Foreword / Disclaimer: Consider the whole story and all parts of it to be prefaced in this way unless otherwise noted.
I do not own Zoids, nor do I own any part of the Zoids franchise. Zoids is the propety of the Tomy Corporation. No challenge to the status of any of these copyrights is intended.
Story is rated for violence and some mature themes. Please respect the rating.
All reviews and criticism accepted, constructive criticism especially so.
THE POINTY PIECES
Set in the Zoids Battle Story continuity
A story written by Raksha
Prologue: Ragnarok, Revisited
The entire world was dying around me in chaos and fire. All I could hear were the screams of my dying squadmates and the discharge of my own weapons. But what could I do? I had been a soldier all my life, and I would be a soldier until its end. So I stood my ground and just kept firing. That trigger, that alpha-strike fire grouping, was my life preserver in the storm of the battle.
—Master Sergeant Lan Tiefers, Gunbluster pilot, Fifth Helic Field Artillery
Advancing in front of the Helic / Guylos battle line was the sense of expectancy, the feeling that the battle looming before the massive combined army would not be just another seige, another skirmish, but the battle. Every soldier tasted it even in the stale recirculated air of sealed and pressurized cockpits; the Zoids themselves moved with a sort of unified purpose despite their vastly different leg structures. The waddling Gunblusters, massive Gojuas Gigas, hovering squadrons of Gairyukis and Phoenixes and other things in their precise groupings – all of them had the look of a single unified body.
It was no mean feat, considering that there were over ten thousand units present. It was easily the largest army fielded since the Day The Sky Fell.
The expectancy made First Leftenant Tamar Zhargen nervous. She loved the pressure and intensity of small battles, came alive in the moments when her next shot would decide whether a teammate lived or died. Yet the scope of this battle was too much. The Night Watch was meant for small-unit engagements and covert ops, Evedammit, not line engagements. However, she had understood the orders well enough. This host was all that remained of the renewed Helic / Guylos army. They could hold no Zoid back, could spare no able pilot. The Zenebas forces would have a myriad of advantages even with the new toys that ZOITEC was providing the army. This would be the most difficult battle of her life – and quite possibly her last one.
At least her immediate surroundings were familiar, if not her broader ones. The cockpit of a Lightning Saix was where she spent a good half of her non-waking hours, either in simulator or on patrol. The control stick and left-handed throttle / move control fit into her hands as though they had been custom-made; the motions on the under-panel manipulator pedals were given no more thought than Tamar gave her breathing. Which, at this point, was a little more hurried than she would have liked it. Wrapping around her nearly two hundred and seventy degrees was the inside of her cockpit, superimposed with the visual image from outside. It was all in a greenish cast from the bias of the visual sensors, but that was as well – green monochrome was better for the tricky shots and for glare. The definition was worlds better, too. Even this far out, Tamar could begin to make out the shapes that defined New Helic City. That was their objective; that was the ground that they would take or die. Tamar felt a momentary pang of homesickness. She would like very much to have died on the comfortingly barren soil of Nyx, her bones picked clean by the vultures she had grown up with… but this was a death in battle, and an important one. It would do.
Licking her lips, she moved a palm-gloved hand over to the comm channel selector. A glance down told her that all the normal presets were in place and had been cleared with the jamming units – all status lights were green. She flicked the second switch on the panel.
"Delta Unit, Night Watch. Final comms check… Delta One, green across the board."
"Delta Two, all green."
"Delta Three, showing all systems green."
"Delta Four, all green…"
One by one her unit rattled off its readiness, and Tamar called their names and faces to mind one last time. Many of them were new replacements for the Night Watch's losses… too many, and too poorly trained to be taking Lightning Saixes into battle with superior machines. Yet once again, she could not fault her superiors.
It didn't matter who was present and who was not. The Night Watch would fulfil its task. It always had.
"…Delta Twenty, all green."
Tamar gave a sharp nod, although the only witness was her faint reflection on the visual sensor display. "All right. You have all heard the briefings – you know what we face today. And every one of you here is an heir to the tradition of the Watch. We have not failed – and we will not today. Prepare to increase to flank speed on my mark."
