Disclaimer: Zoids is the property of Takara Tomy Co. Ltd. and Hasbro. Zoids New Century Zero was produced by Studio Avex. Characters detailed here which not featured in the Zoids New Century Zero series are of my own creation, and they may be reused under condition of attribution.
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Zoids: New Century Nova
Chapter 1: Invasion in the Blind
A majestic cliff burst into flame and rock; the resultant rubble pummeled the Steel-Grey Molga unit perched below.
"Argh!" The pilot cried out as his internal computer reverted to static and the fatal words: Command System Freeze.
The mechanical voice of the judge rang out across the rocky battlefield: "Team Stormgrey, Molga unit – out of the battle! One Zoid unit remaining!"
The pilot slammed his fist to his computer. "Crap! Damn spiders! Sorry, Renz, I couldn't hold 'em. It's on you now!"
Renz responded calmly over the intercom. "Don't worry, they may've taken down your Molga, but I'd like to see their cowardly attempts at tactics take down this Gojulas of mine!"
The grey painted dinosaur-like Zoid cast an imposing silhouette against the bright blue sky. Its custom-built 90 mm cannons scanned the horizon for a target, as its black feet sunk ever so slightly into the granite rock supporting its 230-ton weight.
"Come out you damn spiders! Get your just desserts!" Renz fired a round into an opposing mountain, hoping to scare his opponents out of hiding. He began speaking on an open channel. "I don't blame you for staying away! This Gojulas is the prize of our Stormgrey team – one hit from its cannons won't leave any arms to beg for mercy!" Another shot. "Come now? Doesn't anyone want a little lead souvenir?"
BAM! A shot at the Gojulas' feet.
"Shit! Where are they?" He fired off his beam cannon in desperation as the Gojulas spread its legs to avoid tripping – too late.
WHOOSH! Rubble bursted out behind.
"Surrounded me – the bastards!"
BLAST! A direct hit to the side torso sent the Gojulas crashing into the rock.
A cold voice rang out over the intercom.
" They sunk all that money into a piece of crap like this? I've never seen a Gojulas so pathetic." Crawling around a nearby mountain, a green-legged Cannon Spider advanced on the toppled dinosaur.
"Now now, Feros! Don't blame the Zoid for the pilot's problems! The man just doesn't have a clue in the world how to pilot the thing." Another cannon spider, black and silver, moved straight towards the wreckage. "Still, that was a hell of a shot there Heiden! Good placement."
The final spider, of white legs and orange body, advanced from the side, accepting implicit credit for the toppling blast. Inside, its pilot swept back his parted brown hair and grinned. "It wasn't that impressive."
"Well I suppose it would've been harder if the guy actually moved!" The black spider responded. The three moved into close range of the sparking, downed Zoid, savoring the moment. The black spider chimed in again. "So, Warrior, feelin' like callin' it so we can leave your Gojulas with some semblance of a skeleton? Or shall we formally blow your ass to kingdom come?"
That was the moment.
"Hyaaaa!" Renz yelled. The wreck rose just a slight bit off the ground, lunged at the black spider. "Crusher Claws!" The black claws of the Gojulas ripped into the spider's legs, severing 2 from its body and forcing the spider to the ground.
"Son of a bitch!" The black spider pilot exclaimed.
"Whoa!" Feros, the green spider pilot, backed off.
Heiden aimed his cannon at the dinosaur and delivered a crushing, final blow.
The Gojulas pilot smiled and sighed as his computer let off the telltale high pitch of defeat.
"Battle over! Battle over!" The Judge's voice rang out. "The winner is… The Arachno Team!"
The black spider pilot slammed the controls of his immobilized spider. "Son of a bitch wasn't downed! That bastard!" The Judge continued unfazed, as oblivious to the Warrior as the Warrior was to him. "Congratulations Arachno Team, on your win! Until the next battle!"
Slam! The black spider pilot thrust his empty cup down onto the table. "Hey! A refill dammit! You call this service?"
Heiden sighed. "Hey don't take it out on the waitress, Wain. It's just a little repair! The prize money'll cover it."
"Pfft. If we go out west where it's cheap and wait a week maybe! You really think we can get a rush job done around here for the 220k we got from the Commission? On my custom built Cannon Spider? Dammit… Guess we're on break awhile."
"We could ask Mesa to join for a bit." Heiden interjected, shrugging.
"Are you kidding? She's just broke up with what's-his-name; probably not in the best of moods. Urgh…and we were on such a good streak too…" He slammed the table again. "Dammit why'd that punk hafta cut my legs off! They can never just die…"
"Maybe you shouldn't have got so close. " Feros chimed in as he sipped his own drink. Wain pushed the cup, spilling in Feros' face.
