Chapter 1: "A New War"
Air hissed around the metal armor of the hover-bike as its hydraulics sang in chorus, the vehicle twisting and angling around a wind-hewn boulder in the desert. Megaman X's eyes were sharp as he accelerated past it, a fine cloud of particles gushing up in his wake. Other Reploids came ripping around the corner with him, all mounted on the high-speed ground-vehicles.
The desert was just starting to cool in the twilight sun as they raced toward their target. The factory ahead loomed up out of the gritty sand like a fortress, and the air howled from blazing waves of firepower swarming off of its sides and the mechaniloids defending its base.
Emplaced Maverick Hunters were laying down responding waves of fire from the surrounding outcroppings of rock and sandy cliffs, but none could close more than a few hundred meters… save the brave souls on the hover-bikes.
X juked sharply to his right, letting a cannon-blast shock the ground he'd occupied a core-pulse before. His face never showed surprise, he only raced ahead. The rigid focus in his eyes would have disturbed his friends.
That was when one of his team shot ahead of him with a holler of confidence. X's eyes snapped to this comrade in alarm. "Gibdan, don't!"
The Reploid, his green armor glistening even in the dying light, laughed as he popped a wheelie with his hover-bike, accelerating harder.
X growled in frustration, his legs shifting to signal for more power as he tried to catch up. "Warn him about reckless moves, and he pops a wheelie straight into enemy fire!" X's own armor, clean white and blue with lines of gold, shone brighter as he leaned down and burst ahead.
Now most of his team was spaced back a dangerous amount, and the explosions from the defending fire of the factory were breaking their formation as they wove and swept to avoid being blown apart.
Gibdan shouted back, "Don't worry, boss, I got this!"
X's brow creased. "Ease down and get back in formation, G! That's an order!"
Then X's eyes caught the cannon-walker mechaniloid at the gate of the factory twisting straight toward them. It was a hulking beast with two mighty legs, twin heavy cannons where the chest should have been, no arms, and a small head for the beady red optics. It was a mobile gun emplacement more than a robot.
The mechaniloid braced, almost on its haunches, and fired. Even then it shook the heavy gate behind it from the power of the release.
"I'll blow the gate, you guys sweep in after!" Gibdan shouted back, and started to drop from his wheelie.
He didn't see the twin cannon shots that were already hurtling toward him.
X saw it, however. "G, no!" he shouted, and tried to slide without losing speed, reaching out to grab his comrade off his bike.
His fingers stretched, just shy of the green shoulder armor of the brash Hunter, but the shots hit. The bike erupted as Gibdan's body was blown in half and apart in one horrendous strike.
The other Hunters on the bikes faltered at the sight, a few swerving out to avoid crash-flipping outright.
X had the heat-plume wash over him even as he tried to cringe away. He felt the pieces of his comrade and the vehicle batter and scrape over his own frame and vehicle for an instant before his own bike took the second blast to the rear-drive.
In that core-pulse, X felt such dark memories resurge. Watching his friend, Zero, die from a self-destruct to save X; the look on this face as he apologized. The blood pouring over X from the human woman, Jessica, whom he couldn't save from Sigma's army. The Mavericks he'd fought and torn apart, their bodies hewn or dismembered. The victims of their atrocities, lives broken or ruined… It all swirled in X's mind, and crystallized around the moment where he killed Vile, blowing Sigma's right-hand-Reploid away with a point-blank buster-shot to the head.
Back in reality, his body and vehicle still reeling from the blasts only an instant before, X growled, his eyes dilating toward the factory over his shoulder thanks to the spin-wrench of the shot to his bike.
Still hovering along at high speed toward the factory thanks to the nature of his vehicle, X snapped his controls so that his bike was forced straight again. He ducked under a fresh pair of shots from the mechaniloid focused on him, then hopped up, surfing his bike as he touched his ear-comm. "Fall back. All Hunters, maintain surrounding formation and await signal."
