SD Gundam Fan Fiction ❯ Angels of the Axis ❯ Zakos 21 through 30 ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

This story and my author's notes can also be viewed on my fanfiction account here:

He was bored out of his mind.

If there was anything that could have been learned from him, it was that younger Zako soldiers had absolutely no attention span whatsoever. In fact, it was a well known fact that Clang was perhaps the best example of that truth on the Magna Musai. It was not entirely his fault, of course. He had been built for battle and war. Mining operations and the skills orientated with its practice were not in his programming, but it was just his luck that the ship was inactive in dimensional takeover activity. Consequently, with the added factor that the Magna Musai's crew was the largest in the entire Dark Axis invasion fleet, excessive mining was the only way they could sustain themselves during their commander's conquest hiatus. The soldiers found themselves turned temporarily into workers and, with the added factor that young Zakos as a whole were very scatterbrained and awful at paying attention to something for more than ten seconds, Clang found that his job had become very boring very quickly.

Fireball, one of the femmebots sitting at the main control station, addressed him in her raspy helium voice. "Keep sharp, zako. Ebony will freak if we drop this load."

Except he found that "keeping sharp" was far easier said than done. He dully acknowledged her and mechanically followed through with the standard procedure without really thinking. He radioed the crew working with the tethers in the mining bay to check for the okay to proceed and they responded back with a positive. Clang shared his finding with the other crewmembers working in the control room that they were set to go and the others double checked. Clang entered the codec at his console and gave Fireball the okay to continue on with the final operation phase. Fireball hesitated.

"Did you double check the weight of the load and the strength of the beams?" That was Widget. She was at the console directly beside him. She usually conversed lightly with the ever silent Tap who sat on her other flank, but the usually quiet Zako was out for the day with a minor fuel tank bug. Whereas Tap was usually in charge of double checking the weight of the load and strength of the tractor beams, Clag had been put in his place instead.

The young Zako turned to look at her. His voice was light and airy, but saturated with unquestionable boredom. "I did," he said. It was a lie of course, but there was never a malfunction with the beams or their strength ever. It was just another ridiculously boring chore to him, and he could not even minutely fathom that something would go wrong.

Widget nodded trustingly in his direction, then turned to look at Fireball at the main control station behind them. The two femmebots regarded one another for a brief moment before Fireball nodded in consent and radioed the mining crew to start the procedure. They did. The low whirr of the beams starting to pull up the load resonated through the control room and mining bay just beyond the observation window they overlooked, and the steadily rising rumble of the planet chunk ripping away from the ground below the Magna Musai began to build. Eventually, the grumbling died away and the entire ship seemed to waver very, very slightly. The extraction was underway and going on track as flawlessly as expected.

Clang leaned back in his seat and deactivated his optic, pleased.

The entire ship jerked, violently enough so that Clang was sharply thrown out of his seat. Out of the corner of his vision, he saw Widget wrench forward in her chair and accidentally smash her head on her console with enough force to make him cringe. The lighting switched from the standard overhead lights to the blazing red emergency bulbs that flashed alarmingly, and the ship-wide emergency siren blared off with enough strength to momentarily deafen the young Zako. Clang snapped to attention and tried to scramble to his feet, but another tremor rocked the ground too unevenly for him to regain his footing. He looked around the room. Zakos, left and right, were either splayed haphazardly on the ground or just barely managing to sit erect in their seats by desperately clinging to the consoles. One of them was Widget. Sporting a nasty looking dent in the side of her helmet, she frantically looked at the controls and glanced over her shoulder toward Fireball. "Slaggit, we have huge problems! One of the tethers just gave way and we lost power to the Magna Musai's second front antigravs! The load is pulling us down!"

Someone else in the room cursed loudly. It was Blue. The Zako Zako Hour co-host was standing by a monitor and his voice had turned into a panicked screech. "Holy SMELT! Sixty clicks to impact, zako!"

Clang's mind reeled. His day just got a whole lot less boring.


The rain was coming down hard.

"Move it! Go, go, go!" Gadget waved his arm in a wild gesture for the mass of fleeing Zakos to continue their retreat. The rain was not helping in the slightest. Some of the frightened Zakos sipped in the mud as they ran and one of them even managed to fall on his side and slide ahead several feet before he could regain his footing and resume his run. Another, this one a femme, fell and could not get back up. Gadget grabbed her by the arm and hauled her roughly back up onto to her feet before shoving her towards the rest of the fleeing crowd. She glanced on him briefly before vanishing into the chaos. He could not tell who either soldier was. The mud caked on their armor made even his comrades unrecognizable to him.

The rain was falling hard, yes, but the whole invasion was collapsing around them even harder. Both figuratively and literally. Somewhere out of his line of vision, he saw another thorn off the Magna Musai Horn of War break away from the main stem and tumble down to the ground. A thunderous crash marked its impact and final resting place.

As soon as Commander Sazabi's energy signature had vanished from their radar -- along with the four Zako soldiers who had been sent to the top of the Horn of War to secretly monitor his wellbeing during his battle against Captain Gundam -- the entire top portion of the Horn of War exploded. Then the tower itself began to collapse. Although the details were garbled, Gadget heard that were at least seven dozen casualties on their side alone, and that at least ten soldiers had been crushed by falling debris. This did not account for anyone reported missing, either. He desperately hoped that this was false, but it was difficult to hold onto any shred of hope when the Horn was falling apart around them. Where the takeover mission had fallen to shambles, the thorny construct was in shambles as well. Another branch collapsed not too far away. The ground shook with the tremor that followed. Their retreat was as hasty as it was organized. Ever since the Gundam Force started to close in, the Zakos found that their only means of escape was through an underground passage entryway at the base of Neotopia's main tower. Not having any loaded weapons to defend themselves with made the grave situation all the more deadly.

Red called out to him somewhere at the mouth of the underground entrance. His usually bright voice had a barely controlled edge of hysteria lining its tone. "Gadge! Gadget, get your tailpipe over here! Come on, the Gundams are coming!"

True to their temporary leader's statement, they were. Over the sounds of the collapsing Horn of War, the steady gunfire and imperial footfalls of the Gundam Force and their allies marching towards them rose above the pandemonium and heavy rain. Gadget cursed crudely realizing how close they had to be. They were rapidly running out of time.

Ahead of him, a Zako soldier leapt over a slab of fallen Horn debris and landed awkwardly in the churned mud. With a cry, she slipped and flipped forward onto her back unmoving. Lightning flashed brilliantly over their heads and the light illuminated her down form so that the armor was momentarily alit white instead of green.

Gadget cursed again and rushed forward to retrieve her. Now he could clearly hear someone shouting somewhere further ahead. It sounded like someone -- Guneagle maybe -- was giving orders to open fire. Gunfire resumed. There were several agonized screams and short shouts that were suddenly cut off. Someone started crying. They were killing Zakos. They were murdering his comrades.

His friends.

"Screw that," Gadget said out loud to himself bitterly. He was at least a dozen or so feet from the down Zako and he skidded to a stop in front of her. Dropping to his knees, he roughly shook her by the shoulders. "Hey! C'mon, you gotta get up! Move it!"

