Disclaimer: I do not own Zoids.
So, I played around with some of Brad's feelings. Oh well. That's what I like doing.
Brad Hunter could never figure out what bit him in the butt that day. Was it because the Backdraft base in that area had finally been captured by the Zoid Battle Commission? Or did the five-year anniversary strike some kind of need within the young pilot? Regardless of the reason (if there was one) Brad traveled on that day to the resting place of his Command Wolf.
He didn't tell any of his teammates where he was going. Doc gave Brad a quizzical look when the Shadow Fox pilot asked for the day off, but just shrugged and gave permission. The Blitz Team didn't have a battle for three days; there was no reason to turn down Brad's request.
Brad was later grateful to Doc, who requested that Brad take one of the trucks instead of the Shadow Fox. The mercenary's Zoid was due for a check-up, the older man had said. Brad had just nodded and didn't give it much thought. But something in his gut had settled; would it have been weird to bring his new Zoid to the grave of his old one? He quickly shook his head and grabbed the keys for the truck. Heck, it was not even a grave he was going to. It's not like the Command Wolf was a living thing.
And maybe that is what bothered Brad the most, this bizarre idea that Zoids were living creatures. Sure, maybe Bit's Liger was with its Organoid System. But a regular Zoid? There was no way. Zoids were manufactured by humans in factories for battles and competitions. They were not partners, friends or even comrades. They were tools.
Every time Jack Sisco referred to his Lightning Saix as "his girl" or talked about "her lovely emerald eyes" Brad wanted to puke. Was it a Zoid or a girlfriend?
"Curiosity. That's what it is," Brad said to himself as he turned the key in the ignition. He was just curious to see what happened to the Backdraft base and see if anyone had salvaged his old Zoid's parts. As its former pilot, he was interested in the machine's final outcome.
The road to the forest was well known to Brad; after all he had spent weeks on it trying to hunt down the mysterious shadow Zoid in the woods. The brown desert earth quickly became spotted with vegetation and within an hour the woods swallowed up Brad's truck. He had to take a slightly different path to the resting place of the Command Wolf since driving a truck off a cliff was not exactly a safe plan. It added another half hour to take the over-grown road, but Brad wasn't in any rush.
Eventually the mercenary had to climb out of the truck and walk the rest of the way. The undergrowth was too thick for the vehicle's wheels. It was quiet, even his footsteps were muffled by the pine needles that littered the ground. When the trees began to thin, Brad knew he was getting closer. A large mound started to come into view and Brad knew it was the Command Wolf waiting.
Soon enough the large trees were gone, replaced by charred stumps and the younger trees that would one day take their spots. And there, no longer hidden by the forest, laid the Command Wolf.
Its ex-pilot stood at the edge of the woods for a moment, eyes narrowed, searching. What had driven him to come here today?
Brad took a few steps, slowly making his way around fallen tree trunks and overgrown bushes. The smell of fire and melted metal still hung in the air. Or was that his memory recreating the scene from five years ago?
He could still remember the whistling of the missiles and then the crackling and popping of the fire before darkness overcame him. Abruptly, Brad halted his march and gazed intently at the fallen Zoid for the first time in half a decade.
It was as expected. The Command Wolf lay crumpled at the bottom of the cliff. Its head bent down and the left foreleg stretched out in front of its body. The tail hung awkwardly and the hind legs were curled beneath its body, useless.
The metal that once formed the body was either rusted or warped, the blue paint almost completely chipped away. Litter from the forest and cliff had collected on the Zoid's broken limbs. Brad was almost disappointed; he had been expecting some kind of shocking discovery, like the Command Wolf was gone, stolen or severely ravaged by looters. Frowning, he decided not to trust his gut next time he got inspired to visit dead Zoids.
Instead of leaving, however, Brad came toward the Wolf. He might as well check it out for the hell of it. After all, it had been a two hour drive. As he marched up closer to the machine, Brad suddenly stopped in his tracks. He had been observing the Command Wolf and just how it had deformed in the fire when his eyes finally rested on the head and cockpit.
A chill ran through the mercenary's body; the Wolf's ears were flattened like a threatened or disgusted animal. It looked angry, betrayed. Brad was rooted on the spot.
Only when a cool breeze blew by him was Brad granted common sense. Of course the ears would have melted like that; they were thinner than the rest of the body and would have been affected by the heat of the blazes more easily. It was only by Brad imagination that he saw the look of an angry animal.
"Pull yourself together, Brad," he muttered and let out a sigh. Once he shook off his nerves, the mercenary approached the Zoid, and then placed a hand on the rusted body. Small flakes of metal stuck to his hands, others fell to the earth, blending with the dirt.
"It was a good Zoid," he admitted to the air. "Sturdy and powerful enough for its size." It had been his second Zoid, bought with prize money from a competition years ago and some help from his parents. Brad was only fourteen at the time.
When his parents were actually around, they would tell him stories of the legendary Zoids and pilots from thousands of years ago. His Dad had said that those warriors were not just men and machines, they were actually friends. It wasn't long after that Brad received his first Zoid and eagerly wanted to form a friendship with the Helcat like the pilots in the stories. But to young Brad's disappointment there was no bond formed.
