SD Gundam Fan Fiction ❯ Angels of the Axis ❯ Zakos 11 through 20 ( Chapter 2 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
This story and my author's notes can also be viewed on my fanfiction account here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5257467/2/Angels_of_the_Axis
He was a fighter.
With a cry, the Zako suddenly threw his fist and, upon collision, the punching bag swung violently forward with the blow. The chain that connected the heavy sandbag to the ceiling screeched loudly in protest to the sudden movement, and then the bag was swinging back in his direction. Pipe hissed hot air through his vents and he lifted his arm to block the blow with his shoulder guard. The sandbag collided with his side and he had to brace his knees to keep from being knocked backward. Then, with all the speed of a fired bullet, the Zako swung his other fist around so that it collided with the side of his target at the level of where an enemy's head would have been. If a Gundam had been standing in the place of the punching bag, it would have shattered the glass of his optics and blinded him. There was also the potential that he had destroyed the audio receptor on that side of their head as well. Unless his opponent happened to not rely heavily on their sight and hearing, it gave Pipe the advantage he was looking for.
With another war cry, he brought his other arm back and he gave the sandbag an uppercut. "Chew on this!"
Already caught in a raging spin from the last punch, the sandbag whipped around and swung back with such tremendous force that the chains squealed loud enough to momentarily startle a few of the other Zakos who had been in the training arcade with him. There weren't many, since most of the soldiers were far too busy with their own shifts to find time in their schedule to work out, but Pipe always made time. He lived to fight after all. He functioned for it, so it would have been blasphemy for him not to. He had to keep his skills sharp. While the other soldiers usually stuck to the shooting gallery to sharpen their aim, Pipe was one of the very, very few who stuck to physical activities. He was not a very good shot to begin with, but what he lacked with his aim was what he made up for his ability to throw punches and brawl.
The sandbag came spinning back at him and he readied his fists to throw several more punches. Unfortunately, he underestimated how quickly the sandbag had been spinning. His fist collided with it, but then the whirling target it made contact with made his arm whip sideways from where it was connected. Caught off-guard and with no means to block, he only had a moment to cry out when the sandbag collided against him with enough brute force to send him sprawling away. He flipped backward and landed on his chest with such a clatter that it garnered several distressed cries from the other soldiers who found themselves startled by the commotion.
Pipe hissed through his vents and struggled to sit up. "Ow… that's going to leave a mark, zako."
No more than a second later, a familiar voice cut in from above. "Pipe! Are you all right, zako!"
Pipe looked up to see Boomer, his long time friend, looking down at him with immense worry glowing behind his single optic. The other Zako was standing over him with his arms held up, almost as if he was not sure what to do with them. Pipe understood why. While Boomer wanted to help, he also knew that Pipe would not accept it. Pipe was a warrior at heart and, if he went down and couldn't help himself back up, then there was no real point in him getting up at all. It was his code, so to speak. It did not stop his friends from worrying about him though.
Pipe nodded and struggled to stand. He was somewhat off balance and his wrists hurt a little, but he was otherwise unscathed. He glanced up past Boomer's shoulders and he saw the sandbag swinging tauntingly and invitingly. "…I'm fine, zako."
He was a fighter, but that did not necessarily mean he was a good one. It was for that reason that he kept striving to be.
He was head over heels in love with his best friend.
The both of them had met when they were first thrust into the Dark Axis militia to take their posts on the Magna Musai. It was the first ship either of them had ever been posted to, but Pipe already had experience as a warrior due to extensive personal training. Boomer did not. Pipe had a fiery passion for fighting in general. He would frequently get into squabbles with other Zakos that often led to fistfights and that was how they first met.
Boomer had been walking up one of the many access strips of the ship to deliver paperwork to Zapper Zaku about the status of the Magna Musai's mining operations -- they had gravity tethers on the bottom of the ship that would bring up huge chunks of rock from the planet surface, which they had been using to mine and forage for oils that would both feed the troops and serve as fuel for the Musai -- when he heard a commotion several corridors ahead. He darted up the hallway and came across a cluster of Zakos gathered around two wrestling mechs. Pipe had been one of them. Boomer could not remember the name of the other soldier he was quarrelling with -- maybe it was Blitz, maybe not -- but he quickly hurried on his way to Zapper Zaku's office to both deliver the paperwork and report that there was a fight.
Zapper had been less than pleased when he walked into the corridor to break up the brawl. The Zakos were quickly scattered -- including one of the participants of the fight -- but Pipe remained behind due to an injury that rendered his right foot useless. The headstrong mech needed to see the resident medic, so Boomer offered his services to bring him down to see her.
"Thanks," Pipe said. "That guy was asking for it, though. I guess I don't know how to say no to a good fight, ya know what I'm saying?"
"Not really, zako."
"Huh. Well then, thanks again anyways. Damn, that bugger really got me good. Name's Pipe, by the way."
Boomer responded by introducing himself sheepishly.
Cyan, one of the few remaining medics on the ship seeing as the rest of them had been sent away to other Musais, had been even less than pleased to see Pipe than Zapper Zaku had been upon seeing the scuffle in the hallway. It was apparently his third visit to the medical bay because of his inability to avoid wrangles with other pigheaded, egotistical mechs. She patched up his broken foot with a crude mechanical brace and shooed him out. Pipe's optic was bright with a shit-eating grin and he half limped, half scampered away. When he was gone. Cyan turned to look at him. "Hopeless bastard. Are you his friend?"
Boomer was not sure how to respond. "Uh…"
"You know what, scratch that. I was going to ask you to keep your optic on him, but he's a pretty hopeless cause anyways." The femmebot glowered through her optic in the direction Pipe left in. "You can take the fighter out of the fight, but you can't take the fight out of the fighter."
"What does that mean?"
She did not answer him. She went back into her office to attend to paperwork and Boomer left the medical bay. After rations had been served in the mess hall that evening, it was time to head to the barracks and Boomer was about ready to crawl into his sleep space when someone tapped him on the back. He turned and was met face to face with Pipe. He wanted to thank Boomer a second time and to point out that their bunks were conveniently next to one another. Boomer rubbed the back of his head timidly. "So uh… Does this mean we're friends?"
Pipe blinked. Once, twice, and then his optic lit up with a smirk. He wrapped his arm around Boomer's shoulders and he leaned against the other mech in an offhand fashion. "Eh, I don't see why not. See ya tomorrow, buddy." He let go of Boomer and went up the ladder to the bunk above Boomer's. He said nothing more. At first glance, one would have thought that their friendship would have been loose. That was Boomer's hypothesis, anyways.
