Sky's the Limit: Revolution

空の制限値:レボリューション


I

—Awakening—


The smell of smoke and fire filled the nostrils of an unconscious man. Crackling flames and distant screams echoed in his ears. He opened his eyes: his vision was blurry, disoriented, and patchy. The vision soon cleared, revealing nothing but darkness. The man extended his right arm. He was surprised when he touched a smooth surface, which curved like the dipped side out a spoon. A bluish hue flashed on the side of his face, blinking words that read: OPEN. He thumbed the highlighted key. The area around him hummed, hissed, and clicked. It sounded as if machinery moved into one another. Then, the frontal barrier hissed and began to open upward. Condensation built up, evaporated, and turned into steam.

The man was confused at what he saw: artificial lighting had dimmed; some sparked and died. A chilling feeling engulfed his body. He looked down at his body, seeing that he was naked. The man gasped, but the sudden inhale of air made him gag. He coughed violently, the severity of it dropping him to his knees. His lungs felt as if on fire. He coughed again, and a long stream of mucus dripping from his throat. The man cleared his burning throat and stood. He turned around, looking at a number of pod-like machines lined up against the wall. Each of them had throbbing green lights, vitals, and names. He stumbled up the tube, peered at the side, and examined a medium sized screen.

He ignored the screen and looked over the name that was printed in black ink that stood out from the silver paint of the pod. He wiped the heavy dust from the name, reading:

Lieutenant Van Flyheight - Guardian Force - Serial No. 025A.

The man grabbed the lid of the pod, shoved it down, and looked into the reflective paint. He looked no more than 18 years old; pale skin, black eyes, and spiked hair with a short, stubby pony-tail; and a red marking on his left cheek. The man named Van Flyheight stepped back from the pod in disbelief. He couldn't comprehend what was going on.

* His head suddenly pounded with flashes of explosions, voices, screams. He fell upon his knees and massaged his forehead with his fingertips. His heart pumped furiously, and the capacity to breath normally had fled from him. A feeling of tense dread blanketed Van. His first thought was Fiona and his organoid Zeke. He had to find them. If you found one, you found the other.

Van forced himself to stand, using rigid sections of the capsule to lift himself upright. He needed to find some type of clothing. The air around him was frigid, and the perspiration that coated his shivering body warranted the threat of hypothermia. He pulled himself closer to the pod, taking a brief moment to analyze it. An explosion shook the room. Van peered over his shoulder. Something's wrong.

The Zoid pilot moved away from the capsule, discovering a duffle bag tucked tightly beside it. He pulled the bag out, unzipped it, and searched through its contents. It contained a gun, one full clip, neatly folded articles of clothing, a single PDA, and his father's blade. Van set the sidearm aside and lifted the clothes from inside the duffle. He slipped on the black boxer briefs, draped the white, V-neck t-shirt over him, and pulled up the dark wind pants. A pair of socks and khaki-colored tactical boots was tucked deep inside. Briskly, he pulled the socks over his feet, laced up the boots, and grabbed the charcoal-grey hoodie. Lastly, he clipped the blade on the rim of his waist on the small of his back.

Flames flickered outside the chamber's Flemish glass windows, moving Van to act quickly. Instinctively, he snatched the gun from off the tiled flooring, slapped the magazine into the empty slot, and clicked back the hinge. Lastly, he powered on the PDA and waited for the screen to load. The home display lit up, bringing up the time, weather, and Guardian Force applications before a default sunset wallpaper. Van brought up the device's apps and located the calendar. The date displayed: June 5, 3125.

Van grew sick to his stomach. That couldn't have been the current date. He went to the settings and refreshed the page. The screen went dark, uploaded again, and displayed what had been there before. Nothing had changed, and the date remained the same. There had to be a mistake. What was he doing a thousand plus years in the future? Van kept calm. Panicking would only produce more problems. He shoved the PDA into his pocket and went over to examine the additional capsules.

Irvine – Guardian Force – Serial No. 005A; Moonbay –Guardian Force – Serial No. 004A.

Irvine and Moonbay – they were inside as well. Van reached out his hand against Irvine's capsule, endowing to release him. If there was anyone who might've known what was going on, it was him. For some reason, though, Van drew back his hand from opening the pod. What if Irvine didn't know what was going on? If so, they would be two confused people together. Still, it was better than being alone. Van moved on, coming across the capsule beside Moonbay's.

