Your resident wyrmness,
"Yes. Shackles, like all matter, are defined by resistance."
"Do not tell me," I said to them, "what is defined by resistance."
It is a cumbersome and strenuous tale we have woven, and still this tale has not reached its end. We have written the writhing misfortune of characters most unlucky, characters most pained, beaten, unforgiven. It has proven to be a long and tiring journey for our sad companions.
But they have yet to suffer.
This is only the first few steps to a much grander tale, to a story that will be riddled with agony and pleasure, hell and fire, love and lust. This installment encompasses the virtues of loyalty and trust, and the trials braved to achieve such devil-may-care qualities.
Here are the steps we have already taken, the distances we have already crossed.
We have a lovely gentleman here. His name is Rosen von Dayne. If you peek into his pretty, black soul, you may observe a number of scars that spell nothing to him. The story began with this fine young man paying a visit to a hardware store in the peaceful town of Terrone. Communications at home were amiss, you see, and on top of that he needed materials and advice for overhauling his Zabat.
Speaking of the Zabat, that dreary, confused creature was parked right outside, watching him disappear into the store. It's a rather gentle zoid, and a relatively unhappy one at that. Even with a modified head with an operable jaw, it holds no high regard for itself. This creature has lived with the fear that, should it reveal its capacity for sentience to its beloved pilot, Rosen von Dayne, our blood-craving gentleman would scrap the poor thing. And so, to even this chapter it has done all in its power to restrain itself.
And then there is Wolf. She is our fellow protagonist, a lost soul who hails from Earth and has yet to plant her roots on Zi. She, too, carries the scars of a ravaged past: a fine addition to our unfortunate friends, a rarity among our collection of selfless and self-destructive characters. Spirited away from her home and imbued with foreign blood, she can only look forward to a fate she is unable to read.
In soft, silent Terrone Town, the Zabat awaited the return of her pilot, Rosen von Dayne, as he commenced business within the hardware store. During the wait it was visited by a cheerful Wolf and her companion, an organoid named Zerovex.
Good, faithful Zerovex. Best described as a weredragon, he is tall, powerful, and handsome. He is not Wolf's organoid, no. He belongs to the man who so graciously opened his home to Wolf, Fueur Yajumaru. But Fueur is hardly imperative to the story! No, it is Zerovex who plays an integral role. For you see, without him and without Wolf, our dear Rosen would not have survived the next encounter.
Rosen has the unfortunate honor of being raised by the Serenaders. These are a collection of persons thrown together to form a company of crusaders, although they are better compared to a lineup of disgruntled, traumatized bandit-figures. Seranaid is the leader, the mind behind what noble operations they managed. Avon is her little brother. Pravus, Seranaid's trusted lover and right-hand man, is the conspirator behind most of their schemes, to which wonderful Seranaid is somehow totally oblivious. Their subordinates are as follows, from top of bottom: Six, Nate, Charlie, Ed, Metzger, Silvia. This is important! Study them, you'll need it for the test!
...No, perhaps such expectations are too high.
At any rate, the Serenaders were disbanded quite some time ago, and Rosen is just an ex-Serenader. He would have ranked above Silvia if he were still one. Ah, but here in Terrone they make a comeback! Somebody has pointed the accusing finger at Rosen, and none quailed to follow. As he departed the store, he was unhappily ambushed by Six, Silvia, and Metzger. He would not have slipped away if it were not for Zerovex's intervention and Wolf's assistance.
Now, Rosen is a frightening man, or at least he is in Wolf's eyes. The poor girl was stuck with him in the fleeing Zabat, subject to what rage he was unable to rein in. She must have been most joyous to know the organoid Zerovex was controlling the Zabat: with a mere toss of the hapless zoid's head, our angry gentleman was kept in check. That night they all slipped to their respective homes so that they may mull over their experiences.
Surely, they did not think their troubles were over. The following day, Rosen was arrested as a suspect of murder! Who could possibly contradict the police and say it had been Silvia posing as him? This is where the Zabat fails in its guise: believing the threat to outweigh the consequences, the Zabat takes to the skies right in front of Rosen and flies to find the one person who can help clear his name. How ever did the Serenaders mastermind this?
The Zabat did bring Wolf and Zerovex back. Together, they pursued the police back to their headquarters on the edge of New Helic, but no sooner than their arrival they were met with defensive turrets! The Zabat should have complied with their demands to leave the area. Poor Wolf, poor Zerovex hanging from the wheeling, spiraling zoid! Inside the prison, a most suspicious entity spotted Rosen's entrance as a delectable time to initiate her next scheme. Seranaid merely signaled from the bars and the prison complex was thrust into disorder.