She tilted her neck back fuzzily, cranking her head up to blearily look at him. Despite the heavily falling precipitation that slightly obscured his vision, he could tell that the femmebot was Barley. It was the first of the fleeing crowd whom he could distinguish through the grime and thick mud. Her face was badly scuffed and there was a deep crack running across the expanse of her tear stung optic. Whether or not her crying was from pain or the graveness of their situation, he could not be sure. Her voice was hoarse from yelling. "Gadget?"

He nodded eagerly, grabbing at her arm. "Yeah, it's me. Now get up!" He gave a quick tug and the femmebot hastily scrambled to her feet. She nearly fell forward on her face again when the churned mud caused her footing to slip, but he caught her underneath the arms and pushed her towards the direction of the now thinning stampede. Finding her feet, she stumbled a few feet away and looked over her shoulder at him. Gadget turned to look. The distinct blackness of an energy burn seared her side, indicating that she had been shot with a low powered laser handgun by either one of the many advancing Dimensional Guard GMs or a Gundam. She had been very lucky that the blast had only nicked her instead of hitting her dead on, or else she would have been seriously hurt. He still had to commend her for her ability to ignore the sheer amount of pain it was undoubtedly causing her, though.

She was still looking at him, silently pleading for him to follow her.

He waved her off. "Just go! I'll catch up!"

Her face twisted disbelievingly -- it was a look of nothing but utter hopelessness -- but she relented and turned to run without further argument. Mud and filthy rainwater was kicked up by her footfalls as she ran for the mouth of the underground tunnel. Almost dazedly, Gadget watched as her form began to recede against the crowd of the rest of the fleeing Zakos. Lightning flashed overhead. The bolt cut across the sky like an awful slash of luminescence that had no benevolence within its glare at all. Then thunder followed.

Except that wasn't thunder.


It ripped up his chest and then shot down to his legs almost instantaneously. The strength in his legs gave out from underneath him and he fell heavily. He could not tell when he hit the ground exactly, but he couldn't have cared less for it. A mighty wail broke free from his vocalizer the moment the energy blast from Guneagle's beam rifle hit him square in the upper shoulder while his back was turned. The Gundam had shot him in the back. At the mouth of the underground entrance, he thought he heard several horrified screams. He could not be sure. His hearing, as well as the rest of his senses -- his sight, his feeling, everything -- was swimming in a void of uncertainty and dizziness. And exhaustion.

He looked up blearily. The once tremendous pain was starting to fade into an unrelenting numbness and his vision was already starting to go, but he swore that he could still see Barley. Stupidly, he thought that with soldiers like her to live on, there was still hope for the Dark Axis after all.

"For the future of the Dark Axis," he tried to say. His vocalizer had welled up with the oil and coolant from his rapidly bleeding internals to make the feat impossible, but that did not stop him from mouthing it. He smiled devilishly as he watched the feet of the carelessly ruthless Gundams marching past.

All he could do was offline his optic and let the water pounding against his frame lull him to sleep. The rain was still coming down hard.


It was her first time serving in an invasion.

She was not nearly as incessant as the other younger Zakos, which often left the impression on others that she was not very young all. There had been some brief confusion about her actual age when she was transferred to the Magna Musai from the factory she was produced at because her paperwork had not come through right away. The medic responsible for her first physical, Cyan, had been stumped as to the Zako's age without that same paperwork. The younger soldiers were usually very rambunctious and, granted that Barley did not fit the initial bill for being a rambunctiously childish soldier, the medical officer had to ask. When Barley responded that she was only recently made, Cyan did not initially believe her. It was only after the paperwork was sent to her that she came to terms with Barley's age.

Also unlike the other younger Zakos, she was not worried or apprehensive about participating in an invasion for the first time so early in her life.

Her first day on the Magna Musai was the same day that Commander Sazabi announced that he was no longer on his invasion hiatus, and therefore planning to engage in a dimensional takeover very soon. A week or so later, news came that General Zeong already had a dimension assigned to the Dark Axis' top commander. As it was disclosed to them, the rest of the Zako soldiers learned that the world was called Neotopia. It was a supposedly peaceful place that would be an easy and mostly defenseless target, but many of the younger troops were still uneasy with the change of pace. Most of them were not comfortable with the thought of going into a war that posed even the slighted chance of injury or conflict, but Barley was certainly not one of them. War did not bother her. Fighting did not scare her. Killing would be easy.

Just ten minutes before she and the rest of Zapper Zaku's selected team were scheduled to board the Komusai for their target, Gadget approached her. The Zako soldier had become a loose friend of hers in the first weeks that she was sent to the Magna Musai, and there was a very distinct look of worry in his optic. He was holding his weapon with slightly unsteady hands. "You all right, Barley?"

She looked at him and raised a corner of her optical lens. "Are you?"

"Guess not," he said sheepishly. He looked down at her machinegun -- something that she was holding with hands much more steady than he -- and he laughed dryly. "The last invasion I participated in didn't go over so well. There were… a lot of casualties during Commander Galbaldy's Shonen Musai invasion. A lot of people I knew didn't make it to see the end of the war." The Zako shrugged, attempting to shove the morbid thoughts aside. "We're bound to lose some guys during this invasion. Maybe not during this mission, but maybe another one. War has a tendency to kill people."

She mostly ignored him, unable to come to terms with how violent the invasion could be. After all, it was already expressed to her that Neotopia was a world with no defenses. As far as she was concerned, the dimension wouldn't be able to help themselves if a giant butterfly did so much as sat on their city. How could they pose a threat? She dismissed the thought entirely when they all boarded the Komusai once debriefed by Zapper Zaku.

They made it to Neotopia, but arrived at the wrong coordinates due to an instrumentation failure. Instead of landing in the city, they ended up in a field of flowers. The femmebot decided that Gadget had definitely been wrong. There might have been many horrors to the wars he fought, but there were none in hers.

That was until the two law enforcement units arrived.

After they landed in the field of flowers, the irritated Zapper Zaku barked at them the order to scatter the bagubagu. They retrieved the twelve canisters from the Komusai -- Barley with one of them -- and they released the swarms of mecha insects on the field of flowers. The bagubagu themselves were nastily aggressive, but they at least did their job perfectly when it came to petrifying the flowers in the meadow. By the time all the canisters were empty, it was around then that the sound of someone speaking through a loudspeaker alerted them to the arrival of newcomers.

The attention of the Axians, Barley included, went immediately to the two automatons that had entered the field just several yards left of the parked Komusai. The taller of the two robots, a bipedal mech, was speaking into a microphone attached to the loudspeaker mounted on his ball shaped cohort. Barley caught sight of the two robots and mentally chortled to herself. The two automatons were obviously law enforcement if they were addressing them as sternly as they were. Barley abandoned her bagubagu container and moved back a little ways with the rest of her comrades. The other Zakos with bagubagu dispensers had also abandoned them, discarding them as they looked to Zapper Zaku for a reaction. The squadron leader immediately showed none, although he was looking at the two newcomers with renowned interest. There was a malevolence there that Barley was not initially comfortable with. The maroon warrior had always been so laid back on the Magna Musai before, but his entire personality seemed to change to something darker once the two automatons showed up.