Fiona Elisi Linette – Guardian Force – Serial No. 001A.

Van didn't hesitate. He scraped the ice buildup from atop the activation key and pressed it. The pod hissed open, venting steam-like exhaust from its inward parts. Its visor fully raised open, exposing a sleeping Fiona inside against the foam-like padding around her. Van stepped up inside the capsule and leaned over her. He placed his hand on her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb.

"Fiona?" he whispered.

She began to stir, turning her face into Van's palm. A soft moan emitted from her lips. Her eyelids slowly began to recede and expose her scarlet irises. She raised her head, placing her eyes firmly on the blurred figure in front of her. The Zoidian snapped her eyes close, wagged her head, and opened them again. Van's face became clear in her vision.

"Van."

Van pulled her close and embraced her tightly. "It's me."

Fiona wrapped her arms around him, ecstatic to have him in her arms. He gently lifted her from the capsule and set her feet down on the floor. She stumbled into him, clutching his forearms to keep her balance. The room shook around them, rattling the lights above. Fiona held onto Van, giving notice to blazing flames beyond the doors and windows. She inhaled. The blonde Zoidian doubled over, vomiting up white fluid on the floor. She coughed twice as Van set her down on the floor.

Fiona wiped her mouth of the foul-tasting liquid, felt her body was abnormally cold, and glanced down. She sharply drew breath and folded her arms over her bare chest.

"It's okay," Van comforted, reaching for the duffle bag that was beside her capsule. He unzipped the bag, took a handful of the clothes, and handed them to Fiona. Van respectfully turned his back as she speedily dressed.

"Van, what's happening? Where are we?" Fiona asked, pulling a black tank top over her chest.

"I don't know," he painfully replied, longing for an explanation. "I came to inside one of those capsules. I don't know how I got in there. I don't remember."

"Neither do I," dittoed the Zoidian, completing her wardrobe. She motioned beside Van, using his shoulder to balance herself as she put on her boots. "I can't make a connection."

"A connection to what?" inquired Van, his interest aroused by her words.

"What do you remember last… before now?" Fiona posed to him, running her arms through the sleeves of her hoodie.

Van closed his eyes shook his head. "I don't know. I just see flashbacks, images from a battle. From that point onward, nothing."

Fiona walked away from him to think. Her memory was more of the same, and though she was no stranger to memory loss, this wasn't a convenient time for it to occur again. They were missing something. The Zoidian found herself leaning against one of the pods, and she looked down at Moonbay's name printed onto the metal. Van had since moved near the sealed door. It was the only exit.

"Van, Moonbay's in here!" Fiona exclaimed.

"Yeah, I know," he acknowledged, curious about why the only exit had no doorknob. It supported only a silver panel with a slit accessible only by a keycard. They were trapped.

"And Irvine, too!" Fiona continued. "Should… should I release them?"

"No, not yet," reasoned Van. "We need to get ourselves out of here first. Then we can find someone who can tell us exactly…"

An indicator light upon the panel suddenly flashed green. A locking mechanism released, and the automated slid open. In a blur, Van reached for his gun, clicked the safety off, and pointed at the forehead of a middle-aged man before him. The man, accompanied by a pair of colleagues, raised their hands above their heads.

"Who are you?" Van demanded. "Answer me!"

The middle-aged man, donned in a white lab coat and dark underclothing, swallowed and slowly lowered his trembling hands.

"My name is Dr. Byrd. I'm not your enemy."

"No? Then tell me what's happening," Van frankly requested.

"Now is not the time," denied Dr. Byrd. "This facility is under attack. We need to get you and Ms. Fiona to safety."

"We need answers!" Flyheight barked.

"We're out of time!" Dr. Byrd said, relinquishing all fear as he moved pass Van.

He and his colleagues went over to the additional capsules and disconnected them from the wall with a hiss. Four wheels unfolded from underneath the pods, and Dr. Byrd went over to a nearby wall, submitted to a retinal scanner, and drew back his head. A section of the wall parted like elevator doors. Ice fragments cracked and fell to the ground where they shattered. An additional room was visible behind the wall, enabling a limited number of capsules to be linked up inside.