Rosen ran. Oh, he knew not the ordeals that awaited him. He diverged from the crowd of fleeing criminals into the trees, where the Zabat, Wolf, and Zerovex had landed after making a successful getaway. The reunion was most bittersweet. Alas, Rosen knew that he may well be doomed without young Wolf's testimony and assistance, and so accepted her offer of help and proceeded with their mission.
To Six's base, the third-in-command of the Serenaders! Surely he had answers; the six-fingered man had been one of the three who'd attacked Rosen only the previous night in Terrone. He was not a very welcoming host. Curious, zoid-loving Wolf found a friend in the one-and-only Hiou Liger there, and zoid-ignorant Rosen bumped into Six. After a grapple with Six's Storm Sworder FX and a death plummet in the open skies of New Helic City, our treasured heroes fled into the mountains and left Six to the vultures that we know as law enforcement. As they did, another important figure stepped in to thwart Six's lies...
Beaten and battered, our heroes slunk into the forest and proceeded to recuperate. Dear Wolf had been bleeding from the head, and dear Rosen tried to assist his unexpected ally by bandaging it, but it seems he does not react well to blood. Hers in particular seems to spark bouts of nostalgia and haywire senses. How queer! Why ever would her blood induce such reactions as opposed to the blood of any other sweet, gentle, normal person?
Why ever indeed...
After a bit of innocent conversation, our weary Rosen wandered off, leaving Wolf to speak with our still-shy Zabat friend. And what timing, for we have ourselves the arrival of a most curious figure: an organoid who flits on delta-shaped wings and boasts a pelt of fine, metal fur. He discovered one of the Serenaders adrift in the forest and led her straight to Rosen! Silvia, directing a proud, crimson Descat, leaped out at the frightened man and chased him off in a storm of jeers and laughter.
Needless to say, our double-teaming-duo of protagonists was in an uproar! They took their zoids and awaited Silvia's arrival, and much to their fortune, the lowly Serenader was quite inexperienced. Not so much to their fortune, a Spinosapper with optical stealth ambushed them! This man is named Charlie. He was a psychologist before he was, ahem, coerced into becoming a Serenader. The situation turned rather sour for our heroes, but lo and behold, two fine allies stampeded in the save the day: Aeolus Spades, our dear Rosen's one and only friend, and Bloodstone, a most faithful and powerful zoid under the command of Wolf's friend and another inhabitant of Fueur's base, Tobias Shift Diavolo.
Too much? Terribly sorry, truly!
Aeolus stormed the battle through the might of the black Liger Zero Caesar, whose gilded blades immediately frightened Silvia to flee. But she could neither outrun nor outfight the duo, and so her Descat's head was claimed. Rosen and Wolf did not fare so well against Charlie and his Spinosapper! No, the Zabat was split open, and it was only by a stroke of good fortune that Wolf and her Hiou Liger Zero friend cut down the Spinosapper. When Aeolus and Bloodstone returned, it was not for long — a situation of utmost urgency called them away, with our fine young Aeolus promising he would come back.
Thus commenced interrogation, Charlie presumably dead and Silvia at their whim. Wolf did not like Rosen's method of questioning. Oh, no, not one bit. After delivering a solid punch, our battered gentleman staggered away and left Wolf to question Silvia on her own. Silvia? That poor girl, she was shot, and by none other than Charlie. Charlie took Wolf away, and thusly, when Rosen returned, he returned to a dismal, shattered battlefield and only Silvia's bleeding corpse.
He went home with Aeolus, as well as the Zabat, the Hiou Liger, and the Spinosapper. Where was Zerovex in all this time? What of the organoid with the delta-shaped wings, the metal hairs, the eternal smile wrought across his steely maw? Wolf was made to visit one of the Serenaders' homes. It was there she was locked away in a cell crusted with blood, cell S-9, the same cell that Rosen once inhabited during his days as a guinea pig. I do wonder who was the cause of all that blood. Hmm.
Wolf. Poor dear, she had to put up with a half-sane psychologist, the large and intimidating (but in truth friendly) Metzger, the not-so-intimidating and generally happy Ed, an angry ex-barber we call Nate, and the magnificent cherry on top, Pravus! Oh, but dear Charlie died. It was a gory scene, much too much to even think of summarizing. Laden with shards of glass she'd taken from broken lights, Wolf did her utmost to escape, she did. And she failed. But oh! Rosen came to her rescue!
...But he also failed.