"Let's start with you droppin' your weapons. Robot citizens are not allowed to be going about with firearms," the tall officer said. His voice laced with a thick accent that Barley did not recognize. His green visor was locked on them fearlessly, as well as the optical sensor on his ball shaped partner.

For a moment, there was a tense pause. It lasted only a second, but it felt so much longer for Barley. A soft breeze made the grass untouched by the bagubagu sway, pulsing over the meadow and making what Barley thought looked like a wave. Finally, Zapper Zaku softly spoke up. "So I see there are robots here," he muttered calmly to himself halfheartedly. Then, without a moment of pause, the maroon squadron leader suddenly pointed a jabbing finger in the direction of the two drones. His voice rose to a commanding shout. "Take 'em out, boys! Turn 'em into scrap!"

Instantly, years of intensive training kicked in and they all drew their machineguns without a second thought. Just like the others, it took her no more than two clicks to draw her weapon on the squadron leader's command before immediately filing into her position in the firing squad line. It was a maneuver they had practiced rigorously ever since Commander Sazabi announced their plans to begin their invasion on the dimension assigned to them by the General, but the real reason for rehearsing the move so many times while they were on the Magna Musai was because of the gravity of the situation. The Magna Musai was the head of the entire Dark Axis invasion fleet after all, and no one wanted to leave a weak impression on the rest of the Dark Axis or the world they were invading. They were supposed to be the best of the best. There was no room for hesitation or failure.

They all stepped forward in unison and fired simultaneously.

The recoil from the machinegun nearly made Barley drop her weapon, but her hands instinctively grasped the support handle tighter in fears of letting go. Artificial adrenaline surged through her coolant tubes at the feel of its vibrations whenever it unloaded more rounds. The two law enforcement units jumped back when the first bullets hit the ground just at their feet. Regardless of the fact that they had practiced their aiming as a firing squad, the fact they were in a real life situation and not a simulation had thrown everyone off. Quickly, they all readjusted their aim and hit their targets. The law enforcement drones reached their arm units up in order to shield themselves from the onslaught, but their efforts were entirely vain. Courageous, she mused, but hopeless. The bullets from their machinery did reverberate off their armor, although not before causing heavy damage. The ammunition tore through their armor and someone's line of fire caught the taller officer drone in the head. His helmet was knocked off and bullets tore through the top of his skull, causing him to stagger backward and collapse onto his skid plate. Another Zako soldier managed to blow the top of the spherical drone's top portion off, obliterating the loudspeaker and causing the thing to whoop pathetically before dying away. Barley thought for a split second that she had dealt one of those final blows.

"Cease fire!" That was Zapper Zaku. Through the corner of her vision, she could see him raise his arm into the air and make a cutting motion.

Simultaneously and perfectly in sync, they all released their hold on their triggers. Barley dropped the sights of her weapon and lowered the barrel. Her arms were still shaking. Whether or not it had been from the harsh vibrating of their weapons or adrenaline was beyond her level of comprehension. Ahead of them, the two drones lay in a barely conscious heap against one another.

"All right, this is my last warnin'. Put… down… your… weapons…" The mech's slurred, glitching voice died away to a choked whir.

War, she abruptly decided without a second thought, was something that was going to scare her. The horrors of its chaos would certainly leave their mark she decided, because she found that she was still shaking.


It was a good thing he was not claustrophobic. "Fireball! Get your slaggin' skid plate out of my face, zako!"

"Quit your bellyaching, Pipe! I'll get out of your face when you stop pushing me against the fragging damn window!"

A very, very good thing.

The mission itself had started out innocently enough. Since attempting to invade Neotopia directly never seemed to work in their favor even with the added forces of Grappler Gouf and Destroyer Dom, Lord Zapper Zaku decided to take invasion operations back into his own hands with a personally devised plan of his. Regardless of the fact that Zoom had been a participant of enough failed missions to know that "Zapper Zaku" and "strategic planning" were not two words that were ever intended to be used in the same sentence, even he had to admit that the maroon squadron leader's plan sounded mostly foolproof when it was announced. Commander Sazabi seemed to think so as well, because he gave Zapper Zaku permission to engage in the mission by himself without the aide of his cohorts. There was a great deal of disappointment radiating from Destroyer and an even greater amount of irritation emanating off Grappler but, nevertheless, the eldest squadron leader went over describing how the invasion was to go underway.

The Komusai, entirely unmanned save for a single pilot and co-pilot, would enter Neotopia's dimension approximately fifty miles off the coast of the main city so as not to draw attention. Their next course of action would be to slowly fly below radar towards what the Zako scouts referred to as the Peace Park peninsula. The slow approach would be a horrible waste of fuel but, as Zapper went on to explaining, it was going to be a necessary sacrifice. From what the maroon warrior's head reconnaissance team had learned, Peace Park was a perfect place to invade because of the huge robotic statue that roamed the grounds as its mascot and as a part time amusement ride, which consisted of a huge slow rotating wheel with little pods that individuals could sit inside of. This was apparently referred to as a Ferris wheel, although the concept of such a silly thing went largely unquestioned by the Zakos selected for the mission. Zoom had been one of them. Either way, Zapper Zaku went on to describe that the huge robot -- a fifty foot tall femme replica of a human -- would be their main weapon once it was equipped with a control horn. Peace Park, as the scouting team had learned, was largely populated with humans during the day, and to have any of those stupid organics in the crossfire between the Dark Axis and the Gundam Force would be disastrous for the latter. This was a good thing, the beaming squadron leader exclaimed. The deaths of innocent humans would spoil the Super Dimensional Guard's secretive operations and ruin them, and all the while the Dark Axis could wreak all the havoc it wanted. Zapper and his team would enter the Zakorello Gate after the Komusai was positioned over the ocean. Under the cover of the very early morning darkness, they would enter the courtyard where the woman robot was parked at night. Then they would all file into the Ferris wheel pods and wait there until the femme robot awoke and was set free into the park. When the time was right and the Komusai close enough to the peninsula, Zapper Zaku would step from his pod when it was directly over the woman's crown, jump, land on her head, and apply the horn. Then they would all attack Peace Park and total chaos would ensue. The Komusai would also aid in the attack, shooting up from beneath the cape and into the air over the park. If things got ugly with the rampaging control-horned femme posing a threat to their wellbeing, they would fall back and pull out of harms way.

It was perfect. Unfortunately, there were some slight hiccups.

Five minutes before the Komusai was supposed to go through the Zakorello Gate to engage in its first part of the mission, there was a brief instrumentation failure with the navigation protocols. They delayed the mission by twenty minutes. Then, when it finally appeared as though the problem was fixed, Joyride's copilot, Barley, collapsed before loading into the ship. The femmebot had been complaining about a light headache that same morning, but the Zako was barely able to speak when she went down. The medic was called up from her lab to immediately see to the problem. That took an extra ten minutes, putting them a solid half-an-hour behind schedule. They were already supposed to be at Peace Park by then. Even worse news came when the medic, Cyan, announced that Barley had come down with a minor virus. It was not life threatening and could easily be treated, but that meant that she would be out of commission and unable to participate in copiloting the Komusai. It took five more minutes to find another copilot, which ended up being Welder. It could not have been a more awful combination, considering that Welder and Joyride often regarded one another spitefully.