Various affirmations chorused back to him in his internal comm; the other hover-bike-riders swerved off to obey.
X started to glow, energy writhing into his buster and over his frame like water cascading down stone.
"X, are you okay!?" Alia's voice chimed over his internal comm next. She was clearly worried, but kept a professional tone. Anyone would be checking his status after he ordered his support away.
Still determined, X replied, "No one else is dying today."
Alia looked up from her console at Hunter base, her blue eyes tightening. X…
The mechaniloid fired again.
X back-flipped, arms out, buster trailing light. The twin cannon-shots screamed just over his stomach, chest, and face as his body neatly slipped between them and the back of his damaged bike.
The bike hurtled ahead as X's legs arced over his body, and the vehicle took the mechaniloid's legs out in a fiery shockwave of parts and drive-core overload.
The upper-body of the cannon-bot crashed down, but it was still aiming, about to fire.
X landed into a rocket-dash from his boosts straight toward the half-shattered robot, his buster aimed out.
A shock-wave of purple-blue plasma ripped out as X roared. The back-blast tore up the ground in his wake, the forward wave churning and spiraling toward the mechaniloid like a voracious beast. It struck, and flash-melted the robot into a burning crater of glass on its way to the security gate towering behind.
For a moment, the plasma-blast seemed to scatter over the door, but it surged through just as X reached it, and he leapt through the glowing hole it left, skidding to a halt on his haunches inside.
Touching his comm, eyes closed, he asked, "Alia, do you read me?"
"…Yes, X. The factory has likely been heavily modified, but I'm activating a map for you based on the information we have."
His view was overlaid with a holographic model of the entire facility to scale, and a path of halls and structures flashed rapidly for him.
"That path should get you to the control center. It's on the opposite side, next to the largest fabrication cell."
"Well done, Lieutenant," he said, and started to run forward. "Any word on what triggered this place going maverick?"
"Not yet, but Dex and Signas are working on that already."
"…Gibdan wasn't your fault."
X dashed, letting his head bow for a moment. "…Thanks."
"Alia out." She sounded hesitantly gentle as she disconnected.
Blowing a few hovering gripper-bots out of the air as they rushed down at him, X forged ahead.
Outside, a hulking Reploid was crouched behind a rock outcropping, tilting his head casually as fire chipped away at his cover near his cheek. Built with powerful arms and legs, a slender lower-abdomen, but then massive shoulders that curved up over his head, he was a blue-green behemoth. His head itself was forward-mounted from a slightly angled neck-base of hefty hydraulics. His face was a vented mask under pale blue eyes and a finned, back-slanted helmet. "Kid sure knows how to overdo it," he muttered, and snapped his arm into a rotary-missile launcher before twisting out of cover to return fire.
Another Reploid to his right, also leaving cover to fire back over the rock, chuckled faintly. "You mean charging into a firing line on a bike, or blowing the door open, Depthcharge?" He promptly ducked as more fire shot over him, giving an almost playful 'oh!' as he looked up at the shots that nearly killed him. The bladed crescent on his helmet and crimson body armor left him distinct among his comrades.
"Both, Quickman," Depthcharge answered before he twisted back into cover himself. He used his comrade's name like a bad joke. "Reminds me of you!"
Quickman laughed, then detached his head-cutter, gave Depthcharge a wicked optic-only grin, and snapped up with a twirling flurry. The blade-cutter was thrown wide, glittering into the distance instantly.
Ducking back down, Quickman continued, "You mean to say: incredibly stylish, skillful, and effective?"
His cutter flew in from the side of the far enemy firing line, and tore gun emplacements, mechaniloids, and a fare few boulders in half without slowing. The ease of pressure let the entire Eastern line of Maverick Hunters open fire again.
Depthcharge sighed. "At least you can back up that swagger."
Quickman actually made a, 'hee!' sound as his hand snapped up, catching the cutter flawlessly.