Bleh. Inspiration had never been her strong suit. But then again, her pilots didn't need it. They were Guylos – they were strong, independent. They would fight well regardless of what tripe she spouted at them.
With another movement recalled easily from memory, she flipped the third switch. "Control, Watch Delta is ready and awaits orders."
A cheerful male voice – young, twenties, probably Helic – answered her promptly. "Good to have you on board, Watch Delta. This is Red Control One. You're going to help crash the left flank of the battle line as soon as I give the go-ahead. Delta's Liger Zero Xs and Alpha's Dark Saurers will back you up, Beta and Epsilon's Saixes will be right next to you."
"Sounds good, Red One." A smile tugged at the corners of Tamar's mouth under her helmet… it was sometimes amusing to be well-versed in ancient Terran history. She did feel relieved that Marcus and his Saurers would be with them – Colonel Harris would be the very bane of the Neo-Zenebas line if they didn't keep both eyes on him… "What sort of resistance do you think we'll face from the pickets?"
A brief pause of crackling airways, then Red Control One came back. "I make it a full Chimaera outlier unit – several full squadrons of Flyscissors backed up by Demonsheads on the ground, each group led by a Lord Gale."
Lovely. Tamar licked her lips nervously, suddenly realizing that she was sweating under her palm-gloves. That was a lot of Blox. "Ahh. Any chance that we have some air support?"
"Sorry, Watch Delta. Everything airborne is going to try to get superiority over the center… though a few Black Redlers are going to try to slip under the radar to get at the control centers for the Chimaeras."
Tamar winced in sympathy for the poor saps who had drawn that assignment. The shape of the New Helic City skyline loomed ever larger in the distance… she remembered the rather graphic gun camera footage from some recon squadrons who had tried penetrating the Neo-Zenebas anti-air defenses. Radar-scattering paint might not be much use against enough fire volume to take down a Whale King squadron.
A distant roar vibrated the cockpit a moment, then the staccato sound of a string of explosions. Followed closely on its heels was Red Control One. "That's it – the first Seismosaurus unit has engaged our front line! Night Watch, you have the green light to engage!"
At last. No more waiting… no more anticipation… just action. Tamar slipped her hands around the Saix's control stick and throttle. "Watch Delta, go to flank speed! Luck and skill, Watchmen!"
Her Saix made no comment, but it too seemed eager. The familiar just-within-sonic whine of the ion boosters filled her ears and acceleration pressed her back against the seat as the cheetah Zoid flowed around little knolls in the plains surrounding New Helic City. Each stride was a separate jolt, though muted by the Saix's stabilizers – and Tamar had been piloting a Saix for years. The jolts from full running speed barely registered in her mind, no more than a normal human would notice the difference in lengthening his stride.
"Integrate radar into heads-up," Tamar muttered into her headset and immediately the red dots representing the closing enemy contacts moved up to the upper half of the visual display. Ten… twenty… fifty… too many, Tamar came to the count at last. Her grip on the control stick tightened. If one of those little buggers made a lucky grab or stab, this could all be over very quickly.
The swarming Flyscissors were becoming visible, and Tamar switched over to squad frequency. "Watch Delta, fire at will! Take as many of the little bastards down as you can before they get into melee range! Standby on the claws and teeth, too!" A chorus of acknowledgements followed as she flicked the HUD into automatic zoomfinder mode and set the Lightning Saix's pulse rifles to fire twin-linked and auto-converging. It would slow her fire rate, but she needed every hit to be a kill.
Her reticule flared red over the first one. Fire… a pair of lengthened blue bolts, over a hundred separate pulses, flared across the field and nailed the first Flyscissors dead on. Even at the extreme range, she could see the flurry of fused armor pieces and body parts as the core Blox melted and the parts attached to them fell away. More bolts slammed into the formation, some single and some paired – more mechanical carnage was wrought as wings fused and sent the Blox into the ground, and there were even some more direct killshots. Tamar fired again, and again – a clean miss, and another one-hit kill.