His hypothesis was proved severely wrong.
For the next few months that went by, the two of them became inseparable. They tailed around with one another constantly -- or rather, it was Boomer tailing around Pipe -- but, whereas the constant contact they had should have gotten on both of their nerves after awhile, it ended up being more helpful than irritating. Boomer found that he was able to steer Pipe away from getting into fights and, despite the fact this seemed to annoy the latter some, Boomer found that Pipe had to visit the medical wing less and less often. There were some conflicts that remained unavoidable however, like when Showdown first arrived on the ship. Pipe often harassed the new arrival for his voice stutter and Boomer, despite himself, found he was going along with Pipe's harassing just because he wanted to fit in around him. They were quickly turning away from simply being acquaintances and turning into best friends.
That was when Boomer found that he was falling in love with him.
Pipe was everything he ever wanted in someone. He was strong, had a blistering spirit, and he was always filled with overflowing amounts of energy that rubbed off on Boomer some. Boomer had been a moderately hangdog mech before he met Pipe, yeah, but now he felt as though he had far more confidence in himself. Being around Pipe made him happy. It was with this revelation that he realized that he loved Pipe more than just a friend. As odd and obscure as it was to think, no matter how ridiculous it sounded to him, he was in love.
There was a shrill cry from where Pipe had been throwing punches at a punching bag. The sound echoed throughout the entire training arcade and Boomer snapped out of his daydreams to see that Pipe was struck with the target he had been hitting moments beforehand. Boomer had been watching Pipe before his mind wandered to how much he was head over heels for his best friend, but now his main concern was making sure Pipe was all right.
He was head over heels in love with his best friend. Boomer had to hope that the subject of his affections would see that someday.
Fireball was either the spunkiest femme on the ship or she had the most annoying voice in the history of Zakos. More than likely, it was both.
She was originally a transfer from the Hellwise Musai who was supposed to be sent off to the Shadow Musai, but a hiccup in the paperwork that was incorrectly filed landed her on the Magna Musai instead. Regardless of the incorrect transfer, she merely shrugged it off and decided to make herself right at home. She did so very quickly. Despite how gratingly obnoxious her voice was -- high pitched with a gravelly undertone -- she promptly made many friends. Her overall beaming nature and vibrant persona made her popular among the other femmes and a riot with her acquaintances. Unfortunately, what she had there, she lacked heavily around the other mechs. Whereas they were interested in pretty, flirtatious Zako femmes, Fireball was none of those. She was a toughie who liked to get rough with the boys and this made her unattractive to them. She was heavily ignored by potential love interests and, regardless of the fact that she was not actually interested in engaging in a relationship, it still hurt her deep down in the refines of her armor plating.
She was the single duck in the pond filled with swans.
One evening, while she was getting her nightly rations in the mess hall, she turned sharply on her heel once she had her fuel and she smacked up against another mech ahead of her. The femme let out a shrill cry and managed to catch her cube of petroleum before it fell, but the Zako whom she had collided with was not nearly as lucky. His nightly rations fell to the floor and he hissed angrily with rage. He turned to glare at her harshly with a bright, flaring pink optic. "W-w-watch it, you m-moron!"
She recognized his stutter immediately and recalled that his name was Showdown. The stumbling voice was a dead giveaway. Alarmed with the realization that he was the ship "bully" who had most recently been famous for tripping Yellow -- who was now a host of the Zako Zako Hour respectfully -- on the engineering deck three months or so earlier, she quickly apologized. "I'm so sorry," she said repentantly. Her voice was like someone with a raspy undertone on helium. She quickly handed her tray out. "You can take mine instead. I wasn't paying attention, zako."
Showdown immediately recoiled. The anger that was flickering behind his optical glass faded and it was replaced by a look of sudden surprise. "Erm… it's fine actually…" He looked away and shuffled out of the line towards an empty table towards the back of the cafeteria.
Caught off guard, Fireball stood there dumbstruck by his lack of retaliation for a whole ten seconds before another soldier, who had been standing behind her, urged her to keep moving. She snapped back to reality and walked out of line over to her usual seat. One of her closer comrades, Blue -- who was also a host on the Zako Zako Hour like Yellow -- was another one of her friends. He beamed brightly at her when he saw her. "Hey! It looks like you faced down Showdown and won hands down back there. That was pretty impressive, zako."
Red, Blue's bondmate, grumbled beside him. He was also a host on the Zako Zako Hour, but he did not look it currently speaking. Red was usually a vibrant and highly animated mech, but now he presently had his head face planted on the tabletop.
Fireball raised an optical ridge. "What's wrong with him?"
"Upset fuel tank," Blue replied. The Zako glanced back down at Red and he reached his hand up to rub the back of his bondmate's head caringly. "It's probably just a little virus. Cyan says that it should be gone by the morning. Gotta love the medic, huh Red? At least that medication she gave you seems to be working. You weren't even acknowledging people a few hours ago, zako."
Red's voice was muffled against the table, but Fireball caught him saying something along the lines of being bothered by the smell of the fuel that was in front of him. It apparently made him feel like purging his fuel tank. Blue made a slight face at that. The cube of Red's petroleum was completely untouched and Blue sighed looking at it. "I should probably take this back to the counter, zako. They could recycle it for another day."
Fireball had been preparing to take a swig of her own fuel when she caught sight of Showdown, still sitting by himself, at the back of the room. He was looking sideways away from the other Zakos without food. Realization struck Fireball and she put her drink back down. "I got a better idea. I'll talk to you later, Blue. Hope Red feels better." She took the extra cube that Red wasn't going to drink and she stood with both her fuel and the extra container. She left the table and crossed to the back of the mess hall where Showdown was. She sat directly in front of him and put the extra cube in front of him. "Here ya go. Hope this makes up for bumping into you, zako."
Showdown snapped to attention, obviously having not expected the abrupt company in his presence. He looked to her with an astonished look before he recovered and forced himself to glare at her, but then he glanced down at the offering of food in front of him. His glare faded and it was replaced by a nervous expression. He darted his optic upward to look at her. "Um… Thank you?"
"No problem, zako!" She grinned. She abruptly sat herself down in front of the other mech hoping that her cheery vibes would rub off on him. Showdown was always such a nasty Zako that she suddenly found herself hell bent on changing that. "I'm really sorry about what happened earlier. I was being a little bit of a klutz. My friends say that about me sometimes."
Showdown still looked perplexed by the fact she was attempting to interact with him. "Oh. W-well th-th-then…" He paused and looked at her expectantly.
