Disclaimer: Randomcat23 does not own Zoids.
The Lightning Saix was in a lazy mood, swaying slightly as it ran. To outsiders, its speed appeared incredible, but Irvine, its pilot, knew its gait was slow compared to its capability. There was no need to race today.
A sudden jerk of the Zoid threw Irvine against the glass of the cockpit with a whack. "Damn it, Saix, ouch!"
"That…wasn't me," The Zoid growled slowly, stopping its stride.
"What do you mean?"
The bit cat flexed its claws and shook its head. "I don't know… I'm not sure."
Irvine scratched his head. He then pushed the controls forward, shrugging off the weird incident. He had just set the pace again, hoping to return to the base before dark, when the Lightning Saix shuddered to the left again. Irvine cursed as he gained another bump on the head.
And from somewhere deep in the belly of the Lightning Saix, a foreign, low, dark, growl echoed in Irvine's ears, "Hello, boys."
"Dr. D, I, I think the Saix survived."
The old man blinked slowly as if his eyes and not his ears were the ones digesting the sentence. "What do you mean?" He stirred his coffee.
Irvine frowned. "I'm not really sure. But I," he paused, almost in disbelief, "I heard it speak."
"Do you usually hear your Zoid's thoughts?" His interest was piqued and he stirred faster, the spoon making small tinking noises on the ceramic.
"Well, yeah, the wolf's, or rather, what had been the wolf." Irvine sighed in frustration. "I usually communicate with my Zoid, but I know it's the," he waved his hand, looking for the right phrase, "the presence of what was my Command Wolf. But there was another voice, and the controls went haywire." When Dr. D didn't say anything Irvine offered one last piece as evidence, "Sai—Wolf complained."
"How interesting!" The doctor exclaimed so suddenly Irvine took a step backward. "What did the Saix say? And how did the Wolf respond?"
"Well," Irvine started and then shook his head furiously, "Hang on, old man, can you stop it with the questions? This is a serious problem!"
Dr. D sat back in his chair and sighed. "How am I supposed to help you, if I don't know all the information? Hmm?"
Irvine scratched his head and pulled a chair back roughly. He sat down with a loud thump and placed his hands on the table. "Look, it's like my Zoid has two brains or something. The Wolf actually lost control for a few seconds." Then he admitted, "I lost control for a few seconds."
"The Zoid was acting on its own?"
Now serious, Dr. D stood up and gulped down his coffee. After a burp, which made Irvine raise an eyebrow, the old man demanded, "Take me to your Zoid."
The two walked urgently to the hanger. Irvine pushed open the large doors with two hands, exposing the Lightning Saix resting next to the far wall.
Dr. D sprinted ahead of Irvine and stopped to gaze up at the black cat. With his chin in his hand, the old man circled the Zoid, eyeing all the parts. Once, he knocked on the armor. Irvine watched for a few minutes until his frustration grew. What was the point of these silly actions?
He coughed loudly to get Dr. D's attention, who ignored him and continued his search. Grumbling, Irvine grabbed the doctor by his shoulder and spun him around. "Hey, old man, what are you doing?"
"I'm inspecting," Dr. D said clearly.
"Well, what for? The problem's inside, not outside." Irvine tapped his temple to emphasize the point.
"I don't think you're crazy, Irvine."
"That's not what I meant," the mercenary snapped and gestured wildly in the direction of the Saix. "I'm talking about my Zoid!"
Dr. D rolled his eyes. "I know that. Calm down!" Without a further word, Dr. D crawled up to the cockpit and disappeared.
Irvine crossed his arms and waited, doubting Dr. D's usefulness yet again. He was just about to jump in the cockpit himself when the old man emerged and jumped down, lithe as a cat.
"I think you should discuss this situation with Wolf," Dr. Dee suggested, staring at the Zoid. "This is…a core problem. Not so much a brain problem. Also, place the Lightning Saix in the Zoid restraints." His eyes narrowed at the towering Zoid.
"What? Why?" Irvine asked after pausing to process the doctor's advice.
Dr. D frowned, "Just in case things get messy. After that, talk to the Wolf."
"Something—he—has been buzzing in my mind for a few months now. It was only today that it impacted me."