By the time the Komusai finally launched, it was forty-three minutes later than what had been planned. It was an entire hour later that Zapper and the rest of them managed to get to Peace Park. The sun was already starting to peek over the horizon line, meaning that their cover of darkness was mostly blown. They had to hustle to the courtyard where the femme giant was held in order to avoid being seen. There were thankfully no guards, but then they hit their next hurdle. The controls for the Ferris wheel were offline and the wheel would not turn to allow them to fill up into the carriages. Prying the electronic doors open to the first pod proved no problem -- Zapper Zaku was strong enough to tear it wide open using only his bare hands -- but there was no hope to get the wheel to turn as to finish loading the rest of the soldiers into them. It took ten minutes for Ebony to hack the controls and activate the machinery. By then, the sun had brightened up the courtyard greatly and it was only a matter of time before a human went in to check on the statue robot and found them trying to break into it. That would have gotten ugly. Thankfully enough, it was not the case. Ebony got it online and the rest of them were able to load on without as much as a hitch… which also proved problems of its own.

Zapper Zaku, being as protective as he was over the Zakos, made sure every one of them got on before he did. While he stood stiffly with his machine guns at the ready in case they were discovered, he had everyone load up. The pods themselves were relatively small and cramped, but the fact they were running out of time before someone was bound to spot them caused a minor panic amongst them. Instead of accounting for the fact that there were eight pods and fifty-four of them, they fit as many of them as they could onto a single carriage before having the wheel turn and loading the next one. By the time everyone was actually on, there were nine of them all cramped together per pod… on six of the eight carriages. Zapper took up the second to last one by himself sheepishly, which left another completely open. Having one of the eight open ended up being the best solution since a blonde haired human femme appeared in the courtyard and loaded into it with a grey GM and a grey clad orange haired male human -- the Dark Axis troops all breathed a collective sigh of relief when it became apparent that they all went unnoticed -- but the fact remained that it was as definitely overcrowded in pods. At that point everyone was eager for the actual invasion to begin so that they could get out, but their hopes were quickly dashed when the femme robot awoke and moved out of the courtyard towards Peace Park in the distance.

The robot moved incredibly, ridiculously slow.

Zoom had originally presumed her to be fast judging by her long legs, but it was made obvious that his presumption had been wrong. He was positive that even Zapper Zaku would have been able to outrun her, and that was saying something because, just as "Zapper Zaku" and "strategic planning" were not words meant to be used in relation with one another, using "Zapper Zaku" and "outrun" were two words not ever meant to meet as well… that was unless you were referring to someone being able to outrun Zapper. In which case, using the two words together became acceptable.

The whole arrangement of being caught in the congested carriages was a nuisance, but quickly changed from irritating to just downright cruelty after the first two hours. The robotic woman was not moving at a turtle's pace. It was a snail's pace. Whether or not this was because of the fact that she was fully loaded with passengers or just normal was unanswered, but the amount of time that passed became evident when they received a confused radio broadcast from the Komusai. They all heard it through their communicators even though the address had been directly aimed at their squadron leader. It was Joyride, asking where the frell they were. Zapper responded in a tired tone saying that they were on their way… if not slowly. He gave the Zako orders to stay put with the Komusai, which lead to the next problem. Welder cut in, saying that they were low on fuel. The mission should have ended by then -- they were an entire two hours behind schedule at that point in time -- and Zapper cursed out loud through the radio vulgarly enough to make everyone cringe at the coarseness. Things were definitely not going as planned. He gave them the order to stay put, but that still the least of their mounting problems.

Inside the carriages, it was getting very hot very fast.

It went mostly unnoticed at first but, as the inside of the enclosed Ferris wheel baskets started to heat up from the sun outside causing a greenhouse effect, the temperature spiked. There were air conditioning vents on the ceiling of the pods, but it was obvious that it was not activated because, granted, there was not supposed to be anyone in there. It must have been automated, he thought, to save energy. After all, it only made sense to save energy by not using air conditioning in pods that were empty… or empty, at least, in the minds of the people who did not know they were up there. If that was not bad enough, the fact that all the Zakos' collected breathing caused the air to become even hotter. The congested feel of the carriages went from bad to worse, right up until the point where Red opened the radio and, panicked, spoke through it saying that Blue had fainted from overheating inside of their carriage. Ebony immediately set to work inside of her basket trying to fix the problem by rewiring the ventilation to all the pods instead of the one that the oblivious humans and single GM were in. During that time, another Zako fainted. This time it was Boomer. This made Pipe -- one of the Zakos that Zoom was in a carriage with -- very irritable. There was no questioning their close friendship, and to know that Boomer was potentially sick of heatstroke made the already aggressive Zako more feisty than usual. Even when the air conditioning finally kicked in -- again, another collective sigh of respite was shared between all of them -- but that did not stop Pipe from squirming around in place. Granted how little room there was to begin with, this made him more irritated than he already was. Then he and Fireball started arguing.

If Zoom had been claustrophobic, he probably would have fainted right there and then. Just when it seemed like no more stress or hardships could be thrown at them, they were. The last thing he wanted to hear was fighting.

"Knock it off, zako," Zoom said warningly. He turned his head to look at the two bickering Zakos. Pipe had his hands on Fireball's shoulders and was trying to push her away, although this did nothing more than shove her against the window. The femmebot was starting to loose her lack of complaint with the thickheaded mech and looked about ready to turn around break his fingers. While such an occurrence would have been fun to watch on any other occasion, this was certainly not one of them. The other six Zakos in the pod -- Yellow, Cook, Meta, Gadget, Storm, and Ironride -- all watched them with tentative wariness. Considering how close they all were to one another, any one of them was bound to get caught in the middle of a fistfight if one broke out.

Ironride held up his hands. "Now, I know this is all very stressing zako zako, but-"

Pipe turned his head to glare accusingly at the older bot. "Can it old man, I didn't ask you--"

Storm hissed bitingly through her vents. The femme was usually quiet and docile, but the pressure of their straining situation was undoubtedly making her own patience thin. "Can you not go on a power trip just this once, Pipe? It's been a long day and we're all tired, zako."

Zoom turned his head away, feeling irritated himself. They were already at Peace Park -- the Ferris wheel had actually stopped turning once in order to let the two humans and one GM dismount from their carriage -- but it was still a matter of waiting for the right moment to attack when no one would suspect one. Granted the fact that every single human in the park had been looking and smiling stupidly at the femme statue when they finally did arrive, they were forced to wait longer. At least now it looked like no one was paying much attention to the Ferris wielding woman anymore…

Just then, Fireball squealed. "PIPE! Shove me again and I will break. Your. ARM. ZAKO."