By this point, the modified Flyscissors were returning fire, a phalanx of small-caliber AZ machineguns that flayed away pieces of Saix armor. Several rounds from one impacted her cockpit, and the thunder snapped Tamar fully into her battle trance. She mashed down on the repeaters button, the Saix's head moving back and forth to spray the formation of Blox as the pulse laser rifles dealt one death, and another, and another…
WHAM. A Blox bounced off her head, its pincers scraping paint as it tried in vain to snare the fast-moving Saix. Tamar cancelled her zoom and pounced bodily on another – her Saix auto-activated the laser sabers and strike laser claws, rending into the small demonic thing with the power of a speeding locomotive. They hit the ground and the Saix's momentum literally smeared the metallic component and Blox core fluid across the ground. A fierce grin came to Tamar's face.
"Delta One, look out! You've got—"
An impact nearly drove the Saix to its belly – only Tamar's reflexs saved the Saix and sent it into a four-legged crouch as it flung chunks of dirt in all directions, skidding to a stop. She could feel it as clearly as though someone had tackled her physical body. A Flyscissors had come in from above, using its partner as a distraction to drive into her undefended hindquarters. She wrenched the cheetah right, hoping that the thing's damnable grip was not solid – it was, worse luck. It brought her field of vision around and back towards where the rest of Delta had engaged the chimaera Blox. Pouncing and slashing and rending with claws and teeth, engaging in point-blank rifle fire, the Watch was holding up nicely… but even as she watched a Flyscissors tore Kaela's canopy open. A blast of point-blank machinegun fire and the blond-haired female pilot was a gory mess.
Coldy, Tamar triggered a pulse rifle volley, burning deep into the unmanned Flyscissors and spreading its flaming mechanical entrails in all directions. Part of her rebelled at incinerating the corpse of a fellow pilot like that, but that part had no place on the battlefield of Zoid-scale weapons. It was a lucky few that stayed intact enough to be properly laid out.
"This is Gamma One," Marik's voice broke over the comm channel, interrupting Tamar's stuggle against the Flyscissors and her morbid thoughts. "Deltas, we're deploying for E-Drive. Hang on just a moment longer and we'll delouse you… Gamma out."
Tamar grinned and spun to find another target. Trust Marik to have her back like that… The Flyscissors' pincers began to fracture the rear armor and warning sirens wailed, but a moment later Tamar's hair stood up just a little and a crackling discharge nailed the Blox dead on. It fell off the back of the Saix, smoking and lifeless.
As Tamar watched, the arrival of the Liger Zero Xs collapsed the initial chimaera-Blox assault. Lightning bolts cascaded from the Imperial Zoids' ion blades, arcing between multiple Flyscissors with deadly effect. Within moments, they all lay smoking and inert on the ground.
"That was the easy part, Deltas," Marik cut off their celebratory cheers. "The Demonsheads and Lord Gales are coming in behind them… and after that, it's the Zenebas line. Enjoy the bugswatting while you can."
Tamar took a moment to steady her breathing and take stock. Delta Sixteen's light had gone red along with Delta Eight's – Kaela's. She couldn't even remember his name… some youth, barely of age, with green eyes and dark hair. While Tamar had been expecting early losses with the conscripts that the Watch had drawn it, it still didn't make it any easier.
"Form a firing line behind the Zeroes," Tamar snapped out to the Saixes of Watch Delta. "With luck, we should be able to do some serious damage to the Demonsheads before the Lord Gales arrive to break up the formation. Prepare for heavy melee, and always keep your head in motion… they like to spear heads." She participated in the collective wince. What a way to go…
With precision characteristic of high-speed pilots performing low-speed maneuvers, the Saixes trotted in to fill the gaps in the line created by the Liger Zeroes. All of them but Marik's had deployed their locks and tail grounding spike for full E-Drive efficiency… Tamar supposed that Marik was keeping himself immediately available for melee, and given his talent with tooth and claw, she thought it was probably a wise decision.
And before Tamar could look to the battle as a whole, once more the top of Tamar's screen glowed red with contacts… even more, but at least they were mostly on the ground this time. Lips compressed in a firm line as Tamar dropped her reticule over the oncoming Demonsheads.
