A/N: This is for the Zoids Fan Anthology, which is a cool thing.

Combat Motivation

You are ancient.

You feel the continents push against your bones. West, East, Lost Continent; they do not have these names for you yet. You feel the weight of the water above your metal prison and the way the oxygen diffuses out of it slowly, making small air bubbles against your protective shell. It has been a very, very long wait. The world has shifted during your sleep, your great slow hibernation. You dreamed in seconds ticking.

And then the sea shifts. There are scrabblings and you can read biomechanical life signs, the coursing of electricity through hydraulic legs. These are not Zoids like you; they do not move like an Ultimate X, with intent and precision. There is human delay in their clawing. When they dig you up and crack open your coffin just before sealing it again, you do not see the second pair of eyes from the black box behind their gazes.

Because they are not opponents worth your time to face, and because you are encrusted with time and sealed with it, your joints old and empty of fluids and your life dimmed down to a spark, a little rivulet of eternal battery, you remain still. It would be very difficult to move, now, but not impossible. You feel your quiet potential.

And then, because it has been a long, long lifetime beneath the sea, you sleep.

The next light you register is blue and blinks—no, sweeps—up past your eyes and across your matte black chest and over your shoulders. You are suspended in a gyroscopic scanner and you have been renovated. If not for the magnetic field keeping the metal bulk of you floating, you could move.

The room is small. You see it in triangular glimpses past the spinning bands of the gyroscope. There is a door behind the humans big enough for them to have brought you through. The humans are quiet and barely noticeable; you look down on the top of their dark-haired heads. One female, one male, you note of these aliens that walk so temporarily on Zi's surface. (It is not for them, this planet. They have taken it temporarily; where ever you are now, it is a place built for humans, although you had thought that they might be long gone by the time you woke up. But Zi is stone and Zoids are stone and humans are flesh, and so, some day, they will be gone.)

You see them again on the day the boy tries to break you. First he is a small, straight-backed figure on the silver ground, and then he gives you words.

"Hello, Berserk Fury."

They are not Zoidian; they are the new tongue, and you need to connect old memories before you realize that. Humans have grown more successful than you predicted. (But then, they are things of blood and bone and you, birthed from Zi, are metal and plate and spark, and so you accept that the humans are alien and therefore hard to predict.)

The boy has fight in him. His is the calmness of digging claws in before the final strike, of pistons slamming down into the dirt and the air being ripped apart, invisible at its edges. There is a charged energy to his poise. You cannot but obey him; the tamed modern Zoids are not build to disobey, and although you are ancient you are also tamed. The black box guarantees it, pulling at the cords of your reactions. And so you simply feels Vega present, but the way the little warrior moves teaches you all you need to know.

Vega has all the calm and all the wildness of one who is not afraid.

Your first fight is something that scorches against your skin like the sun and for a moment you are down on one knee in the desert and the Lightning Saix are circling, heads bobbing as if their plate-and-plastic faces could sniff for meat. Vega times it and you watch him do it. You whip around and snap your teeth around the nearest Saix's neck, feeling the pins under your jaw drive in and lock. You spin and plant a foot and your teeth drive in between pipes and you throw one Saix into the path of another, and this young Vega is an acceptable pilot.

Then the Liger senses you and opens its mouth a little bit to show that cave of white teeth and you see how it works with its pilot too, how they are a little divided because the Zoid is thinking for itself—

And so, when Vega commands the particle cannon to fire and you are not ready yet, you are beginning to burn up from the inside, the sea is so far gone, you are almost all right with your burning, because you have finally found your enemy, your other half, the last great thinker in this world of metal muscle—

And the woman you saw on the day of your rebirth commands Vega to stop, and he agrees.

You wish you could shake, you are so eager.

You lay your head down against the ground to let him out and the boy puts his arm across your eye and you are not sure why. He is so close that you lose track of him in the pixels but he is pressing his cheek against your cheek and maybe he is doing the shaking for you.

You wonder where the Liger Zero is.

(It is standing fifty meters from the Hover Car-Go , watching its pilot watch the sunset-colored bands of cloud. They have finished with words, they have finished with secondhand parts and battles against machines. There is life in their future, if they can survive it.)

When you reach the Ultrasaurus wreck Vega works the levers and console but you have disengaged yourself from them. He is in the other direction, ponderous and slow and ready for you like a fresh carcass. Vega calls you by name—by that emotion-word, Fury, but then he sees Liger too and it is not about words any more—just about emotion. About rivalry.

The Shadow Fox is down and the Hover Car-Go is down and the Liger leaps out of the smoke, sunlight wreathing its claws. It ricochets off the ground in on controlled lunge and rakes claws across your face. You bend to grab its neck in your teeth but it is so fast you almost double over yourself, and then the Liger is tearing up your shoulder and you rip it down to the ground and hold it there until it wriggles free, wrenching up again, and this is not a human battle. Vega and Bit are holding on and sweating and thinking that maybe their frantic hands on the controls are doing something. This is an animal battle. For a time, you forget about guns and humans. The Vega triggers the cutting edges of its saws and they are all back, all four of them, running across the wide spine of the Ultrasaurus.

(Zoids have always had this combat motivation system working in the background of their processes, driving them, and humans do not really know what it is until it reaches two hundred percent and is breaking their scales and you, Fury, your arms hanging limp because Vega is limp but your mind is so alive, show them.)

And as you die, becoming a dead machine instead of a living animal, you feel Vega still trying, ripping himself away from your dying thrashes and still trying the controls, sending sparks out into broken circuits, fighting one moment, running the next. You wonder whether he wants to save you or to charge ahead. Your throat is ripping open. You think that he does not know what he wants. Vega will survive. He is vicious and determined and intelligent, and now he knows what it is to lose everything that he thought supported him.

He is twelve.

He is ancient.