"Weird." Irvine patted his Zoid. "I wonder what we can do about it." He rested in the cockpit that night, just as Dr. D suggested. The old man explained that maybe Irvine could draw out the Lightning Saix by speaking with the Wolf. Since he didn't have any other ideas, Irvine agreed with Dr. D and got comfy.
"He's not completely there. It's a very inconsistent presence."
"Like he's just made of remnants." Irvine tried to piece together what they knew.
"That would make sense. The core was pretty messed up."
"I thought all the cognition pieces were replaced."
The wolf didn't respond at cocked his head to the side and then asked, "Maybe so, but does a human with a damaged mind ever completely disappear?"
"How nice of you to discuss my existence without inviting me."
The voice was a sharp and high howl. The hair on the back of Irvine's neck stood on end. But this was his Zoid, so he tentatively said, "Hello?"
"Shut up. You reek, dog."
The Zoid shifted to one side violently and then steadied itself in its restraints. As his heart thudded, Irvine was thankful for the doctor's suggestions and his seatbelt.
"They called me Black Thunder."
Irvine paused and leaned out to catch the raspy voice.
"Then they said Night Cheetah."
It was louder this time.
"And then, they tried Relampago, only to finally settle on Lightning Saix."
The voice echoed in Irvine's ears, a howl so painfully sharp he had to clamp his hands over his ears. "Lightning Saix—"
"Human!" It was a challenge. "You should not pilot me as you do the wolf."
"I never meant to—"
"What do you want, Saix?" The wolf's hackles were raised. Irvine could tell by the tone of the Wolf's growl.
"Dog. Get out."
"What?" Irvine was shocked at the violence in the demand and responded defensively, "Hey wait a minute, Saix. You can't just demand he leaves."
"Don't bother, Irvine. He's gone."
Irvine paused for a minute and just listened. He could feel the wolf's presence in the back of his mind. It was a comfortable connection, built on years of trust and partnership. There was no trace of the maniac Lightning Saix. The mercenary rested his head on the back of his seat and let out a slow breath. He racked his brain for solutions, yet could find none. He did find one thing though: fear.
"I'm not going to just sit here and be afraid of my own Zoid!" Irvine yelled and drew his hands into fists.
"You can't ignore this fear, either," Dr. D reminded him. "It won't just go away."
The mercenary paced the room steadily. After a few more laps he asked, "Why is the Saix surfacing now?"
Dr. D shrugged. "It could be that the few fragments of the Saix's core that remained finally found themselves." He offered another shrug and shook his head. "Or, there might be no reason at all."
"It's psycho, Doc. If only you could have heard it. It sounded like it was out for blood."
"If you can't find a way to meld the two personalities…" Dr. D left it open-ended. Irvine met the doctor's gaze and looked away. There would be problems if the pilot could not fix the Zoid. That much was clear. "You know the Wolf best, Irvine. Tell him to lay low." He placed a wrinkled hand on Irvine's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Now that you've drawn it out, try and talk to the Lightning Saix."
The black armor was spotless and its red accents gave it a strong look. The twin fangs shone in the moonlight, matching the sleek claws supporting the Zoid. It was a fierce Zoid that was for sure. Dark as the night and swift like the shadows. Irvine sucked in a breath and climbed up to the cockpit.
It was his duty as pilot to solve this problem. Nobody else could hear the Wolf, so nobody else could hear the Saix. But, if Irvine was completely honest, he was afraid of that Saix. Its growls called for blood and the way it demanded that the Wolf leave was not only threatening, but also crazy. Did the Saix realize that without the Wolf's core, it would die? In addition, the whole situation was happening too quickly for Irvine to fully process. It was hard enough to wrap his head around the idea that the core contained two personalities. It was another thing to grasp that one of those personalities was crazy.
He felt like he was just going in blind, which made his nose twitch. Irvine hated being unprepared.
With one click, Irvine strapped himself in and reached out to the Wolf. "Don't question me," he ordered when Wolf began to stir in Irvine's mind. "Lay low." And the wolf fell away, away into its safe part of the core.
When a few minutes ticked away and the silence of the night filled the cockpit, Irvine whispered, "Lightning Saix."