Depth looked around the rock again, more somber. "I do wonder what triggered this resurgence in Maverick activity, though."
Quickman's humor vanished, his optics looking blankly out from himself as he remained in cover for the moment. "Why do you think he led the charge himself? He knows this has to be… Sigma's doing."
"You really think it's making its move so soon? It's only been six months since X took Sigma down."
"Personally?" Quick began, some animation returning to his masked, flat-optic face as he looked over the rock. "I'm surprised it took this long."
Another hovering gripper-bot flew to pieces amidst fire and light as X came leaping down from a higher level. His armored boots banged off the pale gray flooring as he tucked into a roll. Boost-dashing out of his recovery, X's eyes glanced around, taking in the pale walls, yellow support struts, and the magnetic conveyor pulling parts of gripper-bots along to fabrication houses.
The Hunter bounded from the top of one fabricator to the next, watching optics, arms, and propellers being added in turn. He watched a fully active gripper come alive and start to rise up beyond the fourth fabricator, and it was already turning around to focus on him.
X aimed and fired one pulse-blast as he leapt the last gap. It chipped one blade off the gripper's propeller, and the hapless bot careened off into a wall with explosive force.
Landing beyond the conveyor, X ran forward, but skidded to an abrupt halt as a gate slammed down in front of him. It was a group of thick, hydraulic pistons, but these were made of green and gray metal armor, not like the rest of the facility.
"Emergency security gate mechaniloids," X muttered as his body shimmered and washed over with building power.
With a full charge, he grunted, lunging into a punch with his buster, firing on impact with the center pillar. It blew apart and liquefied in the same gesture. X didn't wait for the chunks to cool before he was flying through the hole he made, and dashing on.
Worker bots joined the battle, he was sad to see. They were little more than bipedal purple pods with tools like proboscis. He ignored most of them, dashing or flipping out of their meager attacks as his blaster took out more grippers and charged to melt-bomb more mechaniloid gates. The few he couldn't avoid, he destroyed with little guilt. While there was no need to slaughter innocent bots, something with less mental capacity than a normal desktop computer wasn't worth delaying his duty.
Still, the coldness of that determination sent a pang through his heart. With a cringe, he leapt over the last one standing in his way, and landed into a hand-flip.
Next he reached a vertical passage, but as he reached for the ladder, it snap-retracted up into the support struts of the roof dozens of meters above. X blinked, and then leapt to the wall, his legs ramming like pistons as he drove his boot-tips into the metal surface, driving himself up at nearly full running speed.
That was when the wall he was climbing and the one behind him started to crush together.
X nearly lost his grip from the first pitch of unnatural motion, but he started to boost-leap up between kick-climbs all the faster. At last, his optics spotted a bot hovering above. It was not a normal gripper-bot, but had a helicopter blade attachment like them. This one's gripping arms were several times longer, and were ratcheting the two halves of the vertical passage closed. The shear torque its tiny body had to be generating made X a little wary.
Starting to charge his buster, X dash-kicked skyward, spinning around in a shining spiral out from the wall, and he snapped his arm up at the wall-puller. A plasma wave ripped skyward, ramming X into a reverse spin as energy washed down around him from the release. The bot was erased as the walls halted, and X was thrown enough by his blast to slam into the same wall again.
He exhaled faintly, grimacing as he clung to the metal wall, and then looked up with determination. "Not done yet. Time to get serious, X."
With all four limbs shoving, he threw himself the last few meters of climb he needed, and dashed down the new hall beyond the vertical chamber.
"X," Alia's voice chimed into his comm again. She was grave, "a massive power surge just went off in that large fabrication cell."
"More bots?" X asked, a hand to his audio-sensor as he dashed, trading legs in lunging rushes.
"It's unified. A single, massive power source. It's going to be big."
X skidded to a halt at the end of the hall. At his feet was a sphere-lock gate leading straight down. The holographic overlay Alia had given him made it quite clear the fabrication chamber was directly below him, but it was a severe drop. Dozens of meters, perhaps close to a hundred. His expression, however, was cold, his eyes heavy. "…Thanks for the heads up. I'm going in."