Fiona reached out to one of them, gently grabbing their arm. "Where are you taking them?"

The female colleague shot a quick glance at the Zoidian girl. "In this secondary chamber. They'll be safe here until we can come back for them."

Van went over to Dr. Byrd's side as he pushed Irvine's capsule into the chamber and connected it to its power source against the wall, growing incensed at the lack of communication.

"You said this facility is under attack, right? What kind of place is this?"

"This is a classified facility," Dr. Byrd explained as he vigorously worked. "You, Ms. Fiona – all of you were brought here from the year 2105. That's all I know."

"There's got to be something you're not telling me," Van searched, looking for anything at this point. "What about Zeke, my organoid?"

Dr. Byrd and his colleagues rolled the last pod into the chamber, scurried out, and sealed the wall behind them.

"He's in the chamber across the hall. I wish I could tell you more, but I can't. I'm just a scientist on the project, not the creator. You want answers – talk to him."

He stood before Van and Fiona, having a wild look in his cerulean eyes. "Leave this place. Stay off the grid."

With that, the three of them vacated the main chamber, turned right down the fiery hall, and disappeared from sight.

Fiona faced Van, depending on him. "What do we do?"

Van responded quickly. "We get out of here." He took her head. "C'mon."

The two of them exited the chamber and journeyed into the corridor. It was laced with small fires that outstretched their flames against the walls and up onto the ceilings. Light fixtures sparked and died, and the smoke was growing thick. With Fiona close by his side, Van eased across the narrow the hall, reaching a sealed doorway that supposedly contained Zeke. He just hoped that doctor was right. There was panel on the door like the others, and without a keycard, Van would have to do it the hard way.

"Step back," he warned Fiona as he leveled his gun. "It could ricochet."

Fiona did just so. Van aimed for the panel, turned his head away, and squeezed the trigger twice. The panel bled sparks, and the red and green indicators winked on and off before the door inched open. Van went up to the door, set the gun aside, and wedged his arms in the small opening and pushed. The door grinded against the track, but eventually submitted to Van's strength. He pushed it open just enough to fit through, slipping through with Fiona behind him.

Out of the five lights above, only one was operation, casting dull hue in the room. The room was considerably small, but since it supported a single pod, it made sense. Van and Fiona stood over the elongated capsule. It was considerably larger, being marked with several cautionary warnings in multiple languages. Van ignored the warnings; his friend was inside. He hit the release switch and took several steps back. Sections of the pod shifted, unlocked, clicked. The capsule's hood lifted horizontally and retracted into itself like a vehicle's convertible top. An oily fluid drained out from the pod's inner lining and was pumped into a container off to the side.

Van crept up the pod's edge and peered inside. Zeke was there, lying fully stretched out inside. He didn't seem alive from the looks of him. Dozens of tubes were connected to various points along his body that were attached to glowing orbs that lined the pod's inward fringes. Van guessed the tubes preserved Zeke, sustaining his systems until he could function under his own power. A thin strip of metal suddenly extended from the head of the capsule, positioned itself over Zeke's head, and released a charge to revive the organoid. Instantaneously, Zeke's crimson eyes glowed vibrantly; the cables snapped from his body, retreating back from where they came.

The mechanical lifeform gingerly sat up, expelling more of the oily fluid from its throat. It dripped from his body, resembling slime or mucus. Zeke set foot out of the pod, lost his balance, and stumbled into the nearby wall. Van moved to reassure him, but Fiona impeded him. An organoid awaking from a lengthy slumber required onlookers to keep their distance. It didn't matter how friendly Zeke was; he was still dangerous if startled.

The organoid pushed himself up off the wall and paused. He sensed he wasn't alone. Faster than any human could react, Zeke whipped around in blind rage, forced Van against the wall, and growled menacingly. The bladed end of his tail pressed against Flyheight's throat.

"Zeke, it's me!"

The organoid vented an abysmal growl with an open maw. Fluid wept from his dagger-like jaws, and his eyes expressed a fierceness that chilled Van to his core. He was attempting to kill him. Fiona stepped before the organoid, setting her hands upon the sides of his face.

"Zeke."