And this, all of this, was only in the previous chapter. It doesn't end there! Wolf discovered that her blood produced queer effects in figures such as Rosen and Pravus — zoidians! But were they zoidians? Pravus must have been, but Rosen? Rosen, who could not hear the secret voices of zoids, who did not believe in life within machines? A zoidian? Perhaps, perhaps. The organoid with the metal fur and the eternal grin appeared once more, introducing himself as Rowl. He's quite the friendly fellow, ever so polite! No one really likes him, however. Such a shame. Even the leader of the Serenaders herself made an appearance!
They escaped in the end. Aeolus stormed the base, borrowing Wolf's Hiou Liger Zero friend, and with the police at his back no less! Ed and Metzger disappeared over the cliffs, Nate was felled, and Rowl rescued Pravus and Seranaid from a fate of handcuffs and iron bars. Unfortunately for our heroes, he took it upon himself to take Rosen away as well, a gift to the Serenaders and a surprise to our friends...
Over that time, they had collected another collection of allies: a Cannon Spider that was kept underneath the base where Wolf had been imprisoned, an experiment of Charlie's, who was named Galileo by the bloodied girl after a torturous life of madness induced by sheer boredom; Wolf also found a friend in Jingles, a Geno Saurer who Pravus had claimed after a mysterious catastrophe at the lab Jingles was raised in. Now who could have been behind that?
And this is where we come to our current point in this splendid, riveting tale of tormented humanity. The authorities are scattered and set to pursue the Whale King that carries Rosen, Pravus, and Seranaid. Wolf has been given medical assistance, Aeolus is consoling confused and despairing zoids, and Rosen is left to face the reasons he exists as he does now.
Yes, that was all only a few steps into our story! You must have read it all, surely. Yes? Then you will be in need of refreshment, no? Fresh air?
Fear not. Get up while you still can! Recuperate. Walk away.
There were many details to look through, after all. This was quite the embellished summary. Let it all drain from your mind, your body, before you can proceed with the tale.
Let it all slip away...
Yes, there you go.
Release your strain.
The Zabat groaned hopelessly and tossed its head, wings fluttering as though to shake away the sense of defeat that had frozen its circuits since the battle.
"There's a good Zabat. You know, I've never seen you this animated. Was it Rosen getting taken away? Is that it?"
There was nothing to discuss. Even if the zoid knew how to speak, what was there to say? Rosen was gone, abducted by the same people who'd contorted his sense of self, the same people who'd murdered its first pilot and used it as an accomplice to many of their previous schemes. People died because of them. The Zabat wondered for one dim, fleeting moment if zoids had died because of them too. And now Rosen was probably lost to them.
Nothing could save him.
NEW HELIC CITY
The Zabat wished it wasn't so exhausted.
Currently the Zabat roosted inside the hangar of HQ, Aeolus's base, Rosen's home. Their home. Faintly, the zoid recollected the unfamiliarity of the dark hangar when they had first been shown in, the cold walls of the vast chamber, the unmoving Shadow Fox who even now stood silent in the corner of the place. The lights flickered even back then and a chill wind often made its way into the hangar. The Zabat remembered a slight sense of awe and a slight sense of unease, and that was a feeling that Rosen shared, something that had been plain on his wary face months ago.
Now he was not here. What the zoid saw now was the same silent Shadow Fox in the corner, Charlie's Spinosapper hovering nervously near the wall, and a grim, solemn Aeolus working away on the bat's joints. The mechanics had only been expected to fix its broken canopy and Mischief's. Aeolus himself would perform the overhauling that Rosen had initially intended to do, the oiling, the correcting. Perhaps the human had picked up on its lethargy and was compelled to do this to help. Maybe all the Zabat needed was a bit of renovation to feel refreshed.
It was sad to see him so silent. Aeolus was always chipper, always in good humor, and he was the one who helped Rosen and the Zabat during desolate times, he who taught Rosen how to chuckle. The struggles, admittedly, had been great between the two: Aeolus's demeanor hadn't quite been compatible with Rosen's tendencies to lash out. And yet somehow, the young man had undone a bit of Rosen's conditioning. Over time Rosen had slackened considerably and even came to play around with Aeolus.
Black and white, who said they were forever mortal opposites, unrelenting enemies? Now, without his opposite, Aeolus seemed to have lost a part of himself. But something burned in his warrior spirit. Even while the young man closely corrected her wing, something told the Zabat that he was determined to look for what he lost and take it back. The zoid, too, wanted to take back what was stolen.
And Wolf —
When is Daddy coming back?