There was no response at first, but then a grumbling rumble entered his mind and he repressed his urge to shudder.
"You called?" The voice was leery and hesitant.
"I wanted to talk."
"Kick the dog out!"
The abrupt screech had Irvine taken aback, but he reclaimed his ground. "I can't do that."
"You can," he insisted and the body of the Zoid shifted.
"You'll die." The blunt answer hung in the air.
"So be it."
"I pieced together my mind! I was born to run free and to defeat the Geno Breaker!" The Saix huffed, "I will NOT fade away and let the dog rule my body. He's had it long enough."
"The Geno Breaker is defeated," Irvine said.
"Yeah, you aren't needed for that anymore."
A sharp hissed came from the Saix and the Zoid shook brutally. "They needed me! That's what I was made for! Then you and your Wolf," he spat the word, "took it from me! I would have won without anyone. I got rid of those weak pilots and freed myself!"
"You ran into a cliff," Irvine reminded the angry cat. His mind worked quickly to keep up with the rambling Saix.
"Of course," the cat chuckled darkly, "what better way to be labeled as uncontrollable."
"But you were shattered, Saix." He resisted the urge to grab the controls and shake sense into the broken Zoid. So, the Lightning Saix tried to destroy its pilots so it could be free to fight alone. For a split second, Irvine could identify with it.
"I would have found myself eventually."
"I'm not so sure about that."
"I have, haven't I? I will not die."
"Saix, you…" he started, but stopped. The Saix was gone.
"He seriously wants Wolf out."
"Out? My, my, that doesn't make any sense." Dr. D stirred a new cup of coffee. Irvine sipped from his own mug; there would not be much sleeping tonight. "It's like he doesn't understand how damaged the core was."
Irvine nodded, "He said he'd live if I 'kicked the wolf out.'"
"Obviously, only parts of the core survived. It seems to contradict itself. Even the dumbest of animals realize that cutting off a limb brings it closer to death." The older man shook his head.
"Yeah, except the Wolf isn't a limb, he's the significant portion of what makes the Zoid work, live." He paused for a second and rested his head in his hand. "Doc, I don't even understand what I'm saying."
"Well, this hasn't happened in recorded history before. Not many people have conversations with their Zoids. And even fewer have two Zoids in one core…"
Irvine looked up at Dr. D.
"And by 'even fewer' I mean just you," Dr. D clarified unnecessarily.
The mercenary's head dropped again. "What do I do then?"
"As I said before, you need to meld the two personalities, or at least, make them come to an agreement." After a few minutes of silence he added, "There's no way to separate the Zoids at this point. The Saix needs to be controlled, one way or another. It can't have the freedom of over taking the Wolf whenever it pleases."
"Can't the Saix just…go back to sleep?" Irvine sighed, wishing the impossible.
"Could you live with knowing that he rests in the core, untamed?"
Young eyes met old and Irvine stated boldly, "No, you're right. Something must be done."
His plan would have to wait until morning, but preparations could be done now. Irvine glugged down a third cup of coffee and glanced at the clock: 3:27 am. Daylight would come in three hours.
Thankfully, the base was nearly empty. After washing his face, Irvine replaced his clothing with a clean shirt and a recently washed pair of pants. It seemed like the right thing to do, to face the Saix like he would when meeting someone new. With little consideration, Irvine left his eye patch in his temporary room; it was better to be just himself.
In the quiet of the night even his light footsteps echoed off the stark walls of the hallway. It was time to talk to Wolf.
For the second time that evening, Irvine pushed through the doors to the hanger with intent purpose. Back in its corner, the Lightning Saix rested in the restraints. Irvine ignored the new scratches on the armor created from its resistance. Although the situation was dire, Irvine still felt a wave of pride wash over him when he gazed up at his Zoid.
Right. It was his and his alone. Nobody knew it better than he did. The mercenary clenched his fists in determination. "I will fix this," he whispered and began his climb to the cockpit.
Once he was settled into the seat, Irvine reached a hand out, patted the consol, and called, "Wolf?"
"I am here."
"First off, is he here?"
Irvine felt the Zoid cock its head to the right, as if listening. "No…he is…away."
