- Fan Book EX Vol. 5 [Storch]

Spring, ZAC 2106
Florecio Ocean, An Uncharted Island

    Under the eyes of First Lieutenant Sapphire Tripp, the Raynos formation fell one Zoid after another. Attacking it was the Empire Army air combat Chimera, Flyscissors. They were rushing down on it in swarms of five to six Flyscissors for each Raynos.

    The altitude was 800 metres. Even the pride of the Republic Air Force, their main fighter Raynos, had almost no performance advantage at this height. Normally, the Zoid displayed its true value at high altitudes of more than 10,000 metres. Now that they had already fired all their anti-air missiles, the difference in numbers was the difference in combat power between the formations.

    Two Flyscissors dived towards a Raynos from above and to the left. Another two pressed down above its head. The Raynos turned to the right. A fifth Scissors was waiting there, right in front of it. Its huge fangs and claws approached at a relative speed exceeding Mach 3.

    The pilot of the Raynos made a face of disbelief. Its angle of intrusion was too steep to be challenging him to melee combat at this speed. It could only be considered a suicide attack. A moment later, they collided. The two machines burst into flames and pieces scattered in every direction.


    Hearing the tongue-click through the communicator, Sapphire looked to her consort craft, which circled at an altitude of 1500 metres. A Storch - a custom unit equipped with Plasma Blade Antennae, the same as Sapphire's machine.

    "Is something the matter, Captain?" Again? - swallowing the feeling, Sapphire forced herself to call to her superior officer Captain Aqua Erius in a calm voice.

    "Something the matter? Don't you feel anything when you watch this?" A low, stifled voice came back to her, and she felt its deep anger.

    "Our allies are superior. I think we ought to be glad..."

    "This is not a battle of Zoid pilots!"

    Aqua was a hot-blooded officer from the start. But these words of his spoke for the feelings of almost all Zoid pilots. Because now, the shape of battles on this planet was about to change greatly, in a direction Zoid pilots did not wish for.

    It began with new technology born a few years earlier. The artificial Zoid Core was developed. This meant that Wild Zoids were no longer necessary to produce Combat Zoids. They could be mass-produced at low cost, without any performance scatter due to individual differences, and would not even need the mental link between machine and pilot. It meant that it was now possible to create artificial Zoids that anyone could handle.

    The Neo Zenebas Empire headquarters pounced on this technology. No - they didn't stop there, they even produced unmanned Zoids containing automatic piloting systems (codename: Chimera Blox). The Chimeras were certainly the ideal weapon for the new country of Neo Zenebas, which was still weak in military force and economic strength. But there was also a problem with unmanned machines. Even if they could cope with combat on their own, they couldn't take unified actions as a force.

    A command Zoid was needed to lead the Chimeras. A manned Zoid that would lead the Chimera force with control waves. And one of the command Zoids developed was a custom Storch equipped with large-scale Plasma Antennae, and Aqua Erius and Sapphire Tripp had been chosen as the test pilots. They would invade the skies above the Republic's area of influence in Storches, lure enemy machines into the airspace of the uninhabited island where their experimental base was, and strike them down by commanding the flying Chimera Flyscissors. This combat test was the mission given to the two of them.

    Another Raynos fell. The fourth. There were two left. Meanwhile, the losses of Flyscissors numbered ten. The combat test could be called a great success. They might have lost more than twice the number of machines, but their production costs were less than a tenth (excluding the loss of pilots). Soon a great army of Chimeras would fill up every battlefield on this planet. A horde of unmanned machines, marching over cold battlefields with no soldiers. The scene floated vividly in Sapphire's mind.

    Aqua remained silent.

    "The pride of a Zoid pilot...?"

    Sapphire was a fourth-generation Earth immigrant and had different values to the people of Planet Zi. Even if she could understand his sentiments, she couldn't sympathise with them. The technological level of Zi's people had leaped forwards like a mutation due to the arrival of the Earthlings, but their mentality still contained a thick scent of the medieval. While still having the souls of knights, barbarism, and a religion-like culture of beast god worship, they had obtained technology from a thousand years into the future. Moreover, without such souls, they could not become excellent Zoid pilots, pilots connected to their Zoids by a deep mental link. At least, until now....

    A sudden warning beep from the surveillance monitor interrupted Sapphire's momentary contemplation. One Raynos had broken through the enclosure of Flyscissors.

    "Oh no."

    If it went full-throttle now, they wouldn't be able to catch up to the Raynos with the speed of the Flyscissors and Storch. If it left the jamming area and sent a transmission, resuming the test in this airspace would become impossible. But how had it escaped the siege net?

    "That bastard..." Aqua's voice came from the communicator. Unlike before, his voice held a mixture of surprise and joy. Ignoring it, Sapphire found a formation of three Flyscissors that could cut into the path of the Raynos and narrowly managed to set them on an intercept course.

    "Pin it down. Don't let it go to full-throttle!"

    But far from ascending, the Raynos instead decreased its altitude. 500 metres, 400, 300. It dropped further, at Mach 0.8. From there, a sudden deceleration. It turned left inches from the water's surface. It was unbelievable piloting. Unable to pull up in time, two of the Scissors crashed into the water, and just as the remaining machine stalled, it was brought down by a strafe of beams.

    Having placed too much stress on testing their control, the Scissors were only equipped with melee weapons. That had backfired. When faced with those tactics, they wouldn't be able to manage guided control. But was such piloting even possible? Such precise piloting at that speed, under intense G-forces?

    "It's no use. We won't make it in time."

    They no longer had any way of catching up to the Raynos. Sapphire murmured, dumbfounded, and a moment later opened her eyes even wider. The Raynos had turned around. In its direction of travel lay the other Raynos, which had been left inside the Scissors siege. He planned to rescue it. Even though there were still 30 Scissors remaining.

    "Sapphire, pull back the Scissors! Our precious toys will all get turned into scrap!"

    "What are you..."

    "Don't you get it? That's a real Zoid pilot. Our toys are no match for a Zoid piloted by the real deal!"

    Suddenly, Aqua's Storch entered a dive.

    "I'll take him."

    "In a command-equipment Storch? It's impossible!"

    "My opponent's worn out too, isn't he? And at this altitude, I may be up against a Raynos... but I can do it!"

    A dive exceeding Mach 2, from an altitude of 1500 metres. Aqua wasn't normal either, just like that Raynos pilot. At once, the two became entangled. Upwards, downwards, turning. It was like a dance moving at the speed of sound. Fierce and elegant and bloody and beautiful.

    Technology would continue to develop. Become more rational. The Chimeras would evolve to be stronger, and the control defects would be eliminated. Soon.

    Even as she thought this, Sapphire could not stop herself becoming enchanted by the dance of the two Zoid pilots.

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Translations courtesy of Falcarius! Images courtesy of Green Gairyuki!