"Watch Delta, FIRE!"
"Watch Gamma, FIRE!"
Lightning bolts and shock cannon rounds mingled with heavy laser fire as the armored, lance-wielding demons charged across the ravaged plain. One after another they went down, but there were more… ever more… and then, right on schedule, shadows swooped in from above with their own lances brilliantly glowing, machinegunfire raining down on the Night Watch line.
"Inbound Lord Gales!" Marik called out. "Deltas, engage the Gales. Gammas, keep squikking the Demonsheads unless you're in immediate danger."
Tamar keyed squadron comm. "You heard him, Deltas. Pick your targets and try not to die!"
Easier said than done, Tamar thought a bit cyncially, picking one of the incoming gargoyle-shapes at random. Its eyes glowed as did its lances, swooping down almost directly towards her – she pounced upwards, hitting it in midair with charged claws and teeth as she fired the pulse lasers at the moment of impact. Perhaps the pilot hadn't been expecting such a direct assault, or so quickly – at any rate, there was a horrible grating as the charged lances scraped across the top of the pulse laser and booster pack before the leg of the Gale wrenched under the heavy assault. Before her momentum could be completely spent, Tamar released the leg and fell back to the ground, catching her Saix on all four legs and quickly spinning to face the Lord Gale.
She had to give the pilot credit; even after the shock of being taken out of the air like that and even after losing a leg of his machine, he was nearly up and ready by the time her sights fell across his left shoulder. A paired pulse laser blast followed by a hail of repeater rounds cut the linkage to the lance-arm, leaving it to dangle uselessly by the Gale's side. Too late, the Neo-Zenebas pilot realized Tamar's aim and began to bring his pincer claw up to trap the Saix, but the cheetah hit too high and too fast. Ravenously, charged teeth and claws flayed through the Blox's advanced armor and even as the claw closed around a forelimb, one final swipe exposed the cockpit. The tinny scream of the man in the red jumpsuit did not penetrate the metal and armor of Tamar's cockpit even as the Saix scooped up the pilot in its jaws and crushed him, spraying blood and bits of bone over the machine that he had died piloting.
Tamar felt not even a moment of queasiness. For Kaela, you bastard.
Much as she would have liked it, she could not bask in the satisfaction of vengeance. The Gales had already disabled several Saixes, and despite losing more of their number were beginning to break up the Liger Zero formation. Almost all of the Demonsheads were gone, but enough still remained that they could be a deadly nuisance if they made it into melee.
She watched as one of the Gales came in with a flying stab, and in a fluid motion that cast doubts on the existence of inertia Marik slid to the side, skidding outwards just enough that instead of lancing a juicy flank of Liger the Gale impaled itself on a length of charged ion blade. Judging from the fine spray of blood barely visible from Tamar's position, the blade had penetrated into and through the cockpit. A dip to the ground and a carefully-applied paw, and the impaled Gale slid off the end of the blade, freeing Marik to hunt another.
One other Lord Gale caught Tamar's eye, its lance arm destroyed but pincer slowly squeezing and crumpling the head of a Liger Zero. Without thought, Tamar turned and began feeding laser repeaters into its back, putting in a paired pulse rifle bolt once she had made enough of a damaged spot. Armor vaporized and flew away in tiny bits, but the assault was not enough to put down the powerful gargoyle-type. It was, however, enough to keep the pilot alive long enough to counterattack with the underslung shock-cannon and the redeployed ion blades. Electricity and high-explosive shells assaulted the Gale until finally it had taken too much damage to continue fighting, and slipped off the end of the Liger, leaving its head about a third narrower than it was when the battle began.
"Demonsheads!" Marik yelled. "Take them down! We've almost broken the line!" But it was instantly apparent that the stocky little chimaera Blox were not going to give in easily, and the remaining ones swarmed in, stabbing with their charged lances. Gritting her teeth, she stood her ground and opened fire, watching the energy levels in her core carefully. She'd been using a lot of power, but so far her Saix was holding up pretty well. The other Zoids outside the fray joined it, and the Demonsheads were done… but not before several of the Night Watch Zoids were rent open and laid out, cockpits and chests gored and melted.