The pilot released a sigh of relief, "I hate to do this to you buddy, but when I take you out in the morning, I need you to give him control."
"What do you have planned?"The Wolf asked after careful consideration.
Irvine shrugged and then laughed nervously, "A training session."
When he exited the cockpit, Irvine was extremely thankful that the Saix had not awakened. It was a lucky break, considering how unpredictable the Saix had become. Irvine could only hope that his plan tomorrow would be blessed by the same luck.
He shook his head twice in an effort to chase away nerves and exited the hanger. There were only a few more hours to finish preparations and he planned to spend that time inside his own head.
Daybreak arrived and blasted the sky with yellow, exposing the clouds that had been hidden by darkness. The base started to stir. Troops marched in time to the cafeteria, some hoped for sweet pancakes, others more practical foods such as eggs.
Irvine woke up with a pit in his stomach. Anxiety sat heavily in his gut, turning food into a sickening sight. He opted out of the breakfast for a very small cup of coffee. He sipped on the hot liquid and walked toward the Zoid hanger. Although the entire night passed without sleep, Irvine's eyes were wide and focused. Dr. D greeted him in the large room, ignoring the mercenary's skimpy breakfast.
"Well, Irvine, it's up to you."
"I can promise a few Zoids for backup, but," the older man trailed off as he looked up at the Lightning Saix, "the unpredictability of the situation means the soldiers won't be able to do much," he ended apologetically.
Irvine shrugged, feeling determined at the moment. "I have to do this myself, even if I don't understand it." Without wasting any more time, he nodded to the older man, passed off the empty mug, and set off to the foot of his Zoid.
It was an odd climb. He took time to feel the metal between his fingers. Pausing a few times, Irvine took note of minor dents and recalled battles. He reached the top, popped open the cockpit, and sat in the chair with confidence. After securing the safety belts, Irvine sucked in a breath and launched his Zoid.
It walked with the halting gait of a machine, rather than a live being. That told Irvine that neither the Wolf nor the Saix were active inside the core. It was an odd experience, and one Irvine did not quite understand; he had never piloted the Lightning Saix without the presence of the Wolf. He pushed his questions about Zoid cores to the back of his mind and turned his thoughts to the task at hand.
"Let the Saix come," he thought confidently as the sun broke through the horizon's cloud line and glittered on the black Zoid.
He pushed the large cat into a speedy run, always on edge for the Saix to make an appearance. Minutes passed and Irvine did not feel any stirring in the core. The unfamiliar clunky movements of a Zoid without a soul made him grit his teeth. He tried a few turns and called out, "Saix!"
No response was given. Sweat formed on the mercenary's forehead as his determination grew. Where was the Saix? Irvine spun the Zoid and turned into an old attack pattern he learned years ago. Zigzagging across the desert, he barely noticed the line of defense Zoids waiting near the base, ready to step in if needed. Irvine directed the Zoid away from the base, noticing the difference in the machine's turning axis. He was piloting a hollow thing.
With a frustrated growl, Irvine engaged the boosters and the black Zoid exploded into its top speed, racing across the open plain.
Hours passed and the sun rose to its peak, only to begin sinking again. Irvine did not stop running the Zoid, calling out to the Saix a challenge every few minutes until his voice was hoarse. Still, time went on and the afternoon became dusk.
"Irvine." Dr. D's voice came in on the radio. "Come back to the base. We can try again tomorrow."
"No! This has to happen." He gripped the controls tighter with a gruff croak. "I'm not going to rest until the Saix answers."
"Don't be stupid. You haven't rested, you haven't eaten. What good are you if the Saix emerges now?"
Irvine bit back his retort. His hands were shaking and his lips stuck together after going hours without water. Nobody ever won a war by ignoring basic needs. As much as it pained him, he sighed and directed his Zoid back toward the base. In an attempt to make himself feel better, Irvine thought, "Tomorrow I won't stop trying until the Saix appears." He brimmed with new determination.
Just before the hanger doors completed opening, Irvine was jolted from his thoughts by the Saix's voice, "Miss me?" Before he could react, the Zoid sprinted away from the building at hazardous speed. "Here I am, let's play!"
