What happened is, while I was writing the Lifesaver chapter of Wear & Tear, Vampire!Zero occurred to me. I wanted cheerful crack with Iris in a wedding dress. Instead I got this weird magical realism/technobabble thingy, which I posted awhile ago.

Then, it merged with the zombie thing that was part of the imagery of the original Wear & Tear chapter (the word doc of which had the working title Zombie XD), and this resulted. This thing is horror genreish. On the other hand, it's less actively horrific than a lot of the stuff I label horror.

This has been in my documents folder for years. The plot went into a dead end, and I had to delete half of three different chapters, but I finally decided on an alternate plot and ending.

I wouldn't call this a crackfic, but it's an 'I wonder what would happen if…' fic centered on taking a concept and watching the ripples not just from the concept itself, but what would cause Dr. Wily to go with that idea and what the goals of that tactic would be.

Koschei the Deathless is a sorcerer from a Russian folktale who can't be killed. It's discovered that he removed his soul from his body (alternatively, his heart or his death) and therefore just destroying his body does nothing. Rather like nothing's going to happen to the player if you kill the PC in, oh, Bioshock.

The Irregular Hunters had been created to bring misbuilt reploids in for treatment and take down malfunctioning mechanaloids. Sometimes, a defect would give someone paranoid delusions, or one of the many people learning how this technology worked would mess up the target parameters of a mechanaloid meant to kill tunnel rats.

This was the first time they'd encountered an irregular specifically built for combat. The fact that, according to Sigma, it was only at a mechanaloid's intelligence level? Grunts of anger and appreciation instead of words? And it still destroyed more than two units and countless civilians? And they still couldn't find its creator, who might be working on a second, even more dangerous model, one without this defect?

That was a nightmare, in and of itself.

Perhaps someone had been innocent enough to ask how this could get any worse.

No, even if fate had been tempted, even if everything had been going too well up until that point, humans easily accepting reploids and the two races living in harmony, the events of that day were tragic enough.

What happened that night was simply excessive.

At least most of the bodies had already been recovered and brought to the morgue, both to determine the cause of death (besides the obvious, of course) and try to make them look presentable, for the sake of the friends they'd left behind.

At least only a few were left there, buried under the rubble from blasts and desperate charges.

At least the morgue and the examining rooms had very thick walls, just in case an internal reactor did something unforeseen or a patient broke loose before their mind was fixed.

At least the ones still out there, searching for the bodies, were irregular hunters and police. Mostly. And were armed. Mostly.

At least Dr. Cain's body had already tired (how strange it was to be glad of his friend's illness) and he'd left for the human hospital (all this stress and grief…) before the sun went down.

But there were too many people in the morgue. Too many engineers had volunteered to help with the aftermath. Too many people, both reploids (so young) and foster families had stayed, to stand vigil over the ones they had lost.

But weapons didn't help when people were taken by surprise, or were too shocked, horrified, and finally panicked to use them. When they were faced with a comrade or a civilian and didn't realize, not until it was too late. When they were simply outnumbered, and there were enough to mob the ones who realized that something was going on in time to try to protect themselves.

There was simply no precedent, outside of trashy literature that few reploids had ever heard of, for what happened that night. X himself was something out of legend, a relic of a long-lost family, awakening after a century of sleep.

It still wasn't the same as what happened that night. It was one thing for someone to wake up from sleep, even hibernation.

For the dead to walk was something else entirely.

Mindless, thankfully too mindless to use their weapons or dash boots. Due to the large surface area of their feet, without dash boots reploids were quite slow. It was easy enough for humans and reploids with dash boots, like practically all the hunters, to simply outrun the walking dead. If they had warning.

And they had to run, because the dead were hungry. They weren't intelligent enough to identify or make use of e-tanks. No, whoever had programmed this virus had identified one target, one source of the energy and materials they needed to remain functioning.

The living.

It was entirely too cliché, to those who read those books, watched those movies. A horrible, horrible… just a sick joke, to write a virus like this. That had zombies eat the central processors of their victims, where the most repair nanites and rare materials were. That left the virus in their systems, keeping their reactor on, just a trickle, hijacking their systems to create more virus to puppet their bodies, make them rise, walk, kill.