"Yes, sir," Alia answered, but he could hear the concern in her voice.
X touched the sphere-lock, but honestly wasn't surprised when it just whirred to open for him. These doors always invited him in. With no further ado, he hopped lightly into the empty air, and started to drop at full speed down a narrow shaft. Darkness waited below him.
Air howled around his sensors and his body, almost whistling just before the shaft opened out into a massive cavern of a chamber. A combination of audio sensors and vague glints of light let X know a suspended scaffold platform was below him, and he crashed to his haunches with shuddering force.
Arms spread over his crouched frame, X raised his eyebrows down at the platform he was on. I'm surprised it survived my landing on it that hard…
Gold light washed over him as a resonating pulse-chime filled the chamber. X straightened, looking up into a pair of glowing optics so large he could have easily fit inside either of them.
At last the fabrication cell's lights clicked on in waves down to the floor level still several meters below. A massive mechaniloid was staring down at X. It had an armored, grim head, a massive, bulbous purple body, crushing boots, and massive spiked maces—more akin to demolition balls than weapons—for hands on the end of thick, bulbous arms comprised of linked, armored spheres.
X grimaced and dashed to his right. The behemoth lurched, swinging its right arm up, over, and down into the Reploid's platform. X barely leapt into the air in time to avoid the shattering collision that carried the tower of platforms down into the distant flooring.
Dive-rolling across the next, slightly higher platform, X snapped off a mildly charged bolt and three uncharged shots. The blue spear-like wave escorted the three pulse-blasts into the behemoth's collar area as it reared back.
Watching the plasma explosions dance over the thing's armored frame with mild, evanescing puffs of light, X firmed, and dash-leapt to a further platform, off the mechaniloid's rear, left.
The giant twisted around with one thunderous step, the tremor pulsing out through the factory, and actually making the Reploids outside check their feet and share worried or puzzled glances. With both arms swinging, the mechaniloid started to churn through the massive chamber in X's wake. The relatively tiny Reploid was flitting from platform to platform, a wave of shearing metal always behind him.
Charging as he leapt and dashed around the chamber, X kept firing purple-blue plasma waves up at the giant's optics. Most of his shots plowed into the metal beast's shoulders, neck, or mace-hands, but he saw a few rip through and churn into the thing's head. It was still heavily armored, but it felt the blows to the head.
"X! What on earth is going on in there!?" Alia came through his comm urgently.
Twist-flipping between the right mace-hand and a wall of scaffolding, X touched his audio-receptor. "Alia! Hard to explain right now. Massive mechaniloid! Can you read my location? Can you map me?"
At her station in Maverick Hunter HQ, Alia's hands blurred over her console, her eyes ripping along her screens with speed only a Reploid could muster. "Riding your comm signal now that I've found it. Mapping… Got it!"
X's overlay vision flashed with new data, a wave of golden light passing down all around him, showing the huge room at last, and it's relation to the ground outside.
He then had to dive, roll, and boost off the edge of his platform as the mechaniloid wrenched down with a full hand-slam to the ground right through the structure he'd been using. "Alia! I can't trust my comm in this room. Get Barrel to direct any similarly skilled Hunters outside. I want a perimeter cut four-hundred meters wide, and three-hundred long, starting from the fortress' East wall!" X shouted the requests as he blitzed and leapt around collapsing platforms trying to get away from the behemoth before it crushed him by sheer luck and magnitude.
Alia blinked. "…X, that would take hours to-!?"
"Not for Barrel!"
Outside, Barrel touched his ear, an optic-ridge snapping up. Muttering, "Sheesh, kid, that's a tall order," he twisted, and pointed straight through his fellows to a hulking Reploid at the back of their group. They were several hundred meters North of Quickman and Depthcharge.