Tamar counted up the active signals on her display… her heart sank. Seven. Just seven out of her pilots had come through – the rest of them were either too badly damaged to fight or just plain dead. Gamma had taken similar losses. Still…
"Well done, Night Watch," Marik praised them grimly, pulling his liger to its feet. "It's cost us, but we've broken the line and will soon be preparing to hit and harrass—"
"This is Blue Control Three," a gruff voice broke over the comm channel. "Sorry, Watch, but Red One went off the air two minutes ago. We think a Storch squadron broke through the Dimetro Pteras guarding Red Command… Anyhow, we've received word that Emperor Muroa himself is joining the battle. Ray Gregg is moving into position, but we need you to directly hit one of the Seismo units and its Energy Liger escorts. Keep them distracted, and he has a good shot at breaking Zenebas morale for good!"
The last statement hung in the air. Tamar's jaw would have been hanging open had it not been for the helmet. Seven Saixes – no, wait, thirteen with Epsilon – and nine Liger Zeroes against a Seismosaurus and its escort? That's insanity!
"Alpha unit's Dark Genos will be joining you," Blue Three continued. "This isn't going to be easy, ladies and gentlement. It may not even be possible. But it is what needs to be done. …luck and skill, Night Watch. Blue Control Three clear."
Well. Tamar grinned in spite of herself. I have always wanted to die in battle… is there a better place or a better time? "Deltas," she started, keying the squadron comm, "you have already given more from your old Zoids and tired bodies than anyone could have asked. And now, you're going to give some more. Regardless of who he's fighting for, we respect Ray Gregg's strength… and his strength is about the only chance we have to win this war without disassembling every Zenebas Zoid piece by cursed piece. It's time to do our part to support him. Prepare to form up and charge the Seismosaurus."
There was a moment of silence on the airwaves, but Tamar knew what their answers would be. They were Guylos. They would obey. They would persevere.
"You got it."
"Let's do it!"
The Saixes wove nimbly through the field of destroyed and still-burning Zoids, each stride carrying them over several Demonsheads. The Neo-Zenebas Empire never lacked for chimaeras to send into battle, and it showed – it could certainly spare them today, of all days. Far too many Guylos and Republican Zoids littered the field, and Blox as well – here the smoking remnants of a Buster Eagle fusion, and there several horribly mangled Dimetro Pterases. Still the Night Watch ran through the macabre collection of devestated war machines, and as they ran the Dark Genosaurers of Alpha fell in next to them.
Tamar felt confidence slowly return to her, a grin spreading across her face. If any man could pull off the impossible today, it was the Colonel. He had made the Night Watch; it was fitting that he would be there for its last ride. And perhaps, if they were lucky, not its last at all…
Now visible through the gathering smoke and fog, the silhouette of the Seismosaurus loomed. It was not quite as large as Tamar had expected, for all the carnage that it had wrought in their army over the past bitter year. Still, it bristled with powerful weapons, had multiple gunnery stations and housed a charged particle cannon that could wipe out an entire squadron with a single sweep.
Before they could reach it, however, more dark silhouettes appeared alongside it… and burst through the fog, spraying brilliant bolts of tachyon energy from their weapons. One of the rounds glanced off the cockpit of Tamar's Saix and she felt the air inside instantly heat to nearly intolerable levels. It was a sobering realization for the proud Guylos pilot that even repeated near misses could boil her inside her flight suit.
Death, she reminded herself, and charged the next one with a battle cry. Her pulse lasers bit deep into the armor but did not penetrate – she took note of the fact that it was stooping to grab her Lightning Saix, and quickly splayed out her paws to go into a skid. Undeterred, the Energy Liger's pilot turned the swoop into a four-legged landing and impaled Jeraeme with an energy-charged headblade. The frontal weapons fired as the weighty Zoid collided with the Saix, turning it into a glowing, slagged and crumpled wreck more worthy of being modern art than a war machine. To her left, another Energy Liger plowed through a volley of sixteen missiles, disregarding its shredded armor to bowl over and begin destroying one of the Geno Saurers.
