Chapter Three


Synchro, Drampin, and I rushed down the war zone at charging speed. There was no movement street side other than waving flames and swirling debris- no enemy units, no friendly signals, nothing. I skid to a stop to scan the area when reaching the coordinates, Synchro doing the same as Drampin covered us. It was far too quiet for something to not be horrendously wrong, which would have made me nervous if I weren’t so worried about the zero unit or used to situations like this. I had my buster twitching at the ready as I grit my teeth in frustration at my sensors. Nothing. I wasn’t even picking up the ‘ping’ channel form base anymore. (That’s a channel that periodically releases a ‘ping’ sound which all active lines respond to with a bounce back signal; a non-visual sonar in a loose way.)

Synchro waved a hand to summon my attention before pointing to a half-decimated building we stood approximately thirty meters up the road from.

“I’m picking up a weak signal from inside. Can’t tell if it’s a Hunter beacon or not.” She looked over to me as I responded with a nod.

“Let’s go.”

Drampin prowled up to the entrance before either Synchro or me, crunching on a sheen of shattered glass haphazardly strewn across the ground. He winced at his misstep, freezing in place, listening for movement. I could have punched him then. I glowered as a warning to watch where he was going when I leaned against the opposite frame, pivoting to fill the doorway after a moment of courage gathering. My buster was leveled at open air on the other side. I dropped my guard slightly as I cleared through, Synchro following with her scanners running and Drampin tailing more cautiously.

The open sky filtered sun light through the dust hanging in the air on us in a dim atmosphere. The inside of the structure was burnt out, floors nonexistent other than the remnants clinging weakly to the walls and the ground itself. There was a heck of a lot of scrap cluttering our path- the prior mentioned fallen floors. I walked up on a pile of crumbled concrete and presumably furniture before jumping to a level chunk of the remaining third floor. There was enough support structure and wall held flats to scale the building; it would just be annoyingly difficult.

I didn’t find much else from this vantage point, nothing of interest anyway, and continuing further held no purpose. With a sigh I returned to the others with a sharp shake of my head. Synchro motioned over to a heap of paneling, slinking over to it carefully and pulling one of the larger leaning sheets of trash over. Taking a step back, she clasped a hand over her mouth with a silent gasp at her discovery: a disemboweled reploid with a smashed in face, slashed apart by a beam saber.

I knelt down beside the fallen solider in a weak pool of glistening deep red creeping out across the ground. You might think reploids don’t bleed. You’d be wrong. I ran my fingers over his armor; the steel faced expression I wore breaking for a millisecond with the depressed whisper, “Junta.”

“Sir?” Drampin questioned from behind.

I stood to face him with my dark expression returned. “His name was Junta. Third member of zero unit, has a brother in the tech department at headquarters.”

Drampin stared at me for a silent moment before I waved him off. “Look for any signs of what might have done this and other members of our team.”

I was on the verge of crying or blowing something to smithereens- or both. The clashing convictions cancelled each other out to wipe me faceless as I stalked over to a corner of the building and stared at the wall. How the hell could this happen? What the hell had happened? What could have done something this sick to an experienced elite? I glared at the crimson staining my white hands, clenching them into fists and seething privately for several seconds. Someone was going to pay for this.

Abruptly the room lit up with the crackling energy of a beam saber and a shocked cry from the other side of the floor. I sprinted over in what seemed like less than a second, immediately recognizing Synchro standing defensively in a cleared area, panting heavily. I followed her gaze up to a second floor rafter to see a starkly silhouetted figure crouching down against the bright sun directly above. Synchro winced as her right shoulder let loose a surge of electricity.

“I’m impressed by your reflex.” A disembodied voice stated flatly.

“I’d like to see you take me on fairly.” Synchro growled in retort.

He opponent paid her no mind as his head slowly clicked to stare at me. His eyes dimly shown gray with intensity as he glared silently.

“Identify yourself.” I demanded of him.

“I’m glad the blue bomber finally decided to show himself.”