"Like you weren't right there with me. I was just unlucky…" He continued swearing under his breath as a waitress finally produced another drink for him.
"Sorry I didn't get him earlier." Heiden grunted.
"What are you talking about Heiden?" Feros nudged him. "You're the best shot I know! You been takin' em down left an' right the last few weeks, that's for sure."
Heiden shrugged. "Yeah. Maybe that's the problem."
"You ever get that feelin' like you stayed in one place too long? Like things are getting too easy, too normal? And ya-"
"Hah! I call that getting' good Heiden!" Feros slapped him on the back.
Heiden chuckled. "Yeah, I guess so."
At this point a new face, fresh from convening with his two teammates across the room, approached the table.
"Hey, aren't you the guys in the Arachno team that's been takin' all the wins round these parts?"
Wain was hassling the waitress and Feros trying to dry himself off, so Heiden felt obligated to speak. "Who wants to know?" The man responded.
"A fellow Warrior looking for a challenge." Feros turned to the man.
"Well listen bud, if you wanna challenge us, you gotta be in B class or higher, first of all. And we fight in the Rocasna Mountains northeast of here. If you're alright with-"
"We're not taking challenges right now." Wain interrupted, reminding his teammates of his predicament and eliciting corresponding embarrassed looks. "Unless…" He looked up from his drink. " You wanna add 200k to the winning pot." Feros tried to hide his confusion at the new stipulation and the specificity of the number. Heiden realized immediately that a rush job on the Cannon Spider would be covered evenly by around 190,000 BP plus the reward money they'd already had, meaning that an extra 200k in the pot would effectively negate the cost of repair.
The man looked irked. "…Let me talk it over with my team." He walked away. The Arachno team watched his retreat.
"He won't be back," Wain declared and returned to his drink. His teammates did likewise.
In the shadows, a young man stroked his chin. He was clad in a blue and red trench coat, lined with black, and bore equally black hair with streaks of brown, shaped in a way that was organized but clearly not combed. Dark blue sunglasses obscured his eyes, but not his calculated grin.
He stood up, and adapted a slow, deliberate pace as he walked towards the Arachno Team. The team saw him before he arrived – just as he'd wanted. He came to the table and stopped. The group stared him down for a few seconds. He spoke.
"That last match must have been brutal on your black Cannon Spider." Feros ground his teeth. Heiden considered grinning at the man's bluntness. Wain stood and made to speak, but not before the man continued. "I'll repair it for you. I'll give you the money in full, up front."
Wain paused. Feros eyed the newcomer and even Heiden looked curiously upon him. After some thought, Wain spoke.
"And the catch?"
"Just a battle."
"Oh…" The group's postures relaxed as they exchanged cautious but encouraging looks. The man spoke on.
"Just a few rules."
"Hey! Don't you-" Feros interjected, but Wain motioned against and turned to the stranger.
"Go on." he said.
"I've heard you like to battle in the Rocasna Mountains. That's fine. Now since I put money up front, I'd like to increase the pot, say putting in an additional 300 thou on each side?"
The sideline tables eyed the spectacle and the room quieted. The cautious glances of the Arachno team surged with excitement and approval. They smiled.
"Just one more thing." He leaned in on the table to emphasize the point.
"We'll fight in the battle mode 0925."
"0925?" Heiden wondered aloud.
"Invasion in the Blind. You know it?" The stranger asked. Heiden shook his head, slowly. His teammates housed equally puzzled looks.
"I can explain it if you don't want to look it up in the Commission Database."
"No, that's fine." Wain broke his team's silence. "We accept."
Muttering came from the sideline tables.
"Alright then." The stranger smiled as he handed over a small red-tinted business card. "Give me a call with an estimate for the damages, and I'll have the Commission set up the match." Wain took the card – it read "SAO ENSINÉ – Zoid Entrepreneur" above a video-call number.
"Alright, Mr. Ensiné. We'll see you then." Wain pocketed the card as they shook hands. The Arachno team stood silent as they watched their benefactor-enemy walk away, giving them ample ability to hear the conversations going on around them.
"Sao Ensiné? I never seen him fight. Is he new?"
"I heard he's been wandering the continent for awhile, but I heard he always fights in obscure battle modes, so the mainstream networks don't broadcast his fights."
"Why would he do that?"
"Hey, let's lobby the local network to show it!"
"Now there's an idea! Arachno's been on a hot streak – it might just work."