Zoom snapped his head over to look. While Meta and Cook cowered in a corner with Ironride standing in front of them protectively with his arms widespread, Fireball and Pipe were looking at one another with snarling expressions. Both Storm and Yellow had shrunken away from the both of them to protect themselves from any blows that might be exchanged.

Then finally came a ray of light.

"Does anybody see the Gundams?" That was Zapper Zaku.

Through the radio, there were collective cheers of triumph loud enough to make the radio crackle from the excessive activity. Even in the carriage he was in, the air immediately went from dreary to sparking excitement. Gadget, Yellow, Meta, Cook, Ironride, and Storm whooped simultaneously while Fireball only grinned with extreme relief. Pipe was not doing anything. Probably still fuming, but Zoom could have cared less. Zapper asking questions like that usually meant that they were getting ready to mobilize, and that in turn meant that they were going to be able to get out of the rotating baskets. Before anyone else could chime in, he opened up his communications and spoke. Through the radio, it immediately became quiet. "Zako. No sign of the Gundam Force, sir, zako zako,"

"Phew. That sure is a relief…"

Zoom raised a corner of his optical lens. "Zako? Come again sir, zako?

The squadron leader fumbled on the other side of the communications connection, revealing that he had not expected to be heard. "Erm, nothing. Now then, if you're absolutely sure the coast is clear…"

Zoom nodded. "Affirmative. We're safe, zako. A good idea to hide from them in these rotating pleasure pods, sir. I don't blame you for not wanting to face them again, zako zako."

Although, even he had to admit that he would have rather faced Captain Gundam than stay in the carriages for any longer. A good idea to hide from the Gundam Force in the rotating pleasure pods? Please.

They all loved Zapper Zaku for their own reasons, but "strategic planning" was certainly not one of them. All the while, Zoom was still very glad that he was not claustrophobic.


It was dark when they got to the manufacturing district.

They did not worry much about being detected for two main reasons. For one, they did not have the Komusai with them, and therefore did not need to expand the size of the Zakorello Gate to accommodate for that. Because it was only the three of them, the Zakorello Gate's exit point was no bigger than they were. They had already learned from past experience that the Gundam Force had a very difficult time detecting the gate exit vortex was smaller than ten feet in diameter, and therefore the Zakos had no reason to fear an ambush. The second reason was that their current task was not the cause havoc like they usually did.

They were on reconnaissance, and their particular task was very dire. It was a recovery mission.

All three of them turned and watched as the Zakorello Gate vanished away. When it did, Red turned to him. "We have five minutes the gate will reopen to let us back through, zako. We have until then to figure out what happened to them."

Jaggar nodded. "Then let's go."

He had to wonder how it was that they had ended up needing to go on reconnaissance. An entire Komusai jam packed with explosive weapons and three squadron leaders were not just supposed to disappear into thin air. The day had started out good enough, too. After Commander Sazabi chewed Zapper, Grappler, and Destroyer out for their failed missions, the three of them had come to an agreement to put aside their difference and work together… which was something that Jaggar had to seriously question in regards as to why they never just did that in the first place. Regardless, the three of them had come up with a signature move -- something they referred to as The Dark Axis Rainbow Doom Boom, for whatever ungodly reason -- and then they decided to load the Komusai with all their available explosives from the armory and go to Neotopia to engage the Gundams themselves.

When they disappeared through the Zakorello Gate ten hours earlier, that had been the last anyone had seen of them.

After they never returned, communications were attempted. This proved fruitless in finding them, because Chobirello -- the smaller warp device that was directly linked to the Zakorello Gate -- was not activated. Such an occurrence was practically unheard of, but that was the least of their problems. Without Chobirello online, attempting to communicate to the Komusai while it was in an entirely separate dimension was completely impossible. Commander Sazabi never made an announcement over the ship wide intercom about a potential failure made by the three squad leaders, but that was not going to stop the Zakos from searching for them. It was entirely against protocol, but Red -- as ever vigilant as the Zako Zako Hour host was -- organized plans for a reconnaissance mission and potential rescue party if needed. As such, the Zakos all gathered for an emergency Zako Zako Hour to discuss plans for it. He said that he personally would go for the reconnaissance portion, but needed two more volunteers.

Blitz had first offered. Then Jaggar did.

The operation was to go over as followed. Red, Blitz, and Jaggar would enter Neotopia at the missing squadron leaders' last known coordinates to attempt recovering them. Attempt.

Already it did not look promising.

The battlefield was wrecked and scarred from the conflict that had undoubtedly taken place. Skid marks, crumbled sheet metal, and wasted slabs of torn debris lay scatted about in broken, mangled heaps. Blitz whistled from his place beside him. "They certainly did cause a ruckus, zako."

"That's not our concern, zako zako," Red said. The Zako Zako Hour host's voice was strained with worry. There was no arguing that he was highly worried about the whereabouts of their missing officers. He turned to look at him and Blitz with a bright pink optic. "We need to find them."

"Do you think…?" Blitz trailed off.

Red was instantly snarling at him. "No. They came up with that new signature move, remember? They should have been fine, zako."

"Should have," Jaggar said. He gestured around himself at the destruction. Although the three of them were the top candidates on the Magna Musai for officer positions, there was no arguing that he was the most cool headed. "That obviously wasn't the case here. Even I hate to say it, but Blitz is right. They could have been either captured or killed, and I know that they wouldn't ever let the Gundams take them alive."

A look of profound horror passed over Red's face.

Blitz interrupted. "By any means, they're not here," he mused. "I can't detect the Komusai energy signature. If it's anywhere, it's certainly not here… and if it is, it's not in one piece."

"Don't say that," Red snapped. "Let's not jump to conclusions about anything. We'll take a look around and see if we can find anything that might be able to point out to us what the frell happened. Then we can try to draw conclusions." The Zako Zako Hour host's voice was firm with resolve, but even Jaggar had to admit that there was a slight undertone of shakiness underlining it. Red was drastically worried.

They split up. Red took the eastern part of the district bay closest to the waterline. Blitz took the open middle section to search amongst the still-smoldering debris. Jaggar took the westernmost half to look around some of the smashed buildings and crates. That particular area appeared to him to be the most battle-torn, judging by how much damage the crates and equipment had sustained. There were the smashed remains of a worker office that was still smoldering, a dozen large metal crates reduced to nothing but ravaged scrap, and the Zako even noticed that there were the distinct black skid marks left behind from Destroyer Dom's roller heels. Here and there were the rogue scorch marks of a beam rifle, suggesting that Captain Gundam had entered the fray, undoubtedly, alongside his own comrades. Jaggar shuddered. Fights between the Dark Axis and Gundam Force usually did not last long under normal circumstances when the squadron leaders at least had the company of a dozen or so Zako soldiers, but even with their new signature move… Jaggar did not need to be a security analyst to know that it could not have ended well for their Lords and, as awful as the prospect was, Jaggar had the undying and sinking sensation that they were not going to find their leaders during this one sweep alone.

While he momentarily contemplated how torn his comrades would be to learn the potential fate of Lord Zapper Zaku -- they were much closer to him than the other two squadron leaders, given that Zapper was the only one who actually cared for them as individuals instead of a single horde -- he felt something crunch and squeak under his foot.