“Identify yourself.” I repeated. I wasn’t interested in people dodging my questions with nicknames rookies had given me based on my color scheme. Every Maverick seemed obsessed with ding things like that, be annoying as possible before battling. It always came down to battling.

He slipped off the support beam and landed lightly on the ground before stepping forward to confront me. Black armor with mango trim, blue regulation gems (one on his helmet as a four point star, a rounded triangle on his chest), red eyes. He tilted his bat wing helmet that slopped down to frame his face and nearly collide with his shoulders. “Is that it?”

I gave him a screwed up look. “What?”

“I was expecting more.”

“Tough. Identify yourself.” I repeated a third time.

“You may call me Forte. My designation is to kill you.”

“Isn’t that always the way…” I grumbled to myself as we stood at a face off. I slid into a defensive position as Forte made no move at all. “You don’t have to do this you know.”

“Novel concept, but you don’t understand.”

“Apparently not.”

He arched his brow and cocked his buster at his side. “You’re not modeling this into a very eventful skirmish.”

At the instant I attempted to respond, Forte leapt backward as a shot streaked through the air. The bolt narrowly averted impact with the mysterious reploid’s head, and Drampin cried in surprise as he was knocked off his feet by a blindingly fast counter shot that caught him in the chest. I never broke gaze with Forte’s placid glare. Besides, I noticed Synchro tending to Drampin. I would have to have a chat with that guy; discipline problems would not be tolerated.

“I don’t appreciate you attacking my team.”

“Then tell them to stand down. That girl at least has the sense to stay out of a dual.”

“Let’s take this somewhere else.”

Forte gestured as an invitation for me to lead, so I started pushing off the walls, swiftly making headway upward and to the roof of the next structure over. Forte followed just as easily behind as I had, my sight never leaving him. I don’t like the idea of having an enemy on my back, as is imaginable. I just hoped this maneuver would give Synchro and Drampin time to clear the shield and port back to headquarters.

I raced over several blocks, choosing a stout restaurant that appeared particularly stable for the condition most buildings of the area. It also had quite an open flat of area. Reaching it, I skid to a stop with a turn, facing Forte as he effortlessly landed in a battle ready position.

“Happy now that we’re away from your peers?”

“We don’t have to fight. Please think about this.”

Forte gave a weak smile and shook his head. “You just don’t understand. I wouldn’t even be the one to do this if my brother had just taken you out as he should have so long ago.”

I felt a pang of regret; I'd destroyed so many over the years… “I’m sorry about your brother. What was his name?”

“Stop reminiscing about him as if he were dead,” he flashed a dangerous glare, “and stop stalling!” He let loose a volley of plasma shots as I dodged with a jump, blasting a round of my own.

Slinking swiftly across the ground, he air dashed (propelling just above the ground for several seconds using boot thrusters) to flank me and threw metallic shurikens with a flick of his wrist. I flung my arms out to twist, using momentum to avoid the projectiles, landing on my feet for a mere moment before air dashing him in return. He defensively crossed his arms as I advanced, deflecting my oncoming punch with a muffled clang as my blow collided with his armored forearms. I bicycle kicked backwards as he swept a leg out to knock my feet out from under me. He reeled back a step as my foot caught him under the jaw and I retreated thirty feet back from him. We locked down our glares on one another again before he smirked to himself and wiped the crease of his mouth clean.

"I wasn't expecting you to be at a level of melee combat quite so skilled."

I didn't respond. This guy was really starting to anger me. He wouldn't even give a real reason as to why he was forcing me to fight him. What motive did he have? His brother failing to kill me. Apparently I hadn't destroyed his brother though… This wasn't the time to contemplate, I had a battle at hand I'd have rather missed. He would have killed more than just the zero unit had I declined though.

Forte retracted his posture and reverted his hand back from a buster. I blinked twice in surprise before he motioned for me to initiate close combat. Sighing, I mirrored his action and obliged him. I wasn't very well going to use weapons on someone 'unarmed'.