She peered into the organoid's eyes, her solace tone cooling his ferocity. Zeke maintained eye contact with the girl; he searched her, examined her. There was indeed something familiar about her. That voice, those eyes. It was her. Fiona. Zeke released Van, and he collapsed to the floor with a thud. The organoid pressed his forehead against Fiona's, cooing softly as he did picked himself up off the floor, checking his neck for puncture wounds. He was clean.

"Is… is he okay?" a cautious Van asked.

Zeke turned aside from Fiona, met Van's dark eyes, and began to approach him. Flyheight took a step back, finding himself reaching for his blade. Zeke, then, rested his head upon Van's shoulder, feeling regret over his actions. He should've known better. Van took his away from the blade and embraced the organoid.

"It's okay," he softly reassured; his heart overjoyed to see his friend again. He pulled back from Zeke's face and displayed that Flyheight smirk. "Let's get out of here, huh?"

A series of bone chilling screams suddenly smothered the air. The trio glued their eyes at the open doorway, and Van drew his sidearm. Guttural noises and gunfire echoed against the walls, but they all seemed to be drowned out my eerie roars. But all went quiet against the crackling flames. Van tightened his grip around the gun. A darkened figure passed before the doorway, having a slow gait through the flames. It glared at them; its fierce icy blues spearing them as it vanished. Fiona clutched Van's hand.

The eyes were unmistakable. It was him.

"Shadow," Fiona said in an undertone. "That means…"

"I know," interjected Van, and he was positive an old rival wasn't too far behind. "We should leave. Now!"

Van moved for the exit—gun first—and scrutinized the hall. He studied where Shadow had gone. It was clear. Van looked right; the sight wasn't pleasant. The man who'd he just met—Dr. Byrd—was lying face down on the floor, both he and his fellow scientists. Spent shell casing were prevalent upon the bloodstained floor, but it was obvious his efforts failed.

"This way," Van guided, traveling the same route as Shadow.

Zeke and Fiona reluctantly followed. Soot-covered footprints were imprinted against the floor, and it was obvious they belonged to Shadow. They turned the next corner, deliberately moving at a snail's pace. There was no rush, especially with an organoid like Shadow on the prowl. It only brought forth more questions that Van didn't know the answer to. If Shadow was here, that meant Raven was here as well. What were they doing here? Did they follow him to this time period?

Van kept moving.

The next corridor was completely blacked out, and the only visible light came from the moons. Without them, they'd be walking blind. Everything was motionless in the darkness. Glass crunched underneath their feet, and Van cringed as it did so. Keeping silent was a challenge. Fiona suddenly jumped at an eerie mumble in the distance. She inched closer to Van, while Zeke took point ahead of them.

Without warning, the angled corner ahead of them exploded in a shower of glass and concrete. Van pushed Fiona to the floor and covered her with his body, and Zeke did the same for him. Moonlight poured in through gaping breach in the building's side, and Shadow was standing in the midst of it. Van uncovered his head and made eye contact with the organoid. Neither of them looked away. It was then that a pair of emerald eyes pierced through the darkness. The glowing eyes turned aside from him, and Shadow had disappeared again as what appeared to be a Zaber Fang as dark as the night fade into the endless desert.

Van got to his feet, helped Fiona up, and walked over to the breach. He couldn't see the Zoid anymore. Was it real? Was any of this real? Would it be farfetched to think all of this was just a nightmare? But Van wasn't one to—occasionally—distort reality from fantasy. If this was reality—and it was a good chance it was—then he'd get to the bottom of this. With their path obviously blocked, Van sighted a pair of large doors to his left. For a change, the doors had handles. He jiggled them, feeling the lock inside negating his effort to overpower them.

"Zeke, do you mind?" he asked the organoid, gesturing toward the door.

Zeke complied; he took several steps back, lowered his head, and charged for the locked doors. He forced his body into them with overwhelming force, and they yielded to his strength.

"Nice one, pal," Van praised, walking pass the organoid.

The three of them entered into an immense, vaunt-like enclosure. As impressive as the expansive room was, however, it wasn't the focal point. There, positioned in the center, was the Van's Blade Liger. Van couldn't believe what he was seeing, and the Blade Liger wasn't the only Zoid. Irvine's Lightning Saix was there as well, including a Dibison, a poorly maintained Gustav, and a trio of standard Command Wolves off to the side.