"This is one match I gotta see…"
Sao left the restaurant to its devices, never imagining that the simple idea of broadcasting his match would change his battling career forever.
The battle day was cloudier than usual, but that didn't cast any shade on the mountainous battlefield. The gray peaks shone jagged and sharp as ever in the midday sun, since the area chosen was miles away from the site of the destruction of the Arachno Team's previous battle. No winds, low humidity. A good day for a fight.
As per the 0925 Battle Mode regulations, the 3 members of the Arachno team were stationed around 3 kilometers away from each other in randomized positions stipulated by the Zoid Battle Commission, whose exact coordinates had not been given. For the moment they remained able to talk.
"So are we going in as normal or what?" Feros asked.
"Look," Wain stated, "We're going normal as soon as we find each other. 0925 is a blind match, but if we do get in visual distance of one another, the restriction on our comlinks to unidirectional won't matter and we'll be able to coordinate again! So just stay alive and move till you find someone. And if you find him during the shooting portion, shoot everywhere so we'll move in. Don't worry! This guy's just some smug, rich-boy amateur. He actually paid for the repair – he's not gonna pull some kinda bullshit trick after all that. Hell, I sorta like the kid. Maybe we'll leave him a little dignity when we're done."
"Hey, that thinking's what lost your legs the last match." Feros chimed in. Heiden chuckled under his breath.
"Pfft. Point is, we don't need to watch for dirty tricks, and he's never even competed in a televised match – how good can he be?"
"Hey guys!" Heiden called. "Judge's here."
Above, a white streak in the sky confirmed Heiden's observation. It slammed into the top of a mountain peak and let out a great cloud of dust. At the very tip, the shine of the ascending capsule evidenced the Zoids Commision Judge's presence, and his voice soon rang out onto the battlefield:
"The area within a 15 Kilometer Radius is now a designated Zoid Battleground! Only Zoid Commission Personnel and Combatants have authorized entry! Danger! All unauthorized persons must vacate the area immediately!"
Wain cracked his knuckles. "Alright, here we go!"
"Is that Sao guy even here?" Feros switched to an open frequency. "\ Sao Ensiné, are you on the battlefield?"
"Ready and waiting, gentlemen." Sao responded. "Thank you again for accepting my offer under these conditions."
"Here's to a good match." Heiden chimed in.
"Well put." Sao responded.
"Heh! You may not feel so polite once we beat you down!" Wain exclaimed. Sao chuckled.
"May the best Zoid win." He cut the line.
The judge spoke out. "Battle teams confirmed present and registered. Final scan for unauthorized persons..."
The crowd at the Zoids Diner was abound with high fives at the sound of even these vague words. Their mission to get Sao's unorthodox match broadcast had born fruit enough to cram the diner to capacity (aided in part by the usual lunchtime deals) and led to a good deal of bets on and off the table regarding the prospects. But now the room went quiet as the judge proceeded.
The battlefield too fell silent.
"Area scanned! Battlefield set up! The Nova Team versus the Arachno Team! Battle mode 0-9-2-5!" The black screen of the judge's face lit up with the electric green of the four numbers dictating the battle mode; his raised his red and blue tipped hands.
"Reaaadyyyy?" The Arachno team's expressions hardened as the local broadcast networks zoomed in on the action.
The com-screen in Heiden's cockpit went black and his speakers faded into muted static. Heiden nodded to himself and moved his white and orange Cannon Spider forward.
He recalled the lecture Wain had given yesterday, following some hasty research undertaken after Sao's repair payment had gone through. He remembered Wain's awkward reading of notes more than anything, but he strained to focus on the words.
"Battle Mode 0925 is a 3 on 1 weighted blind match… We start spread out, and once we begin, we lose radar data and we're only allowed to use unidirectional communication, meaning if we can't see each other, we can't talk and vice versa. Our enemy has limited local radar to compensate for the numbers disadvantage. Now a stupid team would charge ahead and seek him out individually, but that sets him up for the one on one matches where the odds are at best even. We just need to get in communication range and then do what we always do – surround and conquer. We'll move towards Position A1000, that small abandoned well on the other side of the large rock. That should be simple enough."
Heiden scanned the surrounding mountains – he knew every crevice by heart. That was the real reason why they fought here; it was only half because of the lucky streak they'd had. It was so familiar it was almost sickening. But for all the times he'd fought there, he couldn't remember when he'd last felt a rush like this. There was something about peering through the cracks in the mountain walls, looking for friends and foes, that was more exciting than running by them or even running through them.
He shook his head. Back to the fight.