With targets all around, Tamar chose for vengeance. The Saix dug one of its claws into the ground and fired a quick burst from its booster, spinning around to target the Energy Liger that had just killed another one of her pilots. Flipping the cannons over to single-fire, Tamar began to unload heavy fire into the tail even as Marik's Liger Zero X deployed its E-Drive and added lightining bolts to the effort. Even in death, Jeraeme was serving the Watch – and serving it well. Sixteen missiles from another Dark Genosaurer finished off the Energy Liger, blowing deep into its back half and rendering it unable to fight. Much as Tamar would have loved to finish the pilot, there were more pressing concerns – another Energy Liger had lodged itself too deep in a Geno, and Colonel Harris made the pilot pay for his mistake. As Tamar caught a passing glimpse the charged particle gun carved deep into the Energy Liger, eviscerating it and burning its worthless inhabitant to vapor.
Yet another Energy Liger was coming down from above to take advantage of the Colonel, and Tamar's eyes narrowed in concentration as she strove for a targeting lock on the wing. Almost… almost… there. Two pulse rifle shots in sequence blew deeply into the relatively vulnerable magnessor structure, and the great beast spun out of control as half its left wing suddenly stopped lifting. The pilot was amazingly skilled, however, and managed to maintain control and set down. He came around with blurred speed, and in passing struck the Colonel's Geno Saurer with an arcanite claw that bared its leg to the structure. Tamar's eyes widened as the Energy Liger altered its course subtly to move head-on towards her.
So, this is the end…
She fired, hitting the energy charger, but not critically enough to stop the beast. Not nearly critically enough. The Liger's eyes seemed to glow with the light of the thousand hells that awaited the coward. Tamar gritted her mouth in concentration, preparing to end it in a spring that would probably tear out both their cockpits at once—
A blue and black blur, wreathed in gold and electric bolts, intervened as Marik tackled the Energy Liger from the side. He laid into it with absolute brutality, flaying off great chunks of structure as his claws and teeth did their work. Still trying to come to the grips of the idea that she was alive, Tamar blinked and dropped her crosshairs over the Zoid's cockpit… but there was no need, as in the space of a few seconds Marik had torn open the Energy Liger's chest cavity and sunk his Zero X's fangs into the core. Core fluid splashed across the Liger's front, glimmering in the swirling smoke of the battlefield.
Tamar frowned and keyed her comm as the Liger Zero stayed there, frozen. "Gamma One? …Marik? …Come in, Gamma One."
"…I'm operational," he replied at last, moving away from the downed Energy Liger, his voice a little hoarse. "Colonel, the Seismosaurus is open. Some of us should begin trying to lock it down."
Tamar could almost sense the grey-haired man's fierce grin as he replied. "Acknowledged, Gamma One. Ray Gregg is engaging Wolff Muroa as we speak… let's give the Emperor's friends something to think about. All available Night Watch, disregard the Energy Ligers! Charge the Seismo!"
Sparing a moment to glance down at her damage readout, Tamar's eyes widened. Almost all of the armor across her front was gone, and her structure was a little slagged across the Saix's chest. The Energy Liger must have been firing… she hadn't felt a thing in the shock of her impending death. For a moment, she thought of Marik's berserker reaction – dismissed it as normal Guylos – and keyed in the boosters. One more time, the Saix charged into battle alongside… now, four, of its companions.
Beam fire was beginning to spear out, and it was uncannily accurate given the Seismosarus' multitasking. Blast separate gunners, Tamar grumbled to herself, stutter-stepping to avoid a brilliant AZ60mm beam that slashed into the earth at her Zoid's feet. Another seared the top of the booster pack, and now smaller ones were raining down on the Saixes as they led the way. A warning buzzer sounded and one of the pulse rifles flashed red – heat sink destroyed. She'd have only a very few shots with the left one before it melted. Switching fire to the right pulse rifle, Tamar began targeting the Seismosaurus' neck turrets as the Night Watch came in towards its right forward flank.