Van couldn't believe his eyes. If he were actually preserved for over a thousand years, it didn't show on his Blade Liger. The Zoid was well maintained: its armor was polished to a reflective shine, and every component looked as if it was brand new. It almost didn't appear real. Who had the resources to maintain a Zoid such as a Blade Liger for an extended period of time? Van felt sick again. He couldn't grasp it; but standing about solved nothing. If wanted to grasp it, he'd have to catch it.

Van walked up to the feet of the Blade Liger, admiring it for a brief moment. A shimmer glistened across the Blade Liger's orange cockpit visor, and it released a growl. Zoid lowered its head, opened its visor, and invited Van inside. Van jumped inside the cockpit and rested his hands on the controls. A solace seemed to evelope the pilot. It had felt like an eternity since he'd done so.

Fiona climbed in behind Van, taking the rear seat as Zeke settled himself atop the Zoid's head. Van powered up the Liger's systems as he'd done hundreds of times before. Multiple monitors pulsed to life around him, and the sound was more soothing to Van than anything else at this point. An automated systems check began to run, giving green lights across the grid; the Blade Liger was combat-ready.

A waiting message icon blinked in the top right corner of the central monitor, catching Van's attention. He thumbed the blinking holo-button and waited. A dark windowed expanded, loaded, and materialized into video file. The file presented an aged man in the file, and it was a face Van would never forget. It was Dr. D - the eccentric Zoids scientist that Flyheight had grown to tolerate over their time together. He was a sight for sore eyes, and maybe he could shed some light on this madness.

mixed with white noise screeched, cleared, then focused on an old man. Van could never forget the man's face. It was Dr. D. Surrounding Dr. D.'s face was bright green arrow pointing right, with a bright green ring encircling it. Van touched the play arrow, and waited for the message to load. On screen, Dr. D stood before the screen, his clothing and face speckled with blood. Rumbles and people screaming sounded in the background. Dr. D glanced over his shoulder, checking to see of if anyone was behind him.

"Van, if you're seeing this message, that means you've survived. Listen, Van, I don't have much time—"

Dr. D paused, glancing over his shoulder—he was paranoid, more so than normal.

"Please forgive me for what I've done, Van, but I had no choice. I promise you, when all this is over, I'll give a detailed explanation. It seems they've stumbled upon my research facility, and I think they're after my work. I cannot allow my research to fall into the their hands, so I'm sealing myself in as well, Van. There's something you need to remember, Van, they need an Ancient Zoidian in order to complete my research. When you awake, Van, keep Fiona safe at all costs. I have to go."

The file closed, darkening the screen. Van sat back with a confused expression. He couldn't understand what was happening. Who were 'they' Dr. D spoke of, and why did he need to keep Fiona safe? Whatever the case, it seemed Dr. D seemed like he was in trouble, and Van wanted to know why. The dark-haired warrior remained calm. He didn't want to upset Fiona or Zeke. He slouched back in his seat and covered forehead his hand. Fiona peeked over Van's shoulder with a curious expression on her face.

"It wasn't much, but at least we know Dr. D can explain this to us," she said, looking on the brightside.

At this point, Van didn't care about the brightside. Dr. D seemed to be in trouble. He felt so selfish. They were probably in the same chamber as Dr. D was and didn't bother to wake him up. But maybe that was for the good. This place was being attacked, and as soon as the heat died down, he could come back to wake him up.

Fiona shook Van's shoulder, ending his train of thought. "Van, who's that?"

Van looked up, catching sight of a man walking into the large hanger-like room. Appearance wise: he looked in his later thirties, short black hair with thick, shaggy sideburns; his eyes were a dull green, and large black drench coat draped down his body with a lavender shirt, spiked collar, and a loose red tie. With a devilish grin, the unknown man walked up to the Blade Liger, keeping a good distance between the two. Zeke began to growl, not sensing something right about this person. Van peeked up over the the Blade Liger's snout and squinted his eyes. Curious, Van jumped from the Blade Liger, gun firmly in hand.

"Who are you?"

The man laughed through his nose and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Me? I'm just your friendly neighborhood renegade Zoid scientist."

Van raised an eyebrow. He didn't find anything comical. "I didn't ask for your occupation. I asked for a name."

The man dropped his smile and wore a serious expression. "I'm Dr. Laon," the man said, "and I have business with your ancient Zoidian."