The Zabat raised its head, and so did Aeolus. They had heard the worried voice of a child, a young girl no less, and yet it bore the digital distortion of a zoid's speaker. They glanced toward Charlie's Spinosapper, who fidgeted and pawed at the hangar floor with her foot. The scrape of metal echoed gravely throughout the alloy corridors of HQ.
There was momentary silence. Aeolus seemed to regard the Spinosapper with his holly-hued eyes before he stood tall, his foot on the joint of the Zabat's left wing. The bat inclined its head but could not get a view of him.
"He's not," was the answer. It sounded terrible against the Spinosapper's concerned, frightened voice. So flat, so soulless, and at the same time so apologetic. Aeolus was restless. How was he to explain to a zoid what death meant, especially a zoid that acted like it had the soul of a little girl? How could he explain to the Spinosapper that her daddy was dead? "Remember when I took you home? And he wasn't there?"
The memory made his gut churn with waves of sickness. It was a downpour out there and even now still rained heavily. The droplets were cold and fat, running down the Spinosapper's amber canopy when she lifted it to the sky, crying out when she couldn't find her daddy. Charlie. He only knew it was Charlie because the police had found the man's corpse in a black trash bag back where they'd found Rosen and Wolf. Somehow the image had brought pain to his chest and an ache to his stomach. He was still shocked by how life-like zoids could be, and to see one crying for who she thought was her father was not only eerie, but it was agonizing. Zoids were more than capable of human emotion.
"He can't come back," Aeolus concluded, and he returned to his task. Part of him feared that the Spinosapper would begin bawling at any time like a child. But the Spinosapper only continued to fidget, glancing around at her unfamiliar surroundings, not unlike how Rosen did when he first set foot into this strange place. The truth of the matter was that she simply did not know how to actually cry. Even if she imitated the soul of a lost child, she was at best a shoddy imitation of the daughter Charlie had lost to Pravus years ago.
"It's horrible," Aeolus muttered as he worked. The Zabat presumed he was speaking to it, and so twitched an ear but still could not turn its head enough to see him tightening a bolt. "I got the call from Stephen about the guy they found in that place. He was in bits and pieces and was stuffed into a trash bag in the kitchen. Probably the guy who piloted that Spinosapper, and probably the guy she keeps calling daddy." Exhaustion punctuated his voice. The Zabat wanted to tell him to take a break, but all that came out was a feeble, squeaky drone. He glanced up and rested the wrench for a second. "I remember the Spinosapper from the clearing. It's so hard to believe... This girl was the same one who almost ripped you in half!"
The Zabat whirred dismally and glanced toward the Spinosapper. She seemed so cornered, so afraid...
"Her name's Alma," Aeolus went on, rubbing his shoulder. He was wearing a simple city-camo T-shirt for the night, black-and-white camouflage, with a pair of desert camo jeans that felt rough against the Zabat's metal body. "She has a name and everything..."
The rain grew loud. Both of them glanced outside to the downpour, where the rain spattered against growing pools of cold water and splashed into the entrance of the hangar, reflecting vast stretches of nothing and a few stray, flickering lights. This was such a depressing place. It was no wonder Aeolus only ever lingered here in the daytime. The rain roared in the Zabat's ears, its green optics glowing through the dim lighting, accentuating a gloomy scene of repressed science fiction. Aeolus sat still on the Zabat's wing while the rain's reflection blurred in his crimson and emerald eyes.
The Zabat was not certain. It crooned and watched the weather contemplatively, although nothing came to mind.
Yes, what now?
A blip arrived on the radar. The bat perked, which drew Aeolus's attention, and the zoid strained to see through the rain. The IFF signature read friendly, so it had to be that strange Geno Saurer, Jingles. He had scoped out the cliffside base that had belonged to one of the Serenaders, Nate, who was probably in questioning or in jail now. Questioning could take hours at a time, right? Jingles was also coming back with that girl, presumably. She was supposed to be done with the doctor.
A figure finally loomed through the nighttime rain. Red eyes pierced the dark, and a great shadow thrust itself across the hangar floor while the Geno Saurer boosted into the entrance. Aeolus shivered whether it was from the rush of air or from the sight of the Alpha-class zoid towering over them. The Zabat had to admit it was a bit scary, but this was a friend they were dealing with...
They waited for Wolf to come out, if she was with Jingles. Jingles came to a heavy halt and his weight made the Headquarters of the Four Winds tremble, and his tail thrashed behind him. Aeolus looked on silently, his somberness punctuated by the lack of livelihood in his currently flat hair and the way his lean body seemed to sag. And where the Geno Saurer's body was betrayed by the red glow against his face, the Zabat's form was betrayed by a green light that almost amplified the green in Aeolus's left eye.
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