Disclaimer: I do not own zoids.

Nik took a short breath as he took once last glance at the shabby sign labeled "Zane's Used Zoids and Zoid Parts," before pushing his fears away and walking inside. No qualms about it, he disliked buying used zoids. There seemed something intrinsically wrong in the matter, as if Nik was trying to adopt a child because a previous one had died. On second thought, it was the same in principle. Nik was buying a used zoid because his previous one had died.

Holly, his Gunsniper. Never had he met a more faithful zoid. They had fought side by side for years; her last fall from grace occurring only a week ago. Nik still couldn't believe it himself. Memories of a Blade Liger moving slowly in his direction, the blade piercing Holly's heart – no, her zoid core – no, her heart; the bright flash of light from the resulting small explosion and the darkness of unconsciousness that soon followed; Nik waking up with Talia next to him to no longer see a living creature of breathing metal, but a silent behemoth of stone. The memories were surreal. Nik could only take comfort in the fact that Holly looked peaceful in her resting pose... and that no zoid could ever replace Holly.

No, it was not replacing Holly that he was worried about. It was about whether he would be replacing his future zoid's pilot.

The building that Nik entered into was old, that was for sure. It looked like it had once been a hanger that someone had discovered and decided to convert into a zoid dealership. It was probably one of the few zoid shops out there that still defied the norm. All zoid dealerships and most used-zoids dealerships these days had a garage as well as a hanger built in for display. All in all, the buildings housing the dealerships tended to be rather large, but this place was just one large room...

A cold and rather dark room. If the shop didn't have the atmosphere of slightly decaying metal, Nik might've found the break from the heat of the sun welcome.

Nik suddenly brushed against the limb of one of the silent – far too silent – creatures that dotted the store – a Genosaurer – and his feeling of uneasiness intensified. Trying to ignore the presence of the zoids flanking him either side of the aisle, Nik quickly located and arrived at the help desk at the side wall.

The man – Zane supposedly – flashed Nik a toothy grin before asking, "how can I help you?" Not trusting the slightly predatory look in the man's gaze, Nik took in a slight gulp before speaking.

"Um, I'm looking for a Gunsniper model?" His shaky voice came out more as question then a statement, and Nik became even more aware of the silence that seemed to engulf the store as his echoes faded into the back walls of the store.

The man's grin became even more shark-like if it was at all possible, supposedly sensing weakness in his prey. "Well then I have just the zoid for you. Follow me and I'll show you our fine selection of Gunsnipers..."

The man got up to walk down a nearby aisle of saurian like zoids the slowly changed from Rev Raptor models to Gunsniper models. Again, Nik found himself wishing that he wasn't here. The sleeping eyes of the zoids around him seemed to be accusing him, challenging him – what do you want? what do you want? – and the place seemed even more lifeless then the used-zoids dealership Nik had visited yesterday.

There the zoids had seemed clean and gleamed under the care of the employees. And even though there had been no pilots inside of them to activate them, the eyes of the zoids had seemed to glow with some inner energy as if to say, "I'm still awake, I'm still here." Here the eyes lacked the life-energy. Here the eyes were dead.

That zoid dealership – along with the one Nik was currently in – were the only ones that fit within the team's price range. If Nik had had his way, he would've bought a nice, shiny, new zoid. One that had no previous connections; one that Nik could start over with. Nik wouldn't have any expectations to fill; no resentful feelings to deal with; no broken spirits to fix. But Nik's team was down on their luck... they had been for a long time now. There was no money to be spent on a nice, shiny, new zoid.

And so Nik was stuck at a second rate, used-zoid dealership hoping that this one would have some Gunsnipers that weren't so old that they were beyond their fighting days as it had been at the last dealership. Stuck in a dark hanger where it felt that this was the place where zoids came for their eternal sleep... a zoid graveyard.

Nik was vaguely aware that the zoid's salesman's voice was drawling, contributing to the suffocating – yet freezing cold – atmosphere of the hanger. The pair would stop at each Gunsniper as they came along. The salesman would point things out about the zoid they were viewing, expertly explaining the aspects of his zoids to Nik. Nik would then look over at the zoid before nodding in conformation and moving on to the next one. It felt like a strange waltz to Nik; each person playing his part; each person caught in the strange atmosphere of the shop.

"This Gunsniper came in a couple of years ago..."

Yet another one. Nik walked up to the zoid, placing his hand on it as he tuned out the salesman's spiel behind him. He felt the cool metal contract and quiver slightly underneath what must've been Nik's very warm touch. He looked up at the zoid, almost expecting a response from the large creature. But the Gunsniper remained cool and passive, it's massive head still staring off blankly into the distance and giving no evidence that it had moved at all.

It was just another old zoid.

But - as Nik ran his hand across the faded metal that desperately needed a new paint job – all of the zoids here were old. Suddenly Nik pulled his hand off the great Gunsniper, thinking for a moment. He turned towards the salesman before speaking, "I want to get into the cockpit."

Nik's interruption seemed to come as a great surprise to the salesman who had been in full auto-pilot mode, but the man nodded warily before climbing up a set of stairs that led to the loading platform next to the zoid. The man reached out his hand, touching a panel on the Gunsniper that opened the cockpit and then pushing a sequence of buttons that lowered the zoid's head to the ground. The Gunsniper did so quietly – not through creaks and groans from the old metal that Nik had almost expected – and waited silently – patiently? – for Nik to jump in.

Once Nik did so, the head once again raised up so that Nik was level in the air. He let the cockpit close around him and closed his eyes, feeling the zoid beneath him, taking in it's sights and smells... it smelled clean. Again Nik felt that slight quiver of metal beneath him and he wondered if the zoid was adjusting to his weight and feel. Perhaps the zoid was examining Nik himself, taking in the feel of his small body and Nik's sights and smells...

And Nik sat and pondered for a moment. This zoid was no more special then the others; it had been just as asleep as the others. But the zoid felt awake now; awake and waiting for him to do something. Waiting for Nik to do what? – waiting for Nik to pilot him? waiting for Nik to leave? waiting for Nik to say something?

Perhaps he was waiting for Nik to make a decision. Perhaps the zoid was just like Nik, waiting for someone to come along so he could claim a pilot of his own. Perhaps the zoid did not care that Nik was not his original pilot. Perhaps it did not matter to the zoid? – after all, Nik could never replace the zoid's pilot, but maybe Nik wasn't supposed to...

Nik smiled and patted the console. "It's a deal." At this the zoid seemed to completely relax beneath his touch, and though the zoid still remained silent, Nik could've sworn he felt the zoid rumble with content. The cockpit opened and Nik looked out at the salesman who still remained standing on the loading platform next to the Gunsniper.

"I'll take him."

The salesman put on a genuine grin that spread from ear to ear. Nik decided he liked this grin much better then the shark-grin.