The Mean Molga was known to be something of a dive, even among the bars and halls of Wyvern Cove which were all dives by definition. It sprawled across the eastern docks of the harbor like a cat across a spot in the sun, although it seemed to most observers that no sun had ever touched the grimy interior of the Molga. The mirrors over the bar hadn't been cleaned since the Zoidians were at their height, and the tables were mere scraps of wood propped on top of old fuel drums. But the bartender was discreet, the drink plentiful, and the food cheap, so it suited Finial just fine.
He finished swabbing the last of the gravy out of the crannies of the bowl with a piece of bread and popped it into his mouth, saying as he chewed,
"Show me the goods, Wrak."
The Iron Kong pilot grinned, exposing a mouthful of yellowed teeth, and held up the shipping manifest. "We've got a few zoids from the ruins- unregistered 'cause of their age, which makes this easier- who're we're shipping out tonight to get their paint jobs done, and a crate of artifacts from the Wraith Ruins." He brandished another sheet of paper with grainy black and white photos, stabbing his fingers at the pictures. "We've got an intact piece of pottery, some fragments of a mechanical whatsit- maybe an organoid if we're lucky, but I dunno- two zoid cores, and a statue of that Zoid Eve thing the archaeologists are always going on about. Those are heading to the fence tonight after we drop the zoids off. Any more questions, boss?"
Finial laid a gnarled hand on his gun where it rested on the table and pointed it at Wrak's gut, finger slipping into the trigger guard. "Just one, Wrak." The other man's swallow was visible, and the papers shook in his hands.
"W-what's that, sir?"
"You trying to rip me off, or you just think I'm stupid enough to believe that we can fit two zoid cores into one crate? Either they're from some tiny freaking zoids I don't know about, or you're lying."
"I'm not lying, boss!" Wrak snapped with indignation, and Finial rolled his eyes.
"Whatever. Let's just get this stuff moved, and then I'll deal with you."
The small figure sitting at the bar wasn't the kind of person the Molga catered to. For one, she wasn't drinking: mostly because Thrace had found out quickly that alcohol and her didn't agree after attending one of the fraternity parties the grad students brought her to. She did have to admit, though, that using her talents to blow fire out of her mouth was a neat trick, if useless.
Staring down into her soda, she listened to the smugglers' conversation as best as she could. This was an important assignment; the university wouldn't have sent her on this if it hadn't been worth the risk. It helped that they knew of her interest in Zoidian artifacts, and the mention of repainting zoids and moving possible cores only piqued her interest further. These people might be involved with changing Scythe's alignment during her long sleep, or if they hadn't done it, maybe they could point her to who had.
It wasn't as if she had anything to do with her newly-reclaimed life except piece together what she had missed.
It was dark.
And his joints ached.
He was still waking up.
From a nightmare?
He couldn't remember.
Standing amid the salvaged zoids was a dirty, dusty Schneider. He blinked wearily at his surroundings, red optics just barely flickering from dimness, struggling to find life. He could discern nothing of those nearby. Could see nothing of those below. He wanted to move his head, move anything at all, but his body would not respond. The most Schneider could do was let his scanners swivel around and attempt to recognize something out of it all.
He did not recognize anything. But then again, perhaps that was because there was nothing to remember. He tried to move his head. It moved only a twitch. He tried to move his claws. His right claws wiggled. When Schneider tried to move his other claws, they did not answer. His legs felt too heavy to even budge and his tail swished limply at his backside. Schneider tried to groan and was only met by silence.
Perhaps a better question was how long? How long had he been awake? Schneider attempted to access an internal clock, and yet even that was frazzled. His system still needed to recuperate from whatever had happened. Was he damaged? The liger tried to read his condition, but nothing came up. It was all useless. He kept trying to coax something out of himself, some piece of memory, some hint of what condition he was in, and the more his body and systems failed to respond, the more he quailed. Panic rose in his circuits and a painful throbbing in his zoidcore only caused further discomfort.
He wanted to put his head between his paws and cry.
But his body would not let him do even that.