Fireball blinked. "…Do I have something caught between my vents?"
At this, the mech sitting in front of her sputtered a little. "N-no! Nothing like that! I just…" He looked momentarily lost for words before he glanced around. When it was obvious to him no one was listening in -- which was illogical, considering that no one was sitting even remotely near them -- he leaned forward and searched Fireball's face questioningly. "You're not going to make fun of it?"
"Make fun of what?" His question confused her.
He pointed to his face. "Th-th-this."
His stutter. Fireball shook her head and she let her optic gleam in a friendly, extravagant manner. "No. Why would I?"
"Because anyone who's nice to me usually makes fun of it later on. It's like the start to some big fat joke, zako."
"Which makes some sense," she thought dismally. She remembered when Showdown was first transferred onto the Magna Musai from wherever he had been stationed previously. For the first full week that he was there, he was constantly made fun of because of the minor deformity of his voice. He became increasingly bitter afterwards, always pushing back against his harassers until he became worse than his original tormenters, and that was how he earned his role of being the ship bully. His cruel behavior towards others was his defense.
Showdown spoke up again, but Fireball missed whatever he said. She asked him to repeat himself and he held his hands up apologetically. It was docile body language that Fireball would have never previously associated with him. "I-I didn't mean to make it s-sound like that. I was just asking."
"I zoned out for a nanoclick. Sorry. I didn't hear."
That seemed to comfort Showdown slightly. He hesitated obviously before speaking. "Did… Does anyone make fun of your voice too, zako?"
That caught Fireball off guard. She blinked once before tilting her head to the side thoughtfully. "Huh. I don't think so. Mine's a malfunction too, but no one's ever bothered me about it. I mean, they asked about it in the beginning. Then I guess they got used to it." She reached her hand up to rub the back of her head sheepishly. "I'm Fireball, by the way."
Showdown looked down at his drink. He lifted it up and looked at it before glancing back up at Fireball. "Showdown." He took a swig.
From then on out, Fireball and Showdown sat together in the far back of the cafeteria during meals. At least now she wasn't the single duck in the pond filled with swans now.
He ducked down low to the ground and made a swift gesture with his hand for the rest of the troops behind him to follow. They did. One by one, the Zakos moved into position behind their cover with all the stealth of the organic creatures Blitz sometimes saw in the woods that bordered the main castle of Lacroa. Wolves they were called. Now those same lupine creatures stayed far at bay with the consideration that the Black Musai had long since become the Horn of War sitting on top of the Lacroa castle, and that was where the Magna Musai came in. The surviving Gundams of Lacroa and the few remaining humans -- mostly consisting of wizards and mages, since the peasants had not stood as much as a chance against the bagubagu that were set loose -- were still putting up resistance and Nightingale, the commander of the Black Musai, needed assistance destroying them. Commander Sazabi of the Magna Musai had offered his backing.
That was why Blitz and the group of Zakos that Zapper Zaku had left him in charge of were currently preparing to ambush a camp of mages hidden in the canyons that wound around Lacroa's castle.
The mages themselves looked oblivious to their impending doom. Many of them were men with a select few women, but there were some children hiding amongst a small fire as well. None of the humans looked armed or ready to summon magic, which was good considering that Blitz wanted to get the jump on them before they could find time to protect themselves. From the strategy Blitz organized, they would begin their attack as soon as the sun went down over the canyon wall. The gorge would be submerged in darkness, giving the currently dust-covered Zakos an extra edge with their camouflage. They would be nothing more than advancing shadows in the night when they moved forward to strike, like a pack of wolves stalking and hunting ignorant deer.
Blitz unconsciously loaded another magazine silently into his machine gun, watching intently as the human children around the campfire stood to address a woman who approached them. She looked as though she tried to urge them into the tent -- undoubtedly she was their mother commanding them to go to bed -- but the little brats whined until she gave into their demands and let them stay up. She left to attend to something else while the little organics cuddled around the dancing flames that were keeping them warm. Blitz snorted. It was a shame they were not going to live to be any older than they already were.
He was a brawny strategist and a warrior, one of the best next to Red. Ever since the latter had declined working towards the position of being an officer when he started up the Zako Zako Hour with his two other cohorts, Blitz had kept working towards the position of officer. Zapper Zaku had already noted his potential numerous times beforehand, but leading his current team of mixed Zakos both from the Magna Musai and Black Musai was going to be a huge step for him towards reaching his goal. He was a husky and brawny Zako with the personality that closely resembled many famous squad leaders -- many of whom later became Musai commanders -- so he was deemed perfect for the job of eradicating the few human refugee campsites that lingered around the Horn of War.
Something howled in the distance. It rose over the canyon walls and the two children sitting around the campfire looked around wildly in terror. They leapt from their seats and scampered into the tent their mother had gestured to them earlier. Blitz almost could not suppress another snort of disapproval. While the wolves themselves were organics, an enemy that all Zakos pledged to destroy upon their enrolling in the Dark Axis army, Blitz was not surprised that they had survived the Dark Axis' initial invasion. They were creatures of darkness that kept to the shadows. They were calculating, devious, ravenous…
While the Zakos id not have in common with the humans, they had far more in common with the wolves. Unfortunately for the human children who fled into the safety of the tent, the little organics had much, much more to be afraid of than the wild canines howling to the oncoming night several miles away.
The sun descended over the cliff edge. Blitz looked back to his troops and gestured for them to advance. Darkness fell over the canyon instantaneously and the mechanical dogs of war crept forward for the kill.
Without a doubt, she was the most intimidating femmebot on the Magna Musai.
When she first enrolled to become an engineer, many of the mech Zakos whom she had worked with never took her seriously. She was always either too small, too weak, or just too feminine to become a engineering major. That was their first impression with her anyways, but she showed them. Ebony was the best engineer in the military academy -- with extreme emphasis on "best" mind you -- and she blew away all the boys with her abilities to identify and consequently repair problems that rose in the technology she had to put back in working order. In fact, she even went as far as to even attempt inventing a few devices. Many of them actually worked instead of blowing up, which earned her extra brownie points around her professors and trainers. She was the top of her class with a special degree in creative repair and she graduated with flying colors. She was stationed onboard two Musais -- the Mazda Musai and the Napalm Musai -- prior to finding herself on the Magna Musai under Commander Sazabi. The reaction to her presence when she was first stationed on those three ships was the same. There would always be someone attempting to rain down on her parade just because she was a femme and the head of the engineering staff. Regardless, she always dealt with those party crashers efficiently and roughly.
