LAP 26
Zoda's Ambition

Walking through the hallways of the Dark Million base, Zoda gloats to Miss Killer about acquiring the Reactor Might - he went to a lot of trouble to get it, you know! Despite that, he gives it to her to present to Black Shadow. She complies, but is suspicious; Zoda clearly has something planned.

Ryu is still recovering from his last encounter with Zoda, but he's in no mood to rest - Zoda is still out there, and he's still got the Reactor Might! At the moment, Clank is the only one with the skills to track him down, so until then all they can do is take it easy; Ryu especially. That dope should be in the medical bay in his state.

Black Shadow is presented the Reactor Might, and Zoda accepts his praises through video feed, but getting a simple "well done" isn't what he's here for - he's here to tell Black Shadow he hates his guts! He's an arrogant, egocentric boss who should have been dethroned long ago, and Zoda has just that in mind! He has a present for him...

He presses a trigger, causing the Reactor Might to unleash its energy...

... and in a matter of seconds, the entire Dark Million headquarters is annihilated. Not even a speck of debris remains of it.

Black Shadow is dead, and Zoda is now the leader of Dark Million! His first order of business: a giant ice cream sundae! It's quickly delivered to him...

... by none other than Miss Killer! Black Shadow looms over Zoda's throne, scaring the bejeezus out of him. But how did he survive?

Simple. Black Shadow is powerful enough to contain the energies of the Reactor Might. His space station, however, was not, so he summoned his Black Bull and the two of them escaped in it.

He advances towards Zoda, reminding the little grunt that he will never defeat him. He tries to scramble away, but Black Shadow picks him up by his ankles and shows him another usage of the Reactor Might: grinding it into his abdomen.

Zoda howls with pain as the energies charge through him, leaving him weak and shrivelled - Miss Killer can barely look. Black Shadow drops him to the floor in a heap, telling him he should be thankful for this tremendous gift.

Meanwhile, Ryu is eager to do something - anything! - to try and locate Zoda, but Clank has orders to keep a watch on him; he's not going anywhere. However, they finally receive a signal from the Reactor Might... it's located under Mute City?
A scraggly, shambles of a man walks the streets of the city...

It's Zoda. He remembers when he was the criminal kingpin of New York, warring against the police and Ryu Suzaku in open warfare on the streets... and now look at him. Zoda can barely recognise himself. Is this how far he's fallen?

He stands atop a set of stairs and announces himself, threatening to bring a reign of terror upon the city and seeking anyone will serve under him. The crowd snicker at him and two security guards quickly constrain him, whom he offers high ranking positions to. They throw him to the curb for talking nonsense.

The Dragon Bird pulls up on the street, and Ryu and Clank hop out to go looking for the Reactor Might. Zoda spies them, and hopes to accost them so they can prove his identity, but is beaten to the punch by a mob of adoring fans seeking Ryu's autograph. Zoda joins the rush...

... but is knocked callously to the ground. Ryu helps the old man to his feet, but is called away before he can stick around. Tears begin to well in Zoda's eyes. "Old man?" His longtime nemesis just brushing him off? It's too much for him to handle, and he stomps the ground and screams in rage.

Clank suddenly receives the signal from the Reactor Might - though it's hard to miss. His computer fizzes and pops while all the lights in the vicinity shatter. A huge, imposing figure appears from nowhere, and the crowd flees at the sight of it...

It's... Zoda...?!

The Platoon arrive on the scene and Clank finally assesses what's happened - the Reactor Might is inside Zoda's body! He feels stronger than he ever has before, and it shows when the Platoon open fire upon him; every shot bounces off him harmlessly.

It's Zoda's turn now - he summons the Death Anchor from a portal and boards it, it too becoming supercharged with the power of the Reactor Might, and he races off into the distance, crashing through cars like they weren't even there.
Jody orders the Platoon to follow after, and Clank and Ryu to get the heck out of dodge. Ryu is eager to assist and strips off his arm cast, but Jack thumps him - he's only going to weigh them down, and putting his feud over the safety of innocent people isn't going to help!

Jody changes her tune; chasing Zoda is obviously the highest priority Ryu has in life, and he isn't going to chagne his mind anytime soon. He can come along; they'll know where he is, at least.
Zoda continues his rampage, escalating from merely destroying cars to levelling entire buildings, leaving destruction in his wake. The Platoon aren't far behind...