When he had talked to his Zoid, no response was ever given. Sure, the Zoid roared when first turned on, but it never portrayed any personality. If it liked running fast over walking or if the Zoid preferred to win with close combat tactics, Brad never knew. It was then inside that small Helcat that Brad lost faith in the stories his parents told him. Zoids were machines, not living beings.
Brad shook his head, bringing himself back to the present and the Zoid in front of him. There didn't appear to be any looting, which Brad was not entirely surprised. Not many people went wandering in the forest looking for Zoid parts. That was always done on the battlefields.
Brad quickly climbed up the leg of the Command Wolf, noting the rusted texture of the armor. He paused at the shoulder to inspect the gun which had crumbled into a dark heap of metal. Suddenly he was reminded of all the enemies he had taken down with this Zoid and its firepower. Almost tenderly, Brad rested a hand on the Wolf's neck. "If nothing else, this Zoid was dependable."
One leg and arm after another, Brad finally made it to the top of the once orange cockpit. Fire, time, and nature had clouded and morphed the protective glass. A few small boulders had lodged themselves in the glass but overall it remained whole. Brad brushed a hand over a smooth section, wiping away five years of dust to see what was left inside.
It was just as he had left it. The seatbelt was gone, along with the cushions on the seat; those had gone up in flames not long after Brad had ejected himself. Whatever had been left had been eaten by the various moths and other insects. The controls were still distinguishable, but overall the cockpit had been warped by the heat of the fire.
There was still a small feeling of disappointment in Brad when he walked a few steps and then sat down on the head of the Command Wolf. He rested right between the bent ears.
"And here I thought maybe I would find something," Brad thought out loud. His hands ran over the top of the Wolf's head, sending dirt into the air.
When his hand brushed something fuzzy, Brad stopped moving and glanced down at the foreign texture. It appeared to be short blades of brown grass growing out of armor of the Command Wolf. Brad raised an eyebrow and swiped his hand across the surface like a blade. When the plants remained, Brad turned and laid down, his face now pressed against the rough armor.
He plucked gently at the grass, waiting for the bizarre nature litter to just blow away in the wind. But with his face so close to the surface, Brad saw there was no removing the plants; they were rooted into the Command Wolf.
"What the-," Brad started and then paused, realization washing over him like a flood.
Plants can't grow through metal.
His eyes shot open at this discovery. For plants to grow they need nutrients, they need organic material. For even this small amount of peach-fuzz grass to grow there must be a decent amount of organic material in the Zoid…
Brad clambered to his feet, nearly stumbling over the edge. Sucking in a breath, he glared at the growing plants. There was no way. If it was true then he, then he…
The mercenary jumped off the head and ran along the twisted spine of his dead Zoid. Small patches of the grass grew in other places too, all the way down to the tip of the tail. Most of the Zoid was still barren of any signs of growth, but anything could happen in time.
After checking the tail, Brad leapt to the ground and really took in the sight before him. The Command Wolf with its one paw outstretched away from its body. Could it really have been trying to reach him as he had laid there until the Backdraft group picked Brad up? Could his Zoid have been trying to rescue its pilot but died before it could complete its task?
There was a deep patch of green surrounding the Command Wolf where its chest rested on the ground. Brad hadn't noticed it before. Now with this new understanding budding in him, he knew he had to investigate. And it was just as he expected, smaller bushes and thick grass grew out of a cavity in the Wolf's chest—where the core, soul, of the Zoid supposedly existed. Brad tugged on the plants; they were rooted to the inside wires and visible scraps of metal; they did not touch the soil of the forest.
"I can't believe it." But he did. And it almost broke him to come face-to-face with such a significant discovery. "After all these years, and I never knew." A sudden rush of questions ran through Brad's head.
Was the Command Wolf a male or female?
Why did he never feel any communication or bond with this Zoid?
Was it his disbelief that made the Command Wolf silent?
More and more questions formed along with a sickening knot in Brad's stomach. He would never know the answers to these questions. The Command Wolf was dead. It had been living and was now dead, forever holding its secrets.
Now sad, Brad promised himself that he would talk to the Shadow Fox when he returned. The new idea still made him frown; old beliefs are hard to kill quickly. But the proof was right before his eyes. Zoids may be manufactured these days, but there seemed to be evidence to support the legends of ancient Zoids and their human friends.
Brad took a few hours to really look upon the Command Wolf. He soaked in the details, the red of the rust on its claws, the way the cockpit had morphed into a wavy form, and lastly the position of defense the Command Wolf had fallen in. Its one leg still outstretched faithful to the end.
When the sun began to set and the cliff reflected the golden light, Brad walked back to the waiting truck. He paused to turn around and give the Command Wolf one last look. His gut told him to say something, but there wasn't any sappy feelings running through Brad, just bitter disappointment and heavy life-changing knowledge. This was a burden he would carry for the rest of his years.
Still, it seemed right to say something. So quietly, Brad said, "Rest well, Wolf," before jumping in the truck, turning the ignition and driving back through the wooded forest.
They don't discuss much about Zoids and their physical make-up in Century Zero, so this is really mostly just me playing around with a sudden idea. It also doesn't help that I haven't watched the series in, literally, years. So, any inaccuracies stem from these facts and my own mistakes.
Critique is love!—randomcat23