Her first day on duty, Zapper Zaku had been leading her down to the lower mining and engineering deck to introduce her to the other Zakos down there. She was more than capable of letting herself down there alone, but the maroon squad leader insisted that he show her the way. He apparently had developed a kinship with the other Zako soldiers on the ship, acting as a sort of parental and brotherly figure towards them, and he was undoubtedly trying to establish that same sort of connection with Ebony as well since she was a new arrival. The femmebot appreciated his show of kindness since she never met a squadron leader as who behaved so benevolent around his inferiors before. She voiced her opinion of him to his person as a compliment.
Zapper snorted over the mechanical grinding of the maintenance platform elevator they were standing on. "Don't expect the others to act the same way. You may be acting as their superior while working down there with them, but the boys -- and I mean the really, really stubborn ones -- won't hesitate to try biting your fingers off if you give them the chance. At least I can value that the femme population in the Dark Axis forces is rising again. They won't. A lot of them have this pent up delusion that femmes shouldn't have positions in the ranking order higher than them." Zapper made a face and continued on in a displeasured tone. "It's a shame. Back in my day when I was a Zako grunt, the amount of serving soldier femmebots was just a plentiful as the mech population. We appreciated that, what femmes lacked in strength, they made up with their intelligence."
"Of course," Ebony stated. Her voice was distinctly feminine with its light tone, but there was a distinct rasp within it.
When the lift finally stopped on the engineering sub-level, Zapper Zaku let Ebony get off alone after she insisted. He hesitated briefly before he wished her luck and activated the elevator to take him back up to the ship's main levels. The maintenance lift noisily whirred to life and ascended into the shadows and out of sight. Ebony straightened herself out and continued down the corridor herself until she eventually made it to the main working station bustling with activity. The miners already down on the station were working on extracting ores from a large clump of debris that had been brought up from the planet below while the engineers around the station were maintaining the gravity tethers keeping it in place.
A Zako caught sight of her approaching -- an engineer -- and he quickly jogged over to greet her. He saluted her. "Ebony ma'am, Zapper Zaku paged me about your arrival."
He did not seem prejudiced. Good. Ebony saluted back. "Excellent. Name?"
"Welder, ma'am. Designated second engineer."
Ebony flashed her optic at him in a smirk. "Perfect. I believe introductions are in order with the rest of the crew then, wouldn't you agree?"
Welder momentarily left her to announce over the loudspeakers that everyone needed to assemble on the lower deck. After five cycles of confusion and Zakos bustling about, a crowd of workers was finally at attention gathered around a mining platform where Ebony and Welder stood. Welder abruptly cleared his throat when everyone had settled down and he gestured to the femmebot beside him. "All right boys, this is Ebony. She's our new head of engineering staff. You guys on mining duty won't have to worry about her too much, but the rest of you bolt heads better give her your full attention."
Someone spoke up from the mass of gathered workers in a surly voice that stuttered. It seemed to be a vocal malfunction and not from nervousness since the speaker sounded otherwise confident when he spoke. "A f-f-femmebot? Hmph. W-whatever happened to fe-femmes staying out of m-m-mechs' wor-work?"
Ebony heard the direction the sound came from and she looked down at the mech who had spoken up. "One of the blockheaded ones," she thought with amusement. The Zako who had spoken was grease encrusted from the mining work he had to endure prior to being called for the meeting, but he was glowering at her critically.
Welder was glaring at the mech who'd spoken. His tone took on a low, warning tone. "Showdown…"
Despite being spoken down to by a higher ranking officer, Showdown didn't seem inclined to back down. "I mean, she's a femmebot! Whoever heard of a femme who majored in engineering?"
Ebony smirked cruelly to herself. She stared defiantly at Showdown.
Showdown caught sight of her silent glare and he stared back challengingly. "What are you looking at?"
She kept glowering.
Showdown shuffled his feet a little, realizing he had been put on the spot. "N-n-n-now come on now. D-d-don't look at me like that!"
She started to tap her foot impatiently very, very slowly. She started to count down in her head. Three… two…
Showdown threw his hands up and shielded his optic. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry! Ju-just stop glaring at me!" He immediately shut up afterward and went silent with submission.
The assorted optics of the workers who had been watching Showdown now looked back to Ebony nervously. The femmebot engineering head, satisfied that she'd made her point, simply waved the other Zakos off. "It's a pleasure to meet you all and I'm looking forward to working with you. Now…" She raised her hand and made a sharp gesture. "Get back to work! Hustle! That's right, you better run! I better not see that that chunk of rock has not been completely mined out by the end of the day, zako!"
The meeting place cleared out faster than Ebony could blink. She grinned to herself seeing the mech who had berated her being the first to flee. When everyone was back at their stations pulling their weight double time, Welder slowly looked towards Ebony with a bewildered look. He shook his head after a moment and wandered off to see to his own duties.
Ebony smiled to herself.
"It's good to be a femme," she said out loud to no on in particular. The shrill sounds of drills at work were her only answer.
The Komusai shifted slightly from its place hanging upside down on the front of the Magna Musai. The partially sentient vessel whined irritably and Joyride narrowed his optic in mild irritation. "Hey, quit your groanin'! The sooner you stop squirmin', the sooner I can finish up with this rewirin' of yours!"
Joyride was often looked down upon by the rest of the engineering staff for one reason and one reason alone: He wasn't an official engineer. He had the training to be one, true, but he'd bypassed becoming licensed only because he found that he enjoyed being a simple mechanic more than anything else. He was often berated by the others because of the fact, but the Zako mechanic shrugged them off mainly since he found that he could not have cared less about what they thought of him. He was happy the way he was, regardless of how they thought he should live his life.
Besides, he liked his job.
Because he wasn't an engineer, he couldn't be entirely enrolled with the rest of the staff on the engineering deck. To compromise, Zapper Zaku assigned Joyride to become the ship's official Komosai caretaker. His daily assignments, for the most part, involved ensuring that the transport ship's fuel tank was full, that the weapons were fully loaded, and that it was in top working condition so it could be launched on a moment's notice. Joyride did his job very well for the most part, but there was another aspect of his employment that he loved most. That, for a lack of better term, was the Komusai itself.