"Tunnel Rhino! You're up. We've got a ditch to dig, and we need it done yesterday!"
The aptly named yellow, green, and silver Reploid didn't run forward, he rolled forward on tread-wheels in his heels, his right hand a massive drill like his horn, more drills adorning his body already revving to full speed. "On it!"
Barrel ran out with him, suddenly whirling into a dive roll that intensified so abruptly with plasma shields arcing out of his forearms that he became a living plasma-drill.
He slammed into the ground, blowing a hole out instantly, and then wrenched to the East. Tunnel Rhino leapt in behind him, but twisted West, and burrowed hard and fast. The ditch was exploding to life exactly as X had requested.
"You weren't kidding, X," Alia muttered, sincerely agape as she watched two Reploids tear through rock and sand like it was air.
"Are they done!?" X shouted abruptly.
"N-not quite, but soon. What's the pla—" Alia cut herself off, and slammed her hand over her controls to open her channel. "Hunters, check your targets! Incoming from the wall!"
Barrel was just arcing up from the last leg of the ditch, unraveling with surprising grace to look up at the wall as it exploded outward. His optics flared. Quickman and Depthcharge gawked out of cover in uncharacteristic shock along with virtually every Hunter surrounding the fortress.
The giant Mechaniloid was tearing through the wall in mid-lunge, X riding the mace-hand by clinging to one spike on it, and flailing along like a rag-doll. Building-size chunks of metal and armored bulkhead rained down over the field within the massive ditch even as the mechaniloid lumbered up onto the higher level of the dirt ground from its sunken home.
X simply flipped over the mace as it hit the ground, and leapt free, tumbling into a tight roll, and halting with one hand and knee down, his other snapping into his buster. Touching his comm, he ordered, "Heavy weapons at the optics and head. Tangling or disabling weapons at the legs. Bring it down!"
He side-dashed instantly, the other mace-hand shattering the ground where'd crouched to give the orders.
Hails of plasma fire, missiles, and other weapon types started to stream into the behemoth's head, rattling it and weakening it. Whips, vines, plasma-tethers, and other tricks started to lash out, attach, stick, or spray the massive feet as well. Even Quickman's cutter glittered past on occasion, slicing grooves into the beast's armor. X joined the effort, dashing circles around the giant, firing charged waves up at its head as best he could without becoming a sitting target.
"Why are we taking orders from a B-class Hunter?" a Hunter asked, not so much angry as confused as he unleaded his plasma cannon from his shoulder mount at the giant.
A Reploid of hefty frame with energy crackling out of cannons on his wrists smirked at his comrade. "You don't recognize Megaman X, kid?"
"W-well, I mean, I get he's a hero, but…"
"Hero? Yes, but that's not the point." Overload rammed his arms forward, and fired a crackling wave of electrified plasma across the field, landing a solid hit straight in the giant's right optic. "You're watching the best Hunter still living, kid. He's technically the same rank as most of us on the field today." He fired again, less fortunately hitting the massive right arm. "I don't care. I'll listen to him."
"Got it," the other replied, firing another blast, smiling.
Quickman touched his audio-receptor, but his channel was private. /X, I've weakened the armor around his head, but we're just not hitting hard enough. We need something to generate enough raw force to crack the stress fractures./
X's eyes tightened, and he lowered his buster, though he continued to hold the charge making his body glow. /Understood. I've got an idea./
Still the giant's primary target for some reason, X looked up as he dashed low along the ground, and watched the behemoth come rushing down with both fists. Calculating quickly, X dashed again, but then twisted and skidded to stop. The two maces smashed down with thunderous force… the cracked earth stopping just at X's face.
The Reploid leapt free, landing on the left-hand mace. As the giant retracted, trying to rise as it was hammered from every side by the Hunter forces, it glowered down at X, who was meeting its gaze with surprising strength considering their relative scales as he stood on the rising hand.