He took an old shortcut into a well-covered ridge, and climbed ahead.
From within a well-cooled cockpit, Sao mused to himself as he watched the locations of his enemies flicker in and out on linear paths toward a central landmark.
"Battle mode 0925 was originally adapted from a combat exercise meant to simulate stealthy intrusions into enemy territory during the ancient wars – a literal invasion, into unknown territory, without communication satellites." He gently pried the controls of his Zoid, a Trinity Liger painted in indigo and gold, which crawled slowly down the mountain slope.
As Heiden's Cannon Spider made its way to a large ridge blocking the view of his meeting point, his comlink began flickering in. He turned to it.
"Hey! Can you hear me? It's Heiden!"
"—eidn?—That you?—" Heiden smiled at Feros' voice,
"Feros! Stay where you are, I'm at the mountain behind the rendezvous point! I'll try to get into a better area."
Sao's radar had lost two of the invading team, though Sao had committed their last positions to mind. Furthermore, one dot shown clear.
"Success on the part of the invading team hatched on their own teamwork, and their plans once in the field. A plan that didn't utilize their superior number was bound to failure. And blind reliance on their numbers was equally hopeless. But the most hopeless of all was a team whose plans were easily read…" He clicked a trigger.
"Ah! Heiden! I'm under attack!"
"Return fire Feros! Where is he?"
Feros fired three shots off of his back mounted cannon, into the air, the ground and the mountain.
"I dunno! It was just one shot! Where the hell is Wain?"
"Feros?" The familiar, yet new voice spoke over.
"Wain! Get over here! He found me!" Feros yelled
"Feros?" Heiden called, "Where's Wain? I can't hear him!"
"Wain where are you? Heiden can't hear you. He's behind the rock near A1000."
"I'm right on the other side of him, tell him that. I got you in my sights man! Just wait for him to attack again and we'll have him!"
The three scanned the ridges for the attacker but he was nowhere to be seen.
BOOM! A blast ripped through the air.
"Where is it!" Feros called.
"Above!" Heiden exclaimed.
BAM! Another shot dug into the ground a few tens of meters from Feros, who backed away wildly.
"Damn is he a crap shot… If this is his best, we have nothin' to worry about! Just gotta get into a sniping match and we're in the homestretch!" Wain mused.
"Feros!" Heiden yelled. "He's in the cliffs above and to your right! I'll get off a shot! Tell Wain!" Heiden peeked out from behind the rock, trying to spot the cliff the shots were fired from.
Wain also scoped in on the surrounding area, as he tried to move into the rocks for a better vantage point. "If he's just gonna harass us, all we need to do is find him, trap him with the rocks, and move around him nice and slow. A few shots should coax him out." He aimed at the Cliffside and scoped in.
WHOOSH! A blur of blur leapt from the rocks.
"Shit!" Feros yelled, "It's him! That dark blue liger! He's headed straight at me!" Feros moved away back into the rocks behind.
Wain rushed towards the battle zone. "Crap! He was just making us think he wanted to snipe us! He planned to get in close the whole time! I can't get a good angle from here…"
Heiden aimed his cannons and made a few shots. The Liger was too fast – a single Zoid's barrage couldn't hit reliably. It raced by without a scratch and disappeared into the rocks behind.
"My shots are nothin' to this guy." Heiden muttered. "Crap..." He scowled, "I revealed my position! I'm moving around!" Heiden declared as he shifted his Zoid around the large rock.
Wain made his way past the other side of the same rock. " Feros! You alright?"
"Yeah! He just ran right past me! What was he thinking?"
"Don't worry! We all got him in our sights now! If he comes again all three of us will have him down and out!"
From his cockpit, Sao grinned, imagining the dialogue on the other side of the battle. " A plan readily deciphered is a plan for disaster." He pushed the Liger movement controls and leaned in.
"There he is!" Feros cried. The Liger made a beeline towards the mountains on Wain's side. "Fire! Fire!"
The two cannon spiders together took a few moments to adjust their aims, but soon were laying down a respectable barrage at the Liger.
"Where does he think he's goin'? He'll run straight into the side of the rock! Wait… Feros! Stop firing!"
The Liger pounced off the rock and belted in a new direction as Feros' shots struck the rock and sent it teetering over towards Wain.
"Shit!" Wain yelled, scrambling away from the falling obstacle.
Meanwhile, the Liger was now set straight for Feros.
"Damn! Stay away you bastard!" He shot a few times but the Liger changed elevation too quickly as he moved up the slope at the Cannon Spider.
