"Sophie! Sophie, are you alright? Come on, answer me!"

Sophie stirred at the sound of her friend's frantic voice broken by heavy static, "Y-yeah, Meino, I'm okay."

"Thank Eve," the relief in his voice was evident, strange for the Redler Pilot. What was going on? She wracked her brain for a minute then remembered, "Oh, right, those bandits. Must have gotten hit hard . . ."

She pushed herself up off the controls of her zoid she assessed the damage. Everything seemed normal, except, "Where on Zi, am I?"

"You fell into a sinkhole," Meino explained over the shaky transmission, "Don't move I'm gonna go get help!"

"Meino, wait!" Too late, the connection went dead. Sophie was left in silence.

"Ci-Cirrus," Sophie shook herself, "Cirrus, are you alright?"

"Gerrrrow," the metallic voice responded, affirmatively. As the black and white head appeared at the window of the Wardog's canopy.

Sophie leaned against her backrest and sighed in relief, "Good, I was worried. Well, at least I can talk to you until Meino gets back . . . Thomas is gonna be mad."

"Rrrr," Cirrus seemed distracted.

"What's the matter, girl?"

The organoid jumped down from her position atop the Wardog's canopy and peered off into the darkness of the cavern around them.

With a push of a button the Wardog's cockpit was exposed to the bitter chill of the underground cavern and Sophie subjected to a short rain of dirt and debris. She paid it little heed, though. Brushing what she could from her hair and clothes she climbed down to stand next to her Organoid and followed the mechanical being's gaze. There nothing to see in the darkness beyond the pale glow of the moon that shone down from the newly formed opening high above.

"What are you looking at?" the young woman questioned her mechanical partner.

"Gerrerrr," Cirrus started moving toward whatever it was that she could sense in the shadows ahead of her.

"Ah! Wait up!" Sophie ran a few steps and swung up onto Cirrus's back, calling back to the Wardog, "Stay, boy!"

The hound Zoid whined, sorrowfully, but, really, he had little choice in the matter.

Once Sophie was situated on the organoid's broad back, Cirrus started running making her way expertly through the cavern towards her destination. As they moved deeper into the tunnels the rock walls started to turn into metal and it began to seem more and more like a place made by civilized people.

"A ruin?" Sophie looked around, "What on Zi is a ruin doing in a place like this?"

"Rrrrrahrr," rumbled Cirrus, as she slowed to a walk and proceeded through the tunnel as it morphed into a dusty, old hallway. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling and walls, dust rose in clouds with every step the organoid took. The passage was growing smaller too, the rough stone above was dipping nearer and nearer the Wardog pilot's head. Sophie was soon forced to slip down from her organoid's back and walk alongside her instead. The pair walked in the silent corridor, darkness and death creeping up on them from all sides. It was like walking through a tomb.

Then quite suddenly there was a light. A faint glow in the shape of a square. A door?

Cirrus's steps quickened and Sophie was forced to run to keep up. What had gotten into that organoid? Sophie couldn't imagine.

They finally reached the open doorway, though the room that they now entered was large it was no less claustrophobic with all the cables and machinery laying everywhere. In the center Sophie beheld two large pods, the source of the light that had led them here.

"Pods? Like Zoidian Stasis Pods?" Sophie took a few steps towards the devices, she had only heard a little bit about them and never before seen them. What could be contained inside? Organoids? Zoidians? She knew better than to mess with any of the myriad of control panels that dotted the room. One wrong move and she could end up as an Organoid's lunch or worse. She would just have to play this safe.

A faded alarm went off and lights came on near the tops of the pods. Sophie hurriedly looked around for the reason for this sudden activation and saw Cirrus hovering over one of the control panels her black tail twitching with excitement.

"Cirrus!" Sophie hissed in irritation. The Organoid turned to look at her in confusion. To the last the lovable beast was cleverer than expected but nonetheless dense.

There was nothing to be done now, just be ready for whatever came out of those pods.


Author's Note

Okay, so short chapter is short, but, um, it's been way too long since I last updated this thing!

To be continued . . .