Jaggar looked down, and felt his optic widen in surprise.

Chobirello, for no excuse, could be misplaced. The dimensional phone was not solely a communicator, but a sentient entity whose species had been mostly wiped out in the wake of a mass extinction in the dimension where they were from. The species, Dimenrello, was unique because its method of processing energy, or general feeding, was carried out by "consuming" matter, forcing it through a self generated wormhole, and then having it exit in an entirely separate dimension. This was why the dying species caught the attention of the Dark Axis. The General himself, back in the army's early days, had several Musais capture Dimenrellos for the purpose of using them as dimensional transports for the new expansion of inter-dimensional invasions. Of the nine who were originally caught, only one survived. That one ultimately became the "crown jewel" to be assigned only to the head Musai in the invasion force in the fleet. It was tradition to pass the newly dubbed Zakorello Gate to each head invasion Musai when it was promoted. Granted the fact that Commander Sazabi had been advanced to the position to head commander nine years prior, the Zakorello Gate had been passed onto his ship as well.

It was around that time that Chobirello appeared.

For some reason, the little offspring Dimenrello had appeared out of the blue hovering around the Zakorello Gate chirping and cooing. It was immediately captured much to the dissatisfaction of the Zakorello Gate, who not only ate four of the Zako soldiers who tried to calm the brute down -- they were recovered of course, although obviously shaken -- but who also garnered Sazabi's personal attention when the commander threatened to kill the infant Dimenrello if he did not immediately cease his raving. That caused the gate creature to instantly cease its rampage. As testing showed, the newborn Dimenrello was indeed the offspring of the Zakorello Gate… how in the Pitt he managed to find a mate and breed without anyone noticing, no one could determine. Perhaps, it was theorized, that the newborn had come through the Zakorello Gate itself after its mother had birthed it. No one was entirely sure how the reproductive system of the endangered dimensional species, so it was mostly shoved aside and disregarded. That, however, did not stop them from using Chibirello to their advantage. Whereas before they had to use specially heavy and laborious equipment to communicate with the Dark Axis when they were on the other side of dimensions, Chobirello had a direct link to her father. If spoken at like a radio or phone, the message would be immediately received by the larger Dimenrello. Having the Zakorello Phone was a huge advantage and it was a general rule of thumb that, if anyone somehow lost Chibirello, Commander Sazabi -- and perhaps all of the other commanders and General Zeong himself -- would personally throw the careless offender into an acid pit.

Looking dusty and mostly abandoned underneath his foot, Jaggar decided that Chobirello looked horridly misplaced and lost.

He picked her up and ran back over to his comrades. "Hey! Guess who I found!"

When they all met up again, Blitz and Red exchanged strange looks before looking back towards the communicator. Red looked horrified. Blitz seemed distant. The latter muttered a soft curse. "Damn. This doesn't look good, zako."

Red shook his head. "I don't get it. Zapper would never leave the Zakorello Phone out in the open like that. Not unless he dropped it zako, and how do you drop something so important like that?"

That was when he noticed something in the water past his comrades' shoulders. Jaggar perked to attention. "What the frell is that?"

It was something that probably had not garnered Red's attention despite the fact that he was so close to the water, because he had been looking mostly at what was on the mainland. In the distance over the water however, they could see something flickering orange and crimson red on the horizon with an eerie menace. From Jaggar's gained experience, he knew that fires did not just start out in the middle of the ocean for no reason. Something had probably exploded and crashed over the water.

Jaggar looked at Blitz and Red. Both mechs looked dismayed.

He reactivated the small dimensional communication device. Chobirello groaned but voiced no actual complaint. Jaggar spoke. "This is the reconnaissance team to base. Do you guys copy?"

"We copy loud and clear." That was Welder. Somewhere in the background, a voice asked about the Komusai. Jaggar was entirely positive it was Joyride. Either way, he went ignored and Welder spoke again regardless to the other mech's probing. "Can you give us a situation report? Where are they?"

"Zako. We found Chobirello as you can already guess, zako zako. It's a mess down here."

"What about Lords Zapper, Gouf, and Dom?"

He looked up to glance at the sparkling orange blot in the distance.

"We're going to need Lord Gouf's hover boat, zako."


"Hey Pick-"


There were several amusing things about Pickaxe that many of the Zakos found entertaining. It was an awful thing to find funny, but no one could really help themselves. Firstly, Pickaxe had the weirdest hang-ups. If he spotted a fluorescent light in one of the hallways of the Magna Musai that had burned out, he had to immediately drop whatever it was he was doing in order to see to the problem being fixed. Given that there were at least one or two lights in the entire ship burned out at any one point, it was very common to see the Zako standing on a step ladder replacing the lighting himself.

Another element of the engineer that the other soldiers found entertaining was that he was prone to nervous muttering and talking to himself. When he was first transferred to the Magna Musai from the Catapult Musai under Commander Jarja, his incessant mutterings mostly went ignored and dismissed as being a nervous tic that was set off by being transferred to a new ship, but it became more noticeable and more unnerving after his first six months of residency. When he was finally questioned about it, he replied somewhat abashedly that it was a nervous tic… a permanent one. Apparently during his time on the Catapult Musai, a near-fatal disaster where the engine almost exploded -- while he was also locked in the engine room to boot -- did not leave him all that mentally intact. He was diagnosed with severe paranoia by the medics who saw to him after the engines were stabilized and him rescued. The Magna Musai's sole medic, Cyan, overheard his explanation and was outraged to realize that the officers in charge of his transfer had not sent over that part of his medical history. After several angry transmissions sent by her and lord Zapper Zaku sometime later, the medics of the Catapult Musai finally forked over the reports. They had apparently been afraid to give them, and for a good reason. Pickaxe did not just have paranoia. He had severe paranoia.

This ended up being less of a problem and more hilarious than anything else. Jaggar found that point proven on his way down to the barracks. The low whisper of mutterings from up another corridor caught his attention and he grinned to himself. Making a beeline towards the sounds, he came across a somewhat darkened hallway. Somewhat darkened, because one of the lights was burned out. Pickaxe stood, muttering the whole while, while he fumbled replacing the empty lamp head with the new light rod. The broken one sat propped up against the side of the step ladder. When the Zako finally managed to replace the rod, the light came on.

That was when Jaggar tried to greet him. Pickaxe screamed and the ladder went toppling over. The burnt out light rod shattered and the ladder landed with a heavy thud.

Jaggar leaned against the post and looked up, amused. "Pickaxe, it's just me."

Pickaxe turned his head sharply to look accusingly at him. In between heavily labored breaths, he spoke. "Don't. Ever. Do. That. Again."

The other soldier grinned up at him and his optic flashed benevolently. "You mean you don't want me to ever say hello to you ever again? Pickaxe, I'm hurt."

"Not nearly as hurt as when I get down from here and kick your sorry skid plate. You know I spook!"