"Shit!" Irvine exclaimed. The cockpit bounced, sending Irvine from one side to another while the Saix cackled darkly and increased its speed again.
"It's not so fun, is it?"
Irvine gritted his teeth and propped his legs against the sides of the seat. He then reached around and tightened the belt. Instinctively, his hands then found the controls and a deep breath of air cleared his lungs of fear.
The security necessity was just in time. The Zoid jolted sideways, circling in a tight pattern. Irvine watched sand coat the outside of the cockpit, shocked at how close to the ground the Saix turned.
Just after its tenth cycle, Saix dug its claws into the ground and sprung forward, sprinting toward the sun. "Come on, boy," goaded the cat. "Can you handle this?"
Irvine settled his dizzy head and pulled the controls to slow the Zoid. The effect was minimal; there was a split second's hesitation, just enough time for the Saix to chuckle and then its top speed resumed.
"COME ON! I know you want to run!"
Swing to the left, and a cut to the right, the Saix zigzagged in extremely tight angles. Irvine refused to let his fear return, but knew he needed to regain control. He refused to let all his work today go to waste. This is what he had waited for.
"Too fast for you."
It was a statement, not a question. Irvine frowned. "Not so," the pilot answered through gritted teeth.
"Lies!" And instead of turning to the sun once again, the Saix sped off toward the cliff. "You can't control me! Nobody can!"
Irvine knew at once what it was doing; the Saix was going to leap off the cliff in total abandon. He remembered the state of the black cat after its test run. The armor crumpled and the core crushed, shattered. The pilot had lost consciousness, yet the Zoid had continued its path to destruction. Somewhere along the line, when the Saix could not find a proper pilot, its mind broke. It decided to die rather than be a test unit for life.
"But it hadn't met me, yet." He could not win with fear clouding his judgement. The only way victory would be his, and the Saix would be safe, is if he would overpower the Zoid's will. He ignored his and even the Wolf's fate; all his focus was on the Saix's maniac presence and its demand to be recognized. The mercenary set his shoulders and pulled the controls to the side with all his might.
The black cat went tumbling across the ground, claws and legs caught up beneath its body. It rolled several times, and the Saix yelled in surprise from deep in the core. Irvine felt its shock, but he would not let himself grin at the small victory.
The Zoid righted itself and Irvine tensed, waiting for its next move.
With a low growl, the Saix threatened, "Try that again. I swear you will fail." Its fangs flashed as it roared at the sun.
"Saix, you are mine!"
In a cloud of dust, the black cat started off again, its speed still catching Irvine off guard momentarily. It was so fast, faster than he had ever taken it. He was impressed and surprisingly, he felt his excitement grow, alleviating some of the pressure of anxiety. Gripping his hands, Irvine tried to halt the Zoid once again and this time, the Saix stumbled instantly with a frustrated growl.
"Come on!" Saix yelled and changed direction toward the mountain face in the distance. "You can trip me up, but I will still run."
"I won't let you crash yourself."
The cat just laughed and pushed just a tad faster. "Try. You'll fail." Saix roared and abandoned its quick cutting path for a straight line at the towering rock face. The speed forced Irvine deep into the pilot's seat, reminding him of his first ride in the speedy Zoid. This time, it was faster. Having the Saix in control really made a difference, because it was born into this body.
The mountain approached quickly and the Saix cackled once again, gleefully targeting its crash site.
"This is my Zoid," Irvine declared, forcing his will into every word. "You are mine!" And with a white knuckle grip, Irvine turned the Zoid away from the doom. Once again, the Zoid tripped, its devilish will overpowered by Irvine's own.
When the Saix righted itself, Irvine jerked the controls again, sweat dripping down his face from exhaustion. "We're partners!" He managed to turn the Zoid away from the mountain, even as the Saix fought against it. Gears clicked furiously against one another due to the conflicting orders. Irvine's arms shook, struggling against the Saix's strength.
"No!" Saix roared back, head flashing, claws digging into the ground. His tail swished franticly as the cat attempted to spin around.
"I said we're partners!" The Zoid stumbled to the ground as Irvine and the Saix commanded the body to go in opposite directions. It crashed with ear splitting noise as the armor crunched and the Saix roared in protest.