Van glanced up Fiona in the cockpit, returned his glare to this Dr. Laon, and fell silent. Was this man an enemy? He couldn't get a read on him.

"Why do you need Fiona?" Van questioned.

"Such information doesn't concern you," Dr. Laon deflected.

He was definitely an enemy. Could he have been one of the people Dr. D warned him about? If so, a peaceful departure from this man seemed unlikely.

Van raised the gun. "She's not going anywhere with you. I can promise you that."

Dr. Laon smirked, oblivious to Van's threat. "I've always wondered what it would be like to stand before the great Van Flyheight. I didn't you'd be pointing a gun in my face, but to each his own. I'm not here for a fight. You give me the Zoidian and I'll live in peace."

"Sorry," Van denied. "But you can still leave, though."

"Exercise judgement, Van. Do you really want to know where this goes?"

Zeke flew down from the Blade Liger, forcing himself between Van and the stranger. He roared in the face of Dr. Laon, giving fair warning.

Dr. Laon blinked twice and cleared his throar with his fist over his mouth. "Cute." He leaned out from around Zeke and stared at Van. "Time is running out. I can understand if you don't trust me. You hardly know me."

"And I'd rather not," Van spat.

Dr. Laon plastered a sympathetic expression across his face, as if broken at heart. "Then you leave me no choice." He pressed his index and middle finger against his right ear. "Seize her."

"What?" Van voiced.

The entire east wall beside Van and Zeke gave way, spitting large chunks of metal and concrete shrapnel past them. Zeke grabbed Van and tucked them under his body as the shrapnel sprinkled over his resilient body. Van rolled out from under Zeke, coughed up dust, and looked up. He swore inwardly as the same Zaber Fang from before was standing in front of him. Shadow flew around the Zoid and landed near it's feet. Only one name entered Van's mind

Raven.

The canopy of the Sabre Tiger opened up, revealing the pilot inside. Seated inside was an individual Van couldn't forget even if endured shock therapy. The cold, emotionless eyes of the pilot went as deep to touch the very nerve endings in Van.

"Van Flyheight," spoke Raven.

"Raven," growled Van, still digesting the fact his greatest rival was yet again in his midst. "I have no argument with you. I buried that a long time ago."

"So did I, but this is business. Nothing personal," retorted Raven.

Van marked the intonation in his voice. It was uncharacteristically mature, mellow, and without the sharp pitch of disdain. Aside from his physical appearance, it would difficult to even reason that it was Raven. Had something changed?

"Then why do this?" interrogated Van. "Why choose the same path?"

"Because it's what I am," Raven replied sharply.

"Figures," Van tensed. "I should've known you'd remain… you."

"You know me well," Raven obliged.

Dr. Laon cleared his throat again, and his aggravation increased. "This would go smoother if you ceased the chatter."

Raven didn't react to Laon's words; he ignored them and reclined in his seat.

"Shadow!" he commanded the organoid.

Shadow expanded his wings, pushed off his feet and dove for Fiona in the Liger's cockpit. Zeke leaped into the air, hoping to collide with Shadow to knock him off course. The clever black organoid spun off Zeke's initial charge, grabbed Fiona, and whipped Van with his tail as he flew by. Van was lifted into the air and flew 3 meters back. He landed on the hard, metal floors with a thud. He groaned and rolled onto his hands and knees, feeling like he'd been struck with sledgehammer.

Van watched as Shadow delivered Fiona to Dr. Laon, and he injected a sedative into the squirming Zoidian. Fiona's body went limp, and Laon turned aside from Van and walked away with her. Flyheight scrambled to his feet and sprinted after them, but his progress was cut short by the Zaber Fang. It slammed its paw between him and Dr. Laon, and he could only watch as Fiona was being taken away from him.

He bared his teeth in rage, sprinted to his Blade Liger, and reached the cockpit. Van secured the harness over his chest, glaring at Raven's Zoid. Where his Geno Breaker was Van didn't know, but at this point, he didn't care. The visor closed over him.

"Now things are getting interesting," Raven said to himself.

The Blade Liger turned toward the Zaber Fang and growled.

"Showtime, Zeke!" Van shouted.