Jaggar shrugged kicked his feet at the ground. It was not uncommon for Pickaxe to threaten such things, but it was another thing altogether for him to actually follow through with them. In short, the ever anxious Zako was mostly harmless towards his fellow brethren. Overall though, despite how entertaining it was to watch Pickaxe have an occasional nervous breakdown, he still had Jaggar to make sure that he did not completely lose it. Jaggar made it his personal business to assure that his friend always had someone to go to.


"Zako? You called?"

"…Could you help me get down from hanging off this lamp now, zako?"

Jaggar smiled.


Seeing as he was one of the younger recruits on the Magna Musai, it did not take much to convince him to do something. Anything. So when someone paged him to role play as Captain Gundam for a training exercise on the Musai's deck, who was he to say no? Looking back on the situation later on however, Meta realized he probably should have.

With his eager vigor radiating off his person like heat from a small furnace, he scampered onto the "battle field" when Zapper Zaku called out that the exercise was to begin. It had already been discussed that "Captain" was to be sent out first. Meta was not the only one role playing either. Off to the side preparing for their turn, Red was wearing a crude knight's uniform with a whisk serving as his sword in hand. The Zako Zako Hour host looked woefully embarrassed with his head downcast and mouthpiece moving with his discontented muttering while Yellow tied a rope around his waist that was connected to a pole being held by a highly amused looking, sniggering Blue. They were apparently going to suspend Red in the air to play as Zero. With them also preparing for their turn, the part of Bakunetsumaru was being played by Pickaxe wielding two mops like swords. Joyride and Jaggar were with him, jointly wearing a crudely made cardboard replica of Entango over their heads so that their feet would appear to be the horse's legs.

Still, Meta could not help but to let his young pride swell joyously. He beamed to himself. "But I get to play the role as Captain Gundam."

Adorned on his head was a pair of salad tongs spray painted gold to look like the Gundam's v-fin while he wielded a camera to serve as his gun and a clothes iron to be his shield. As to how the Zakos in charge of the costume making had been able to come across those items, Meta had absolutely no idea. It was not as if it mattered of course, because the little Zako came to a halt and lifted his 'gun' upward so that the aim was towards the empty air above him. "I have been granted a special dispensation by authorities to use firearms in order to defend Neotopia from invasion, and um, erm, uh…" he scrambled momentarily to remember his lines.

Off to his side, Blitz scrambled onto the battlefield. The older warrior made it to Meta's side and Meta, upon seeing him, leaned towards the other mech. Blitz whispered in his audio. "You will lay down your weapons and withdraw at once, zako zako," he reminded in a hushed tone before running off to the sidelines again in a noticeably hurried manner. He seemed to be in a rush, but Meta could not understand why right away. Stage fright, maybe? More than likely. Meta did not have to worry about that.

Unfortunately for him, he realized far too late that stage fright was the least of his worries.

Remembering his lines and regaining his confidence, he turned back to face the three squadron leaders watching him. Zapper Zaku, Grappler Gouf, and Destroyer Dom were scrutinizing him expectantly. The little Zako resumed. "You will lay down your weapons and withdraw at once," he said boldly. He let his form go even more rigid at attention, straightening out the posture of his crudely made camera gun and ironing shield. "Zako!"

Zapper Zaku glowered at him, fitting into his own role. "Captain, my old nemesis! You're in for an unpleasant surprise today…"

All three squadron leaders suddenly moved simultaneously. This alone was enough to momentarily worry Meta, as the three warriors never did anything in organized synchronization. Organized synchronization came with working with teamwork, and teamwork alone was something that he personally thought the three squad leaders incapable of. Grappler moved between his two cohorts with his claws poised and sword drawn, Zapper flanked his right with his machine guns held at the ready, and Destroyer at his left with his arm thrown up.

…Oh. It was a training exercise for the squadron leaders… to test out their new signature move.

Meta sagged mentally and watched as the blast of energy -- The Dark Axis Rainbow Doom Boom -- rushed at him. "…Slag."

He made a brief mental note not to let people talk him into as much harebrained stuff anymore.


The moment Tally realized something was wrong was when something squished underneath her foot, and when her foot stuck to the ground as she tried to continue running forward.

With a shriek, the young Zako femme fell forward and lost hold on her machinegun. It went flying through the air and landed on the ground sprawling ahead of her several dozen feet away. As if to add insult to injury, when she did manage to slightly regain her balance, she almost lost it again in her attempts to free her footing. Despite the fact that she was blatantly and hopelessly stuck, she still attempted to reach out for her weapon anyways. To no such luck, her foot caught and refused to lift from the ground.

The battle had started out innocently enough. Granted battles themselves were never actually innocent per se, but there was nothing unusual about the beginnings of the fight itself. The Komusai breached the dimension through the Zakorello Gate easily and, under the orders of Zapper Zaku, the soldiers responsible for handling the bagubagu canisters turned the mecha insects loose once they touched down. In less than three minutes, the whole area within an entire mile in all directions had been turned to concrete. Although the mission was being led by their new squadron leader Grappler Gouf -- much to Zapper's obviously irritated disdain, as the two hated one another for some private reason that went undisclosed -- that itself had nothing to do with it. Captain Gundam eventually showed up as expected, but even then the battle remained mostly normal… except for the fact that it seemed that they were actually winning against him, which was a plus.

She looked behind her and saw that her foot was solidly glued to the ground. No one could have possiblely factored that Pit forsaken glue was going to going to be a problematic issue.

Perhaps had the ground been grassy and not stone, they wouldn't have gotten stuck. All around her, she watched as more and more of her comrades became trapped as she was. They had all previously been charging at Captain Gundam with Zapper Zaku leading their attack, but it was obvious from where she stood that their maroon squad leader had also gotten himself stuck. As the maroon warrior tugged fruitlessly at his leg in an attempt to free his foot, Zakos all around her were falling victim to the same predicament. Running, stepping in one of the random green blobs that fell from the sky, and instantly becoming immobile.

Tally looked up.

Captain Gundam's human pet was soaring over the battlefield strapped to some ridiculous flying contraption, grinning victoriously. Overhead he called, "Captain! Operation 'superglue' is a big success!"

Tally felt her optic twitch irritably.


Beside him, Showdown winced. "Zako…"

Clang stared down questionably. "Zako, zako?"

Lure cursed. "Fraggit."

Certainly, the day could have been going better. Currently however, it was painfully evident that it was going to be a bad day for the Dark Axis… and the Gundams had not even showed up yet. From their place standing on the tracks, the Zakos watched their squadron leader's prone structure. Grappler Gouf was not moving. His optic was dark from his unconsciousness and his joints were locked.

Welder looked up into the darkness of the tunnel critically. Finally, he reached up and rubbed the back of his head in a stupor . "Well this is great, zako zako. How the frell are we supposed to get the boat back?"

"It'll stop on its own," Lure said slowly. "But we'll need to go retrieve it ourselves if Lord Gouf doesn't wake up, zako. He has the recall codes, and can't remotely call it back unless he's conscious."