All the Komusais in the Dark Axis fleet were programmed with a partially self-aware AI -- artificial intelligence -- chip that would allow the vessel to avoid missiles or enemy contact without the aid of a pilot. This technology proved to save lives for all the time the technology was used in the Dark Axis, but there was still controversy surrounding it. For one, whenever a Musai became a Horn of War, the Komusai that had been previously attached to it would be "killed" and melted down for scrap. When a new Musai was made, a new Komusai was produced as well. The previous Komusai in question could not be reused simply because it was easier to maintain a new Komusai than it was to maintain an older serving one. Many Zakos who gave actually gave a damn about the Komusais voiced their distaste for the "slaughterhouse" stationed inside the Dark Axis Fortress, but the higher ups on the ranking ladder never paid heed to their outcries of displeasure. They continued to go ahead and still melt down the Komusais who had served their masters to the best of their ability into molten slag. It was like murder.
It was murder.
The Magna Musai's Komusai was, to date, one of the oldest serving Komusais in the Dark Axis fleet. This was namely due to the fact that the Magna Musai itself had not been involved in a dimensional takeover aside from assisting other Musais, so this was partially good news for the Komusai. Unfortunately, this gave Joyride time to bond with the silly thing. The Komusai was no more intellectual than any stupid animal, but it was still fractionally intelligent. It displayed emotions, like when it grunted happily whenever seeing Joyride approaching, and just that much made the Zako mechanic look forward to getting up at the crack of dawn each and every morning.
Joyride finished rewiring the circuits he had been repairing and he replaced the metal panel to conceal it. "Good as new." He patted the underside of the Komusai where it was holstered upside down on the front of the ship.
The Komusai gurgled by rumbling its engine contently.
The Zako stood up and, with a grin lighting his optic, he tapped his foot on the ship's belly reassuringly. "I'll be back later tonight to check your fuel level. See you then." He turned to leave.
Again, the ship made a cooing sound to show it was happy.
Deep down, Joyride internally flinched. To think that the Komusai was capable of feeling emotion and making the sounds it was capable of conceiving, there was suddenly no doubt in his mind that it was also capable of feeling and expressing great amounts of pain. The mere mental image of the Komusai -- his Komusai -- being thrown into a pool of acid to be melted down into workable scraps terrified and sickened the Zako mechanic greatly. He made a mental note to express to Zapper Zaku about possibility to keeping Commander Sazabi from sending the Komusai away to its death if they ever conquered a dimension with the Magna Musai.
The Komusai made a loud grunt and Joyride paused in place. He was just about to step off onto the main Magna Musai deck. Joyride waited patiently before the Komusai clicked in its own language a series of times. Joyride had learned to understand it to an extent, and the pattern it used to communicate with him was easy enough to translate.
Joyride sighed and tapped his foot affectionately. "Yeah, I love you lots too."
The Komusai sighed with content.
Being the Magna Musai's second-in-command of the engineering staff had many advantages.
He sharply pulled his hand out from inside of the broken gravity tether's console. "Gah! Son of a…"
It also had its drawbacks.
Welder usually enjoyed his job as the Magna Musai's second engineer but, if there was one thing he hated more than malfunctioning equipment, it was malfunctioning equipment and the fact he was not getting much help repairing the tether's broken relay beam. It was not as if Welder needed help of course -- he was one of the better engineers on the ship right next to the head of engineering, Ebony -- but the damage done to the relay core he was trying to repair was past a heated pipe that was running right in his line of reaching for the charred wires he had to replace. Assistance in the form of at least having someone help move some of the plating on the console's front so he could actually reach in would have been well appreciated. However, considering that he did not have any help at the moment, he was left to deal with the fixing himself.
Joyride had offered to help him earlier during the day, but Welder had turned the assistance down thinking he could handle it himself.
The Zako mech pressed his burnt hand to his vents and he hissed air over the minor burn to forcibly cool it. "Damn fragging breakdowns. If this ship wasn't so damn spectacular, you'd think it'd fall apart at the seams with how often the mining gear faults, zako," he grumbled irritably.
The Magna Musai itself was never built to specifically be a mining vessel, but the circumstances that led their commander to take a hiatus from invading dimensions had made the huge invasion ship otherwise useless. That was why Commander Sazabi had specifically ordered for mining equipment to be installed within the first week of the ship's initial launch into the Dark Axis fleet. When they were not assisting the other Musai commanders with their own invasions, the Magna Musai crew found themselves temporarily turned into miners from soldiers. It was a semi-wonderful compromise seeing as they were not being mercilessly shot at -- many of the Zakos onboard were newbie warriors, so they were at least spared being at the mercy of actual warfronts -- but the mining deck and the equipment on it faced general failure every day. Tethers would fail and drop the ten ton load of rock they had been beaming up from the planet surface, mining tools would backfire, and sometimes they were met with no ores buried in the chunks of rock they brought up at all. It irritated Welder a great deal. He signed up to be an engineer for weapons manufacturing, not mining doodads that were pretty much ineffective because of their flaws.
Despite this, the Zako engineer did his best to work around it. He refused to admit to anyone, not even the head engineer Ebony, that he was beginning to hate his job. He loved his career still, engineering and mechanics were his life, but he was beginning to seriously consider temporarily dropping it so he would not be forced to work on the mining level.
He was better than that. That was why he refused help from Joyride.
Joyride, the zako in question who had offered assistance to Welder, was a mechanic -- not an engineer, just a standard mechanic -- who specialized in repairs regarding the Komusai. He was lower than Welder on the ranking scale and there is not a Zako's chance in the Pit that he was going to be caught getting help from someone lower than he was. That was a sign of weakness on his part, and he refused to show weakness to anyone.
Speak of the devil, there was the familiar clang of footfalls on the metal grated floor as someone crossed the room over to his position. "Need any help?"
Joyride ignored him and continued waltzing on over anyways. "Ya sure?"
Welder would not even look at him. He was half tempted to ask why the other Zako was not on break, but he realized how stupid of a question that would have been. Joyride would just ask him why he was not on break, being the smartass that he was. Welder had to keep his voice in check so it would not rise with his irritation. "Positive. It's just taking longer because I can't reach the wiring. Looks like it was overheated and shot to scrap when we took that big chunk up from the planet."
Joyride whistled. Welder felt the other mech's presence when the mechanic knelt beside him beside him. "Wouldn't it just be easier to move the platin' in front?"
"Can't. I don't have the equipment."
"I didn't ask for your help."
Out of the corner of his vision, he saw Joyride put his hands up. "I'm not trying to steal your thunder or anythin' like that, zako. Just that Ebony's a little ticked off. You know, she was on her way down here to yell at you for not getting' the repairs done yet. I told her you went up to storage to get repairs tools, so she's on her way up there right now instead."