With a great leap, the Liger's hardened alloy claws ripped straight into the helpless spider, ripping into its back mounted cannon and sending its body proper reeling down the hill.
"Arachno Team, Unit 2 – out of the battle!" The Judge proclaimed.
Sao wheeled around to face the newly revealed Wain.
"Shit! Gotta shoot him down before he gets his damn claws on me…" Wane began aiming his cannon, but not before Sao aimed his.
BZZT! The Trinity Liger's Twin Beam Cannons bore massive strikes into the Spider's legs, toppling it over and ruining Wain's shot.
"Aaagh! Damn!" He quickly reamed. "It's not over! Those cannons have a recharge time of 10 seconds at least! You're mine!"
The Liger crouched as it fired its smaller beam gun, which ran through the air into the pitiful, legless Zoid. Wain got off a single shot which missed the Zoid completely, before his spider bore the brunt of the attack.
"Arachno Team, Unit 1 – out of the battle!"
Heiden sat sweating. The Judge's announcements were the only broadcasts he could hear from his spot in the narrow ridge walls. "He lured us into one spot so he could pick us off easier? Maybe he'd just seen us fight before and knew that we'd move that way? Either way…" He smiled, "This is one crazy Warrior."
"Hey! Heiden!" Wain called out. "You can hear me right? They said in the rules that downed members get access to all frequencies so we should be able to at least talk now! Don't get cocky! We totally misread this guy! He's got crazy aim with a beam cannon and a deadly strike with his claws! You're our best aim! Stay in the ridge behind where the rock was – mebbe you can sneak a few shots!"
"You idiot!" Heiden yelled. "You're broadcasting on all frequencies! Now he knows exactly where I-" He stopped.
At the entrance to the ridge, where the rock once was, he appeared. The dark blue of the Trinity Liger, golden lines outlining a majestic visage – staring down the corridor. Heiden frowned, turned off his communicator, gripped his controls firmly. The Liger stood still, examining his final prey.
"HYAAA!" Heiden fired a round of the cannon. The Liger leapt over it and ran forth. Heiden dug his Cannon Spider's legs into the ridge wall and climbed, shooting as he went. He went for the Liger's feet, but even if he'd hit, the Liger's momentum would put Heiden in attack range. "One chance, Spider!" He yelled. "Point blank!" He leapt forward into the Liger's path, charging his cannon, and when he was no more than 3 meters away, let fly.
The resulting dust cast the scene into obscurity. Heiden checked his Cannon Spider – no damage. Then peered at his monitor – had he hit the Liger? Stunned or even miraculously destroyed it? He smiled. He turned on the broadcast frequency.
"You made one mistake. You got overconfident and rushed me in this narrow ridge where you had nowhere to run. You should've sniped me from the entrance rather than try to show off with your Hardened Alloy Claws."
The dust cleared. Heiden gasped. The light pink of an energy shield shone through the dust. Sao answered Heiden's bragging.
"You're right, strictly speaking, I should have attacked at the entrance, but that would give you a lot of dust in which to escape if I somehow missed. If you hadn't been so overconfident and moved away when I stopped to activate my energy shield, you may have dragged this battle on another 5 minutes or so, if you were clever."
The shield vanished and the liger's vents began to give a yellow glow.
"But now I have you at close range and your cannon isn't aimed right because of the angle at which you attacked."
Heiden saw – he could still fire! He moved to aim.
"Too late! " The yellow glow expanded into flame and the liger leapt forth. "Photon Cutter!"
"Battle over! Battle over! The winner is… The Nova Team!" The Judge proclaimed.
"I don't take disciples." Sao replied.
"Please! I've…I've never had a rush like that before!" Heiden got on his knees.
Sao shrugged. "That's because you always fight in battle mode 0982."
"Then I- I want to learn the modes you use! Please, teach me!" Sao was somewhat taken aback by this notion. Wain used the opportunity to push through the diner crowd surrounding the combatants of that afternoon's battle and grab Heiden by the shoulder.
"Heiden! You can't just up and leave our team! What are we gonna do with two fighters?"
"Ask Mesa! Like I said. She's always wanted to join you guys, you just never noticed. Ask her! She's right there." He pointed to the girl, who was staring starry eyed towards the back of the crowd, then turned back to his newfound mentor, who was lost in thought.
"You… Want to learn the other modes?" Sao said, hesitantly.
"Yes! Please, Mr… Mr. Ensiné! Master Ensiné!"
Sao sighed. "None of that master crap." Heiden looked up, and with two short sentences, Sao set into motion a journey not even he could anticipate.
"I'll come by your camp tomorrow. You better be packed."