The mechaniloid tried to whip X off behind itself, but he flipped down, crashing to his haunches on its shoulder. He ducked some friendly fire, but showed no aggravation, and ran up, leaping into the frame of the left optic.
"Right here!" he shouted at the giant's gaze.
The beast gave a mechanical roar beneath it's armored mask, and started to flail around, trying to swing X off of its head.
In a mad dance, X flipped, twisted, writhed, and coiled around the giant's head as it swung wildly, firing small blasts into its armored skull from every angle as he did. "What's wrong? I'm right here!"
A massive blast from one of the Hunters below caught the giant right in the forehead, and it actually reared back. X swung back into its gaze, aiming point-blank at the optic while charging.
With another roar, the giant swung its left mace up and in at its own face.
X seemed to ignore the problem, but then dashed leapt to his right, into the open air.
Everyone watched as the behemoth shattered its own head with catastrophic force, the mace driving down into the neck and upper back like a meteor hammer.
X's colors changed, and he unleashed a fully charged tornado around himself, gently touching down on the ground with its help, crouching to one knee as his colors reverted.
The beast's body gave a dying moan, and started to collapse back into the factory as it exploded in waves and patterns, its core systems overloading from the back-charge of the head vanishing.
Before the ground was even done shaking from its crash, the Hunters were filling the air with cheers and hollers of victory.
All except X and his secret comrades, the X-Hunters. Barrel, Quickman, Overload, Depthcharge, and Deep Freeze, Shimmer, Inferno, and Airstrike were all scattered through the small army, sharing grim looks if they could catch each other.
X looked over his shoulder, stern as his buster reverted. Too big to just be a random outbreak. He's on the move again.
A holo-sphere showed the battlefield, and particularly focused on Megaman X as he stood up, dusting himself off a bit. As the Hunter touched his ear and started to talk to someone, a voice spoke from the audience of the strange display.
"Their leader in the metal. Megaman X. More clever than I'd postulated…" Serges trailed off as his pale hand articulated out and shut the sphere off. Dull lightning returned to the dark gray metal room, consoles lining the walls.
Violen, a red and white behemoth, added in his thick, strong voice, "Those who underestimated him are nothing but scrap. Did you expect the Hunter who defeated Sigma to be easily fooled?"
And a third voice, silk-smooth compared to the others, but cold as ice, "We won't make the same mistake. He is powerful, but he is blind to what is happening around him." Agile smiled faintly at the wake of the holo-sphere, his hands clasped behind his narrow back, his purple armored skin fashioned like a tail-coat.
Serges focused his mismatched, crimson optics on the thin one, "Is he? The information leaked to their Dr. Cain only indicated an isolated infection, yet X chose to respond with an army."
Agile's silken voice was silent for a core-pulse, then added, "Our Mavericks will keep him busy until we are ready."
Serges turned, walking between his colleagues, and continued, "We hope. Collection is on schedule, but the core components are missing. The system buffer and personality matrix chip."
Agile and Violen firmed, Agile adding, "We have little time. We must finish construction on schedule. We must hurry…"
Finally here, eh? My apologies to the X Chronicles fans who've waited so long for this to get rolling. Chronicle 2 has proven tough to properly latch down and develop. It has equal parts setup and its own contained arc, so it's more likely writing 5 stories at the same time to make sure it doesn't break something. I'm now confident enough in the work I've put into it to start posting it!
And you can thank 89niners-best-team-ever for Green Biker Dude making it into the story! I went through a few iterations of him, and Gibdan (yes, GBD turned into a name) was the version that rung the truest to the goal of the story. It provided a nice, harsh start to the story, too, so thanks from me directly 89niners-best-team-ever
I'd also like to give a thank you shout-out to Karra Greenfield, who gave me the beta-reader feedback I needed on some very early draft work that helped the story focus in on the needed details.
Currently I hope to update this story every 2 weeks. If things accelerate, I'll bump it down to every week, but can't guarantee that right now.
Thanks all! I hope you're enjoying Chronicle 2 so far!