"Definitely out cold," Cyan muttered to herself somewhere behind him, entirely unmindful to his conversation but still managing to contradict it. Lure turned his head to glance at her. She was still checking over the colonel's vitals. The teal mech in question still had all his joints locked from the shock of hitting the overhead of the tunnel. Cyan looked him over again and made a face. "His onboard computers are glitching from the collision with the archway over the train tunnel. Was anyone clocking how fast he was going, zako?"

Earlier in the week, when he and a few other Zako troops had been scouting the train tracks to see how fast the trains moved -- and how many tons in valuable freight they carried in resources, which was what the Dark Axis was after -- he had personally made the discovery that the speed of the trains changed depending on the area they were in. Places where the tracks ran beside sidewalks or populated sections of Neotopia, they went anywhere from thirty miles an hour to as slow as five. Out in the wilderness however, they went anywhere from sixty to eighty. They were out in the wilderness. Lure made a face and turned away from the lab medic, turning his attention to regarding the tunnel the trains had vanished along with Lord Grappler Gouf's hover board. He twisted his mouthpiece in a dissatisfied frown. "We should probably go looking for the boat before he wakes up, zako. He won't be happy if anything happened to it."

No one answered him.

He turned to meet the sight of his shuffling comrades. Finally, after an awkward pause, Yellow piped up. He touched his finger to the top edge of his mouthpiece. The Zako Zako Hour co-host had an air of innocence looming over him. "Not it."

Lure sighed and smacked his hand to his forehead.


He lived up to his namesake readily.

There was no questioning that he was one of the stronger of the Zakos. Not physically, no -- their identically-modeled bodies prevented that -- but mentally. Back when the Magna Musai nearly crashed into the Axia continent during the mining extraction error incident, he had been the coolest headed of all of them. He had been at the barracks with the other off-duty soldiers when the first tremors hit, and he was the only one who did not shriek in initial terror when the entire room started to tilt onto its side. When he finally did start screaming, it was not from terror. It was to get the soldiers in the higher barracks on the left wall -- the room was tilting onto its right -- to get down and onto the ground. The Zako's voice carried just as loud, if not louder, than Zapper Zaku's and the Commander's voice combined, so it was no surprise that everyone immediately got down at his command. In fact, even during situations when their lives were not seemingly in danger -- and when the entire ship was not leaning on its right side -- they all still had a tendency to listen to Guarder.

It was not that the Zako was frightening, no, but because he was so protective of his brethren that their listening to him was usually always a good idea. Even Zapper Zaku had the sensitivity of his audios turned up for him whenever the soldier made suggestions about the safety of his fellows during battles, and occasionally even battle tactics. As long as his comrades were safe… which was why he even went as far as to personally address Commander Sazabi about the lack of ladders in barrack hall. Because many of the cubicles where the Zakos slept were impossible to reach unless someone in a lower cubicle could give them a leg up into the next one until they reached their own, accidents were bound to eventually happen. Worried over the possibility of someone falling and seriously injuring themselves, the Zako ventured to the Magna Musai's Commander's office to address the situation and propose that something be installed against the walls between the berths to allow for Zakos to more easily climb up.

The others, horrified, did not expect their comrade to return in one piece.

However, not only did he come back in one piece at the end of the day, but he was smiling broadly as well. Not only did Commander Sazabi readily agree with the plan Guarder had concocted, but he had also given Guarder complete control over the project. The engineers came up and installed curved, arching pipes that the Zakos could step on and grab hold of. The ladders were a huge hit. Everyone knew that Guarder definitely earned his nickname "Guard Dog" for a reason.

That reason was made especially clear when the ladders proved themselves. The Zakos on the left hand wall were able to quickly get out of their berths by climbing down the ladders when the ship started to tilt on its right side. Without the ladders having been there, there wouldn't have been a way for anyone to get down without jumping and seriously hurting themselves. Then, when everyone was down, Guarder made the command for everyone to get onto the floor or cram into the two lower level bunks. No one was to go up higher than three levels. The Zakos who were already up that high were allowed to stay, but were to immediately come down if the room started to tilt the other way. Guarder had the entire situation under control.

When the ship finally stopped tilting, and when Commander Sazabi announced over the intercom that the emergency was over, it was immediately recognized that he very much undoubtedly prevented someone from seriously getting hurt in the near-disaster. Even Zapper Zaku personally went out of his way to thank him.

That evening however, when he was settling down into his berth in his cubicle, he heard a knock. He turned his head to see that a Zako soldier was peeking in through the entrance to the tiny sleeping space.

Guarder perked to attention. "Clang?"

The younger Zako was a friend of his, mostly because the younger recruit deeply fancied his older cohort for his charisma and defiant protectiveness. If there was anything that Guarder was able to deduce about the younger soldiers, it was that they had a tendency to cling to certain people. For Clang, that just happened to be him. As well, it occurred to Guarder that Clang was one of the many Zakos unfortunate enough to be working in the mining bay control room where the source of the disaster had originated. Apparently one of the tether beams had malfunctioned during a mining procedure -- where they used gravity beams to bring up pieces of earth from Axia's continent and mine it for fuel -- and the strength of that same said beam would have been monitored and maintained in that control room. If anything, Guarder expected the poor mech to be traumatized. Instead, he looked terribly guilty.

"Can I talk to you?" The younger soldier's voice was tentative and questioning.

Guarder made a gesture for him to come in. "Sure thing. What can I do for you?"

For a moment, Clang did not move. Finally, after a brief pause of painfully blatant hesitation, the Zako moved into the bunk with a tentative slowness. Immediately he moved toward Guarder and Guarder wrapped his arms around his shoulder while the younger buried his face against his. It was a common gesture that Guarder let Clang express, mainly because it was in the younger's nature to find comfort in it and Guarder's nature in return to provide that comfort.

"Do you know if anyone got hurt?"

Guarder shook his head, reaching a hand up to run the back of the younger's helmet. "No. Why --?"

The smaller Zako's voice was abruptly teary. "It's my fault."

"It's not your fault. It was probably just an instrument error with the--"

Suddenly, without warning, the smaller mech let out a tiny sob. "No, you don't understand. It really is my fault we nearly crashed, Guard Dog. I… I didn't double check the strength of the beams when I was told to! I wasn't paying attention and then…" The small mech shuddered and kept bawling.

Guarder, without even needing to think about his actions before he acted on them, hugged the younger tighter to him and rubbed circles on the back of his helmet. "That doesn't matter now. You can't undo what's already been done, so let it go and just promise yourself to be more careful next time, zako. Everyone makes mistakes."

"Even you?" Clang's voice was disbelieving.

Guarder rubbed the back of his helmet with wider circles. "Everyone."

Clang said nothing. Eventually, after some time passed, Guarder looked down and realized that the younger mech had fallen asleep. He could not bring it upon himself to wake the small mech up. Sighing, he leaned back in his berth to try to get into a comfortable sleeping position with Clang half sprawled on top of him. Thankfully Guarder was comfortable and Clang was a very heavy sleeper. The recharging Zako did not as much as stir when Guarder moved him on his side to sleep next to him. Instantly, the younger mech curled into a ball and nuzzled his head into Guarder's chassis. Guarder did not mind in the least.

He continued to live up to his namesake, and he did so with a mostly silent and protective vigil.