The comm crackled. "Harry it, but clear my line of fire! Alphas, follow my lead! Let's take that thing down!" Tamar's eyes widened at the Colonel's words. Were they going to attempt an exchange of particle fire? If her unit and Marik's could keep the Seismosaurus' attention long enough… it might just work… and it wasn't as though they had much to lose. The Night Watch had been falling by the dozen. She renewed her assault, hosing down the neck with laser repeaters as the Liger Zeroes moved in for shock cannon and blade attacks.
No! Tamar cried out mentally as the Seismo casually disregarded the attacks of the other Zoids, swinging its neck around to where the Geno Saurers were powering their cannons. There was a charge delay for the Seismo… it might be close… but the power of the Seismosaurus would not be denied. Tamar howled in fury as it swept the beam across the Geno Saurers, destroying each one in turn. Last was Colonel Harris, who stood his ground until the very last moments – but his Dark Saurer couldn't bring the charge to critical mass before the Zenebas Cannon reduced him and his Zoid to spare particles and a glassy trench where the ground had once been.
Something snapped inside Tamar. "Die, you bastard! DIEEEE!" Her Saix roared, the outward expression of a battle cry contained within the cockpit, as the cheetah made a desperate and impossible booster-aided lunge towards the Seismo's back. Beam cannons flayed at the Lightning Saix's side and belly, but it would not be enough – the cheetah secured a hold on the Seismo's hump and began thrashing into its back. Armor fell off in vitrified sheets and the pulse rifles pumped blast after blast into the very top of the back, overloading spectacularly as they ran too hot. Blade attacks sliced deeply into the Seismo's ankles, and two more Liger Zero Xs fed lightning bolts into the beast's rear, but it refused to go down – even as it was overwhelmed, an AZ60mm beam barrage burned through the cockpit of one of the Ligers, exploding the pilot over the inside of the burned-out cockpit.
The comm crackled; Tamar could barely hear it through the blood pounding in her ears. "Night Watch, this is the Third Dragoons. Good job holding down the Seismo – clear out, and we'll finish the thing off."
Almost everything within Tamar called for the Seismo's blood and the blood of its crew, called her to coat her Zoid in it and have it drip from her claws and teeth. Who cared if she died in the fire of a charged particle beam? Too many of her pilots and friends lay broken or cremated on the field behind her. She had already lost almost everything. Here was the enemy, here under her claws, and only death by her hand would be acceptable—
But no. She had taken an oath to the Night Watch, to preserve and uphold its traditions. She would do it no good to die now, not when it could be avoided.
With an anguished scream she turned and tore her Saix's claws free, jumping clear as the particle cannons of four Gairyukis seared into the Seismosaurus, liquifying it and splattering it over the field in the passing shockwaves – shockwaves that ripped her Saix from its feet and sent it tumbling end over end to a final hard landing on its stomach. Tamar blinked, coughed. Blood spattered the console in front of her, and it hurt to breathe. She had broken at least one of her ribs, then, and had been wounded internally. Good. The pain would help her cling to consciousness.
For an indefinite time Tamar hung there in her harness, watching the battle play out on her screen. And as she watched, something remarkable happened.
She saw the newly-incarnated Liger Zero Falcon's buster claw, under the skilled hand of Ray Gregg, plunge deep into the body of Wolff Muroa's Energy Liger.
She saw the surge of power wash across her display as bits of static, saw the increasing glow of the energy charger. A small bitter laugh came from the back of her throat as she mouthed the same words as Muroa.
It's Valhalla all over again.
She saw, and did not believe, as Ray Gregg landed the Liger Zero Falcon next to the crippled Zoid that was doomed to explode and glass the entire area. She watched thought the autozoom, watched him crawl out and begin connecting cables.
She saw the buster claws point up into the sky, saw the discharge of the makeshift particle beams as the overloading energy charger spent itself. The glare washed out the scenes of the battle and carnage, growing brighter and brighter until it burned out the receptors of her optical sensors.
And then there was darkness in the cockpit, and silence within. Tamar coughed once more and lapsed into unconsciousness, her dreams full of fire and death and dozens of faces. She stood victorious on the field, but it tasted of ash and smelled of core fluid.
This had been no victory.