its prize. The smaller missile launcher inside its left shoulder opened and sprayed a mad barrage of projectiles into the air. Corporal Sifen's Wolf was hit and rolled across the field. Kavid dodged a couple of shots, but was eventually taken down. My Command Wolf jumped and dodged, barely escaping the wrath of the onslaught. The ground underneath me shattered as a missile hit, and my Wolf flipped onto its back, but good old OW-1 wasn't out of the battle yet.

The Iron Kong closed its smoking missile launcher and picked up Mansod's Wolf again. Lifting it higher into the air, the Kong roared, and ripped the Command wolf in half then throw the pieces to the ground. Far from finished, it continued to crush the wolf halves in each fist, and then stomp on them with its feet.

I had had enough. Raising OW-1 from the ground, I ran a short sprint and jumped at the shoulder of the Iron Kong. The gorilla attempted to knock my Wolf out of the air, but I opened fire straight into the Kong's eyes. I smacked onto the side of the super ape and slid down its arm. With its pilots most likely dead, and itself unable to see anymore, the Kong began smashing the ground with his hands, attempting to flatten my Wolf. Using skills I didn't even know I had, I managed to dodge left and right, back and forth, narrowly evading the enraged Zoid.

Nothing lasts forever, though, and the Kong managed to knick my Wolf's left rear leg, causing it to lose balance. The Iron Kong's fist again slammed down, brutally damaging OW-1.

I could feel that my left arm was broken, but I still frantically worked my Zoid's piloting controls, attempting to get it to move one last time. The Kong, flashing another show of strength, combined its hands and raised them over its smoking head, preparing to deliver the final blow of death to my crippled Zoid.

After all the Iron Kong's roaring and all the blaster firing and explosions, I didn't think my ears could hurt any worse.

Boy, was I wrong.

The explosions erupting from the body of the Iron Kong hurt my ears so bad I went deaf. But before I passed out from the pain, I looked up and saw a Gunbluster walking towards the Kong, with its massive array of cannons ripping the giant ape to pieces.

Hurray for the reinforcements.

Then it all went black.