Welder snapped to attention and he looked up at Joyride. "…Are you trying to say that you covered for me?"
Joyride looked a little bewildered by the nature of the address aimed towards him. He cocked his head to the side in curiosity. "Well, yeah, zako. Why wouldn't I? I mean, I know you don't like me and all that, but hey. Better to make baby steps, right? 'Sides, I kinda look up to you, ya know?"
Welder hadn't known. In fact, he previously never had the slightest idea. Feeling perplexed himself, he blinked and turned away to regard the console in front of him. The second engineer paused thoughtfully before speaking again. "Well… Thank you. I do appreciate it. Although, we don't have a power wrench to remove the bolts from the-"
"Already covered," Joyride beamed. He reached into his subspace pocket and pulled up a small drill.
They got the job done in five minutes. The relay was up and working again in no time, and Welder figured that maybe he did need some help every once in awhile. The best part was that he did not mind it anymore.
She was an optimistic, cheerful femme who always brought life to everyone she was around. She was also a writer.
It was only natural that she became good friends with Zakos like Fireball, but then there was the fact she was a total riot at the Zako Zako Hour that Red, Blue and Yellow hosted every other night. She had always be the loudest voice cheering in the crowd. Always. People occasionally complained about it, but Widget shrugged them off like dust. The Magna Musai Zakos were not nearly as frightening or threatening as the Zakos from the ship she had been previously stationed on. The warriors of the Fallen Musai used to never put up with her highly positive attitude. They took their jobs very seriously and, seeing as Widget was constantly smiling and radiating a welcoming sense of heat, they were irritated with her constantly. That was a contributing factor as to why she was sent away by the Fallen Musai squad leaders when it was deemed she would be far more useful on another vessel. Subsequent of this, she found herself on the Magna Musai.
Still, serving on the Fallen Musai had changed her life.
While serving part of her soldier career on the Fallen Musai, Commander Krieger had an entire library's worth of documents dating back as far as the Dark Axis' beginnings. Some of the databooks were probably even documented by the humans that once dominated the Axis. Regardless, they were all there and they fascinated her greatly. Grunts actually were not supposed to touch them, but she managed to smuggle a few away from the library without being caught. Best of all, she was able to indulge herself in their words for hours on end. She did not have many duties mainly because no one would let her partake in them -- she was supposedly useless, after all -- and one of the afternoons she spent reading one of the databooks back inside of her personal bunk changed her outlook on life. It was a document written by a Zako grunt who eventually became a squad leader. That Zako's horrific tales of the warfront he had to endure intrigued the femmebot a great deal.
It was then that she decided to become a writer. She wanted to write something similar. Something that would be remembered.
She was writing even after she was shipped off the Fallen Musai. That part of her life just ended up being written as one of the many chapters. The entire book was an autobiography on the life she had being a grunt Zako but, unlike the databook that inspired her, what she was writing was certainly far from dreary. Whereas the autobiography she read was dismal and terrifying with the horrors and gores of war, her optimistic personality led her to take a different direction in her writings.
At their place sitting at the table, Fireball and Yellow were exchanging looks. Finally, Yellow looked at Widget with a perplexed expression. "Please tell me you're joking, zako."
Widget was grinning like a loon. "Nope."
For once, it was oddly quiet in the cafeteria. This was mainly because there was a good chunk of Zakos who were still working down on the engineering and mining sub-levels. There had been a minor accident where one of the gravity tethers failed and a fair amount of the staff was needed to assist repairing and refastening the chunk of ores they had brought up from the planet that the Dark Axis consisted of. Consequently, this left the cafeteria barren and quiet.
Not for long.
Fireball covered her optic. "I'm usually all up for this kind of stuff when I'm drunk and don't know better, but whatever. Go nuts."
"I can't watch this," Yellow muttered. He face planted his forehead against the surface of the table and he vainly pretended not to acknowledge Widget.
With that, Widget whooped happily. Without further ado, she leapt up onto the table and made such a commotion that everyone who was present in the mess hall snapped their heads around on their shoulders to look at her with confusion. Seeing that she had most of everyone's attention, she threw her arms into the air, forced her body backward, and she did a back flip right there on the table. She landed unsteadily on her feet and she was momentarily worried that it might collapse underneath her, but it held fast and, pretending as if nothing had happened, she quickly scrambled back down into her seat grinning.
"Can't wait to write about this tonight," she thought cheerily.
He was created deaf.
"Imperfects" were forged out of one in every one hundred and twenty Zakos manufactured. Zakos who were spark born, being that they were created and raised by parents, were far less likely to be created with a deformation than those Zakos created on assembly lines. Considering that parent raised Zakos -- Lord Zapper, as an example, actually had a mother and father -- were becoming rarer and rarer, it was only Tap's luck that he was forged on a industrial line.
Also his luck, he was also one out of one hundred and twenty Zakos. An "imperfect" as they were called.
Something had gone wrong when the audio receptors were being installed inside his head. They were installed, yes, but the wiring within his processor that communicated with his audio receptors was permanently shot. His first moments of life when he was finally activated were entirely silent. He presumed at first that everything was supposed to be silent, but then he saw the other newborn Zako soldiers around him with their vents moving in conversations and how some of the Zakos, when addressed, were able to respond back. Tap couldn't. He ran a system diagnosis and identified the problem, but he knew that there was nothing he could do to help it. The damage was permanent. Several curious Zakos approached him to attempt communication, but he merely kept his vocalizer offline in hopes that they would hope that he was merely shy. The true reason he kept quiet was because he could not understand what anyone was trying to say to him.
One out of every one hundred and twenty Zakos manufactured were created with a deformation, but only one in every ten Zakos with that deformation actually survived long enough to escape being terminated. The batch of Zakos that Tap had been created with also had another deformed Zako within it. He was blind. The Doga soldiers who had been overlooking the newly created Zakos immediately picked him out from the rest of the small crowd and they roughly grabbed him by both arms and forced him to the ground. The newborn Zakos scattered in terror when one of the three Dogas pulled out a handgun from her subspace pocked and unloaded ten rounds into the poor unsuspecting mech's head. His body twitched and the oil pooling from the dead mech's destroyed helm wafted a horrid scent across the entire room. That much alone sent the already panicked Zakos into hysteria, Tap included, but then the Dogas seemingly threatened the newborns to settle down with some barking retort. The Zakos went silent again, just like Tap. They all watched as the dead Zako was dragged from the room and the mess from his murder was cleaned.
They called it mercy killing, claiming that it would be better to put malformed Zakos out of their misery, but Tap was absolutely horrified that he would be next. He wanted to live. He didn't want to die.