Zeke burned his back mounted boosters and skyrocketed into the air. His metallic body formed into a slender form of glowing energy and fused with the Blade Liger. Light expressed from the Blade Liger's panels as Zeke wrapped around the core. Raven sucked his teeth and called to Shadow. Shadow glowed into a form of energy, fused with the Zaber, and amped its power. The two Zoids began to walk around each other; both growling deeply.

"I don't want to fight you, Raven," Van confessed. "I just want Fiona."

"Sorry, but I can't let you," shrugged his rival. "You'll have to defeat me first."

"Good enough!" Van exclaimed.

"Then let's go!" challenged Raven.

Raven charged the Zaber Fang, bashing the Blade Liger's right flank. A metallic collision echoed through the hanger, shaking loose light fixtures above. Van lunged the controls, leaping the Blade Liger at the Sabre Tiger.

Poor judgment, Raven thought.

He sent the Zaber Fang back and fired its triple-barrled shock cannon. The blasts hit the Blade Liger, sending it into a nearby wall, tearing slabs of concrete and metal from within in. The Liger collapsed on the floor, with shrapnel pelting over the armor. Van couldn't understand. He didn't feel at 100 percent strength.

If he was, he'd able to stand his own against Raven. Unless? Unless the cryogenics left side-effects. If that was the case, Van would have to wait until he was full strength to fight Raven. No! He had to fight and defeat him now. It would be the only way to get Fiona back.

With the help of Zeke, Van brought the Blade Liger to it's feet. Van wiped the sweat from his brow and activated the two small, flexible levers. In unison, the Blade Liger's dual laser blades. The blades began to shimmer a bright golden-yellow hue. Raven was unimpressed. He knew Van was growing tired. Protocol stated that all subjects from cryo-rest must rehab their bodied for at least 24 hours.

Raven had rested 72 plus hours. He knew this would be over quickly. However, even in a defeated state, Van wasn't to be underestimated. Raven kept his composure. He needed to stay on his toes. The Blade Liger charged for him, its blades pointed forward. Raven accelerated the Sabre Tiger forward. The Blade Liger came closer, preparing to strike. At the last minute, Raven nudged the controls. The Tiger-type Zoid pushed off it's powerful legs, leaped over the Blade Liger, and landed behind it. Raven swung his Zoid around and bombarded his opponent with gunfire.

Two sets of twin energy bolts exploded into the rear of the Blade Liger, sizzling it's armor. Van shook inside the cockpit. He groaned from the heavy vibrations. Not giving it a chance to fight back, Raven lunged for the Blade Liger. He went around to the front of the Blade Liger, aimed its backmounted 30mm beam cannons, and fired unmercifully. Van screamed as the burning lasers boil the armor. Raven released the trigger, smirking at the Blade Liger's sizzled, dented, and scorched armor.

Raven drew back the Zaber's head and headbutted the Blade Liger in its face. The Blade Liger flipped inverted, landed on its side, and rolled twice until landed on it's damaged belly. Multiple cracks littered the cockpit cover, along with a hole or two. Unable to stay fused with the Liger any longer, Zeke rose up from the Blade Liger, and dropped to the floor; his armor smoked. Van lied in the cockpit, bloody and disoriented. Multiple lacerations bled from his chest, arms, and neck; missing vital arteries by millimeters.

Van slowly opened his eyes, his vision cloudy from the blood. The Sabre Tiger turned away from him and began walking into the desert. It vanished in the night. Van leaned forward, balled up his fists, and screamed. He forced the Blade Liger to get up, and his weak muscles screamed in protest. Blood leaked onto the fabric of the pilot's chair. Van ignored his injuries. He wasn't going to let Raven get away. Not this time.

Van surged his Zoid into the night, and Zeke—although weak—kept pace. A Whale King was situated in the distance, loading Fiona into the aerial transporter. Van tried to close the gap, but by the time he came within a 100 yards of the Whale King, it ascended.

"No!" Van cried out, feeling all hope vent from his body.

No, he wouldn't give in; he wouldn't let Fiona slip through his grasp. Van took in a deep breath, exhaled, and pushed on after the Whale King. He didn't know where the Whale King would lead him, but he just knew it would lead him to Fiona, and he'd fight for her.


Neo's Note: This is the official rewrite of the Sky's the Limit Trilogy.