I sprinted in with a roundhouse that he easily fell away from. He rushed back at me with a clenched fist, which I caught, before lashing out with my swing. Neither of us had any free hands once he stopped my throw. I grit my teeth as we fell into the power struggle of a grapple, Forte gazing placidly back with a set jaw, a dark scowl portraying his intent. I know my eyes must have widened when he gained ground, my feet scraping reluctantly over the grit-turf roofing. As much as I fought back, his push against me accelerated. I was a bit worried that the wall of the next building over was also closing distance on me; I hate being thrown through cement, as is imaginable.

Realizing I had no chance of overpowering him and time running short, I tilted my head back to change tactics. Nodding in with as much velocity as I could, I bashed his face. He flinched with the recoil, but wasn’t phased from forcing me back. I leapt into it, repeating myself. Over again, on and on. My helmets red regulation gem cracked on the eleventh slam, Forte’s on the twelfth, him finally jumping away just as we reached the wall. We both stood off panting; him prepared for me to charge.

I blinked coolant out of my eyes, I’d cut my brow somewhere attacking that way. At least the other guy didn’t look too much better. What was I going to do? I couldn’t take him down in a frontal assault, that was clear enough by the systems fluid dripping down my face and the fractured jewel in my helmet. I just hoped Synchro and Drampin had at least cleared out.

Forte came up on me abruptly. I sprang with a yelp, him catching my foot and yanking me back down. He catapulted me into the roofing, the floor giving out under both of us as we fell two stories. It would have been simple enough to land on my feet if Forte didn’t kick off me halfway down, but he did. I was torturously jarred to a stop on the cement slab of a stage as Forte demolished a segment of service counter on impact halfway across the room. I sat up and gawked at the dark. It was my fault this happened, being taken off guard… This is another of those times I really wish I had stayed more focused during battle instead of drifting off to think of who might have been hurt or not. I noticed Forte stagger up with a less than pleased scowl plastering his dusted and coolant bloodied features.

I pushed aside a shattered slab of cement that buried me in my impact crater as I jumped to my feet. This was going no where fast, “Did you massacre this area?”

Forte glared icily back at the question. I arched my brow at his response and followed myself up. “Who did then?”

“That’s not my concern.”

“So you don’t know?”

“That’s not my concern.”

“Oh, so my destruction is more important than all the lives of those in a city?” I was becoming incessantly annoyed by his apathy to others and silent replies. In this instance, he again retorted with a silent reply. “Well? What the hell’s the matter with you! Can’t you see how sick that is!?”

“That’s not my concern.”

I glowered at him for several moments on end. I hated Mavericks. I really did. I rearmed my buster as Forte did the same. I winced at some brief distortion over my internal comm systems. I couldn't make it out due to distortion generated by the scrambling field though. Abruptly my opponent disarmed and sneered at me. “Till next time.” He spat reluctantly.

I rushed forward as he teleported out and away- I hitched up the wall and flipped back onto the roof, scanning the area. Where had he gone? I stopped my search in sudden shock as I noticed Synchro coming up the shattered street. Masking my face with a hand, a heavy sigh escaped me before sliding down the side of the structure I was using as a vantage point. Forte would already be gone by now anyway, there was no point in searching further, not that searching an utter war zone was successful in itself at the start.

As Synchro approached me I stared her down, “Why haven’t you left the area?”

She cringed while clutching her shoulder, managing a weak salute. “Sir! Drampin has reported back to base. I came to back you up.”

“When I divert enemy attention, it means for you to leave.”

Her gaze sank to the ground from my bitter words. “Yes, sir.” She winced again from her disabled shoulder sparking.

I converted my stale frown to a weak grin and tapped her good shoulder. “Let’s report back to base, you need repairs.” I stalled as I began walking off and scratched my head, turning to face her again. “Also, you know you can call me X, right?”

She gaped at me for a second before straightening up with a slight cough and bemused grin. “Uhm, okay.”

Sir really was too formal a title. I despise that formal stuff. Zero was very up tight on it… I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the zero unit, and where Zero himself had ended up… With any luck, he’d have already reported to HQ. Synchro and I didn’t speak further as we exited the battle zone, both lost in our thoughts, as we returned to base.

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