By some sort of crude and sheer miracle alone, he managed to survive death at the hands of euthanasia. No one suspected he was deaf. The uncaring Dogas and higher ranking Zakos merely brushed him off as the quiet type -- they knew he was not mute, another kind of deformity, since he managed several frightened squeaks of terror whenever he was addressed by other soldiers -- and that was the sole reason he lived to be sent off to the Magna Musai. He sat quietly onboard with the other Zakos also being sent to the Dark Axis' head ship, and he stayed quiet even when their new squad leader, Zapper Zaku, welcomed them onboard. The new batch of soldiers -- there were ten of them total, Tap being one of them -- were settled in that night and they all got up to report to the mess hall the next morning.
Tap was sitting by himself when a femmebot came over to address him. He did not recognize her and he kept his head downcast when she sat in front of him. He felt the air still and the way the air vibrated around him. He did not look up at her even though he knew she was talking to him.
The femme did not leave. A sheet of paper was suddenly thrust in front of him instead. Written on it was, "Hi! My name's Widget! Are you shy?"
Tap snapped to attention and looked the grinning femme in the face. She seemed eerily cheerful. The friendly type, no doubt. She must have seen him sitting alone and thought that she would give him company. Tap made the mental note to sit closer to other soldiers next time of avoid sticking out as painfully as he had, but he was slightly perplexed at how she did not seem upset over the fact he was otherwise ignoring her. Most other Zakos who addressed him were usually ticked that he was seemingly pretending to not hear them… Of course, he could not hear them to begin with, but they did not know that.
If they ever found out -- if anyone ever found out -- it would be the death of him.
Widget, the femme, suddenly handed him the pen that she had written with. She cocked her head to the side and blinked oddly. It was a wink. Hesitantly, Tap took the pen and wrote on the paper. He might have been deaf, but he still at least had the ability to write. He handed it back. "Yes. Very."
Widget nodded. Her grin had faded a little, but she was still smiling in a friendly manner. She took the pen and wrote on the pad. "It's okay. I was shy too when I first got sent here. I was from the Fallen Musai. Commander Krieger was nice and all, but the squad leaders were awfully mean. I like Zapper Zaku. He's nicer than most squadron leaders, you know? It's like he actually gives a damn. Do you like Zapper Zaku?"
The femme was either overly optimistic or trying to forcibly make him uncomfortable. Granted that she seemed simple minded and plainly friendly, he guessed it was the prior. He wrote on the pad and pushed it back to her across the surface of the table. "Yeah, I guess so."
She nodded at him and went on writing before handing the sheet back for him to read. "Do you have a name?"
"Tap." The names of grunts were mostly unimportant in the optics of the higher ups in the Dark Axis army. Most Zakos who were parent born were created with names, but the factory produced Zakos did not have that luxury. Instead, they had to name themselves. Tap, of course, had not bothered to title himself up until that exact point because he never suspected he would live long enough to ever decide on one. That and there would have been no way for him to let anyone know what his name actually was. Now that he suddenly found himself put on the spot, he randomly wrote the first thing that came to mind. He did not think highly of "Tap" at first, but then he realized that he liked it immensely. It was his name. He did not have his hearing, but he at least had that much.
"Neat!" That was Widget's response. Their conversation continued on for quite sometime.
As time went on, Widget continued to sit with him in the mess hall during rations time in the morning and evening. In fact, she even visited his bunk before everyone would go into recharge. To match his silence, she wrote him notes to say hello, good evening, and so on. It eventually piqued Tap's curiosity to know why she always kept a pad and paper with her wherever she went, and she responded in a letter saying that she wanted to publish an autobiography someday about the lives that grunt soldiers in the Dark Axis had to live. She already had at least a year's worth of writings and logs stowed away in her bunk. She eventually offered to show it to Tap and, upon its revelation to him, he was speechless. Her writing was impressive and equally descriptive.
She suddenly handed him a note. "Why are you always so quiet? I've known you for awhile now, but you haven't said as much as a peep since the day I first met you! You can't possibly be shy anymore. What's wrong?"
For the first time in his entire life, he considered telling someone about his malformation. He found that he trusted Widget, true, but he was also terrified at the prospect that she would not understand his plight and the constant fear he had to live in. Widget suddenly wrote him another note asking why he was shaking. Tap found that he could not write back right away. Finally, with a shaking hand, he took the pen and scribbled down onto the pad in small, barely legible letters.
She looked slightly disbelieving at first. He took the paper from her loose grip and he tore it up into so many tiny pieces that no one would ever have the hope of piecing them back together to form what he had written. He was shaking badly from horror. Widget tried to ease his tension by writing letters to him but he was far too preoccupied visualizing the blind mech who he saw shot to death on the day he was created. He saw himself in the dead mech's place and he even had nightmares about it when he went into a tense, near sleepless recharge that same evening.
The following morning, Widget was not at their usual table ready to refuel and trade notes with him. That much alone almost sent the paranoid Zako into hysteria, but then a firm hand grabbed him from behind and he turned to see Widget standing there not making eye contact with him. She dragged him along out of the cafeteria down several corridors until they reached a particularly dark hallway. When they reached the door at the end of it, Widget entered a code and the automatic door hissed open. She pushed Tap inside.
Seated at a desk was Zapper Zaku. There was a strange look on the squadron leader's face.
Tap had a nervous breakdown. He dropped his fuel and reeled backwards in a desperate attempt to escape. He could have easily overpowered Widget if Zapper Zaku was not there. He had almost gotten out the door when the large squad leader grabbed him by his scruff plating and lifted him right off the ground with little effort. Then he held onto the smaller mech fast while Widget locked the door so there would not be any means of escape without Zapper Zaku giving the door an access codec to open again. Finally, after Tap exhausted himself, he slumped in on himself with defeat and he sobbed. That much alone was the most noise he had ever made since being created. He thought he felt the air behind his head vibrate when Zapper tried to speak, but then the squad leader stopped himself with the realization that Tap would not be able to hear him. Finally, Zapper set him down in one of the chairs facing his desk. Widget took the chair beside Tap.
Zapper sat down at his desk and regarded both robots lightly. He suddenly looked on his desk, picked up a pen, and started to write on one of the papers that had been placed there. Tap was convinced that it was a death certificate. After Zapper Zaku filled it out, both he and Widget would escort the malfunctioned Zako out onto the main deck where they shoot him point-blank in the back of the head. Tap figured that, at most, he had less than ten cycles to live. He started to bawl again.