... but they're in no position to stop them. EAD tries his hand at it, but he and Lucy are swept aside like flies. Jack tries clashing his machine against his, but the Death Anchor has too much power behind it, and he too is sent crashing into a building.

Ryu and Jody are the only ones standing; Jody hangs back to check up on everyone, but Ryu forges on ahead, encountering Zoda at the Brooklyn Bridge. The villain tries to reason with him, saying the two are destined to be together - no one else has been through the experiences they have. Maybe they should be friends?

Ryu's not standing for it; when he awoke in the 23rd century, Ryu thought of nothing but revenge against Zoda... but the new friendships and experiences he's had have helped him grow, to change him. Zoda is still the same reprehensible scum he's always been, and Ryu will stop at nothing to defeat him! He aims his gun at him while the Galaxy Runner hovers overhead, its cannon locked and ready - you're under arrest!

The Reactor Might inside Zoda begins to glow, and he and his Death Anchor fly through the air to the top of the Galaxy Runner. Tentacles grow from his body, stretching out and latching on to the spaceship, giving him control over it! The cannon narrowly misses hitting the bridge, merely splashing Ryu... but if that thing targets the city...!

He follows after the ship in the Dragon Bird, but has difficulty performing with his busted arm. Waves of energy emanate from the Reactor Might, flooding Ryu's machine and causing the dashboard to glow... but nothing appears to happen. No matter, Ryu has the strength to do what he wanted now - Boost Fire!

The Spin Booster carries the Dragon Bird into the air and aboard the Galaxy Runner, nearly knocking Zoda off in the process. Ryu and Zoda prepare to fight, the criminal opening with a blow that misses and strikes the ground, punching clean through the ship's hull. Ryu hasn't the strength to match this guy!

Zoda follows with left hooks and right hooks, Ryu dodging each with ease, but his shoulder cramps when he tries to reach for his gun, scoring a mean punch right across the face. He tries again to grab his fallen gun, but Zoda plants his mighty boot atop of him while he aims the cannon towards the city.

Ryu struggles beneath his foot, and Zoda lifts him above his head and tosses him hard upon the ground. He struggles to his feet, a feat that impresses Zoda - he should put this skill and determination to use under his rule! Ryu would have nothing of it - he fights for the safety of the city and his friends. His nemesis is insulted he would dare hold anything higher than their rivalry, and he begins choking the life out of him.

Suddenly, the Reactor Might glows a sinister red and Zoda loses control of his muscles. Bulges begin swelling out of his body, his form growing grossly out of control...

... and in a swift expelling of energy, Zoda is reduced to a shrivelled husk again. He tries to struggle futilely away from Ryu, but a larger threat appears in the distance: a Dark Million battle station! Black Shadow laughs; Zoda was unable to contain the Reactor Might's power, but his experiment was otherwise a success.

The Black Bull roars out into the sky, initating its Black Fire: a Spin Booster that tears across the top of the Galaxy Runner, splitting the tentacles and hurling Ryu, Zoda and their ships into the air below. The Galaxy Runner is too slow to save them...

... only for a new ship to appear, the Falcon Flyer! Its tractor beam safely catches Ryu and the Dragon Bird before they hit the water, and flies them to safety. The Black Bull continues spinning, slicing open a void in the sky...

... for Zoda to fall into. He curses Black Shadow's name as he vanishes into the darkness, the portal closing with him inside. The Black Bull returns to its battle station and departs without a trace.

Returned safely to the ground, Ryu recognises the Black Fire as a technique similar to his Boost Fire. Captain Falcon tells him there's a reason for it; their three machines, the Dragon Bird, Blue Falcon and Black Bull are "brothers from another time." Ryu wishes to know more, but the Falcon Flyer departs, leaving him with his questions unanswered.

He ponders what this could mean for his Dragon Bird, but before he can dwell on it, the rest of the Platoon come running up to welcome him back. He smiles; these are the people whom he fights for.

Burt's F-Zero Classroom: Burt gushes a little about the Falcon Flyer: it's spacious, its speed is unmatched, and it can combine with the Blue Falcon to increase its power. Burt has heard the café inside is really good, too. A far superior craft than Dark Million's "mushroom-looking thing."