"How can you do this?" The Saix panted, anger filling each word. Its belly rested on the sandy ground, momentarily still.
"I can't let you die."
"Saving your precious Wolf," the grimace was clear in its voice. "This is my body!"
"I said I can't let you die." Breath exited him quickly and he could barely take in air fast enough to replace it.
"Same thing! You want the Wolf in charge. I'll die regardless!"
Irvine never thought it would be easy, but he knew he had to have both Wolf and Saix work together. Just getting the Saix to stay quiet would be impossible. It wanted to live. It wanted to run.
"The Wolf and you don't run right!"
"Teach me, then, Saix."
The Saix released a thunderous roar and struggled to stand. Irvine forced the controls down, trapping the Zoid in a crouch.
"Teach you? How can I teach you? What do you know about me?"
What did he know, indeed?
Irvine ignored the grinding gears in the Zoids legs as he remembered the first time he saw the Lightning Saix and the destruction of his Command Wolf.
"When the Geno Breaker defeated my Command Wolf and I…I was devastated," Irvine started slowly, "And then they tried to get me to put his core in the Lightning Saix."
He paused as the Saix's growl reverberated through its body, but Irvine shook his head, denying the Zoid movement and continued, "They wanted to make him into some kind of experiment. I didn't like it. I wanted him to just rest in peace. But after some sense was knocked into me, I agreed with the procedure. Wolf deserved to have one more shot."
"Yes, the Wolf deserved one more shot." The Saix shook its head angrily and bared its teeth. "And I deserved to die."
"Not so," Irvine countered. "By putting the Wolf in the Saix's body, I also saved you. You asked what I know about you. This is what I know. You want to run and fight the way you wish. You were given pilots that could not handle your speed and skills. But here I am, I'm still conscious and in control and you've sprinted as hard as you can. You've shown me your best."
He took the low grumbling growl as hesitant agreement. Before he got too encouraged, Irvine reset his grip on the controls again. But when he started talking, his voice was soft with understanding.
"So, I'm sorry we took over, Saix. I'm sorry we didn't know you still lived in the core. But, I'm willing to learn how you like to run, how you like to fight. All I'm asking is that you give me the chance to learn."
The dark cat paused to mull over the mercenary's offer, resting its body on the ground. "And the dog?"
"Don't be foolish, Saix," Irvine nipped any hopeful thoughts the cat had of ridding itself of the other Zoid's presense. "Without the Wolf's core, you'd be dead. And you know it." His breaths were ragged and his whole body ached from the fight, yet Irvine remained on guard.
"You are what's left of a truly great Zoid. Don't throw that away just for pride."
The Saix responded with heavy panting.
"Doesn't it feel good to run, Saix?" Irvine offered softly. "You can run again, but you need the Wolf." When he felt its resistance rise again, Irvine concluded his argument, "We can't help the fact that you're broken, but we can offer you a part of the life you may have had."
After a few tense minutes, Irvine felt the opposing force disappear and he was in full control again. Tentatively, Irvine pushed the Zoid forward and was relieved to see it respond perfectly. His face broke out in a gleeful grin as he realized that the Zoid was moving with the soul of its core behind it; the Lightning Saix's movements were fluid, like that of a live animal.
"You have a lot to learn."
"I'm a quick study." Irvine listened for a response, but none came.
After a few more steps into the night, another voice came back, "Irvine? What happened? The Saix…is sitting quietly." Irvine could feel the Wolf rustling in the back of his mind.
"We came to an understanding; I … there's still a lot to do." The Zoid ran toward the base and Irvine felt the comforting presence and gait of the Wolf take over the body. Irvine now realized the difference between the two Zoids. While the Wolf was a calculating pack member, the Saix was a perfected solo hunter. Their styles were different, and therefore, so were their desires. He could not help but smile at the combat possibilities.
"So, what exactly does that mean?"
"Well," he started, then paused to take in what was accomplished, "we have a new partner."
Wow, this thing is LONG. I kinda sprinkled some of my ideas about Zoid cores and the like in here. I couldn't really find any information on it, so I made it up as I went.
Feedback is always welcomed. Feel free to scrutinize.
Thanks for reading!-randomcat23