Zapper glanced up at him before looking at Widget. From what Tap could see, the femmebot was looking downcast at her own feet. She was either very interested in the ground or very guilt-ridden. Tap guessed it was the latter. Regardless, Zapper Zaku finished with the paperwork on the table.
Then he did something that completely threw Tap off for a loop.
Zapper Zaku held the paper up. It was completely blank and void of print regarding exterminating Zakos with deformities, but there was still writing scrawled on it. The hand wiring was decent, but it took Tap a few tries at reading it to understand what it meant. "So, what are we going to do about you?"
Tap blinked. Once, twice, three times. There were still fresh tears threatening to spill from his misted-over optic.
Zapper Zaku's shoulders shook with a light, sheepish chuckle. He put the paper back down and wrote more. That was when Tap realized that the strange and placid look on the squad leader's face was, in fact, sympathy. The maroon warrior held the paper back up with the new words written across it. "Widget came in here the other day to let me know she was worried about you being caught and terminated because of your malformation. She told me only because she knew that I would never let you or anyone else on this ship be subject to mercy killing. Pitt knows that I hate that policy more than anyone else. How long have you kept this a secret?"
Zapper Zaku handed the paper to Tap. Tap, after a long time hesitating, finally took the paper and pen with trembling fingers. He slid the paper back across the table when he was done. "Since I was created."
Zapper's optic flashed. He wrote and showed Tap the paper. "That's impressive. Anyways, we'd better get to work. I've already given you two special leave to stay here with me for the rest of the day. If Commander Sazabi ever assigns another squad leader to this ship, they won't hesitate to have you exterminated unless we can pass you off as not having a deformity. So, do you know how to read mouthpieces?"
Both Widget and Zapper Zaku worked tirelessly all day with Tap to get him to learn how to read expressions. Zapper Zaku would pronounce something simple and make his motions articulating his vents obvious so Tap could memorize the movements. Eventually, the squad leader was able to talk full sentences and Tap was able to repeat what the older mech had said by writing it down on paper. Finally, after several hours of work, it was getting late and Tap's fuel tank was tight from hunger. He had spilt his drink from the morning so he never got to eat, and he was starving.
Zapper Zaku laughed. He was speaking and Tap was able to read his vents and understand exactly what he said. "You and Widget better go down and get your meals. I'll call them to let you have two cubes instead of one." The squad leader laughed heartily. "You can come back up tomorrow to work on talking if you'd like. Then we can come up with some kind of sign language you can use…" Before they could turn to leave, he spoke up again. "Soldier?"
Tap looked to Zapper. His optic had long since dried -- he had finally calmed down and stopped crying over the course of the several hours he spent in the squad leader's office so he was not afraid of imminent termination anymore -- and he found that he was more confident than ever. Regardless, he watched Zapper's mouthpiece to read what he was saying.
Zapper's optic lit up with a grin. "There are ten others on this ship. Don't feel like you're the only one…" The squad leader winked at him and, very discreetly, the maroon warrior tapped the side of his helmet with his index finger. Whether or not he was trying to gesture to his own being, Tap was unable to determine.
Both Widget and Tap left his workspace in silence. Halfway to the cafeteria, Widget cut in front of him. She looked about ready to bawl. "Tap, I'm so, so sorry I scared you. I… I was just so afraid that something would happen to you if I didn't do something. If someone else other than me had found out, well, they'd panic and report you without knowing what they were doing. Zapper would have had no choice but to kill you. You could have died… you're my friend, Tap. I couldn't let anything bad happen to you ever. Please, please forgive me." At this, she furiously wiped at her optic to keep from bawling. She was shaking all over.
Whereas Tap had felt betrayed earlier in the day due to her treachery, hearing that she had done it in favor of his safety touched him dearly. He reached out and clasped her shoulders tightly before he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight. He hesitated briefly before he cleared his throat. He could not hear himself speak, but there was more to life than just sound alone.
He had seen so much action and death in his entire life, he lost count of the battles and casualties he had witnessed.
He was first enrolled into the Dark Axis army to serve on the Fogworld Musai, the sister ship of the Otherworld Musai once commanded by the great Commander Tetra before he had been assassinated by a sniper Gundam. That had been over one thousand years earlier, well before Commander Sazabi's or even Zapper Zaku's time. Ironride himself was just a little under ninety years old. He had been transferred to live on over thirty different Musais in his lifetime, and he was half certain he had seen more Zakos die on battlefronts than he could remember their names. It was a frightening prospect that he was so old and that he saw so much. Why he himself had not died at the unforgiving hands of enemies as of yet, he was unsure. It was more than likely a fluke of sorts.
"…So then what happened, zako?"
This also meant the whippersnappers were constantly mauling him with countless questions regarding the war and what he had seen over his time.
Ironride sighed. Currently, he was seated beside a Zako -- his name was Sightsee, if memory served the older bot to the best of its frail ability -- while they sat in the Komusai on its way to a world they were in the process of invading. It bothered Ironride somewhat that he could remember that the world's name was Neotopia but he could not retain the name of the Zako he was speaking to. Sighing, the older Zako rubbed the brow of his helm and he glanced sideways at the far younger mech. He recalled the story that he was telling the wide-eyed Zako beforehand and he resumed. "That was when the Ordinance Musai became the Horn of War in Polyhex. There were a few hundred Gundams who charged us in a final attempt to thwart our victory, but we and the Doga soldiers stopped them dead on the spot. The mines we set up underneath their feet sent them sky high, zako zako."
Sightsee's optic was wide in awe. Hesitantly, the younger mech gripped the bagubagu dispenser he was armed with closer to his torso. "Will that happen to us when the Magna Musai eventually prepares to become a Horn of War in Neotopia?"
"I'd assume so," Ironride said. He liked the younger Zakos to an extent, although their naivety irked him somewhat. Sightsee was certainly no exception.
His prior statement suddenly disturbed him. He recalled all the battles he had fought in, where the people he once knew and did not know died, and he momentarily wondered if Sightsee would be another one of those nameless casualties that would sooner be a blip in his memory core than an actual person. Abruptly, over the sound of Zapper Zaku grumbling to himself about Grappler Gouf -- the Magna Musai's new secondary squad leader being in control of their current mission -- Ironride realized that he was maybe older than he originally thought. War aged soldiers. If it did not take away your life, it forcibly stole away your youth.
"And let's hope," Ironride thought dismally to himself, "that poor mechs like Sightsee don't age as quickly as I did. You're only young once, zako."