It took them entirely by surprise. X himself was working with two others, trying to adjust the equipment they had hooked up to the mysterious irregular, beat its anti-scan defenses and try to find any information they could. Who had made it, what had gone wrong, had anything gone wrong at all or was this deliberate, how could they fix it so that it could testify or stand trial: so many questions. There were three more in the observation room, a thick pane between the operating theatre and that room, and a thick door to the outside. This was a dangerous prisoner, after all. The most dangerous reploid ever built.

And they didn't even know the half of it. Not then.

X and Dr. Cain had already applied the obvious fixes, a few chips, extra repair nanites, and it hadn't woken up. The irregular was still restrained, but not especially strongly. They'd assumed that something else had been wrong with it: the restraints were just the normal ones, because one of the hunters had pointed out that this might be a trap. Who knew what the person who had built this… killer might have programmed it with? It might be playing possum, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Waiting for nightfall.

The room was buried in the building: none of them knew that the sun was about to set.

None of them knew that the irregular was about to wake up.

Its eyes snapped open, and an instant later the doctor leaning over it made a sound that might simply have been a squawk of surprise. Perhaps he'd meant to call out a warning, but he only had a moment to gasp, and he only had that much time because the irregular's first attempt to punch upwards was restrained by the cuffs.

A reflexive sweep of its hair removed that obstacle, and it lunged up, crushing the humanoid model's unprotected throat before its eyes swept the room, still holding the body.

The second doctor was close and lightly-armored enough that all the irregular had to do was throw the body at it to knock it into racks of equipment, chemicals and scanners. They'd had to resort to acid, at one point, to weaken the irregular's armor enough to force open the catch that locked the armor of its right arm in place.

The accuracy of the arm, the finely-sculpted muscle was highly suspicious. Would someone who went to that much trouble really mess up so badly as to produce a reploid that couldn't talk? Although genius in physical design didn't always mean genius in programming.

The doctor wasn't anywhere near that finely made, neither in aesthetics nor protection. The acids, sharp objects and haywire electrical equipment, as well as the impact, were enough to take him out of the fight.

Perhaps he might have been able to struggle to his feet at some point, try to clear his head. Perhaps he wasn't unconscious the entire time. No one ever questioned his story. Not when staying down was the only reason he lived.

That left X, shocked into combat mode by watching two people die (or so he thought) in front of him in less than a second.

And the shouts of surprise coming from not just those watching from the other room but the surrounding rooms, not that he figured that out right away.

He was able to dodge the first lunge, transforming an arm into his buster, and X's shot was enough to make it keep its distance a bit, after observing the amount of damage he'd done to the operating table.

X and the irregular circled the table, X trying to get over to the two injured medics and charging a shot. He wished he'd done more than just test out his buster's functions. He'd have to weapon-copy some non-lethal techniques from the hunters, he thought as the two hunters stationed outside burst into the room.

He went for the wounded, intending to get them out of the room, away from the irregular, but X only had enough time to confirm that the first doctor was dead before the irregular had ducked under the first hunter's shot, up into his face. Grabbing his left arm, he pointed the buster at the other hunter, grinning and using his grip on the body to try to pull the arm off. Sometimes, that kind of damage to the buster casing could cause it to blow up or go off, so the second hunter was forced to keep his distance, trying to get a clear shot.

They were both so afraid, X saw, both the one trapped and helpless, trying not to cry out but finally screaming when his arm was ripped off and the one wanting to reassure his friend but knowing that any words would be empty.

A moment later, the irregular threw that crippled body at the other hunter. If anyone had really had a chance to study the irregular's tactics, it would have noted that it made use of objects in the environment, and the body of an injured comrade was both a weapon and a distraction. The second hunter caught him by reflex, giving the irregular an opening to lunge around and to the side and attack his back, except the angle was different enough that X was finally able to use that charged shot without worrying about hitting someone else.

The doctor in the observation room had stuck his head into the morgue to call for help, but quickly shut the door and reached for the phone instead. He flinched when the irregular crashed into the fake glass pane, but it didn't crack and he kept talking.

The irregular grinned when it looked up at X, because this might be interesting, and it was terrible, chilling, and infuriating to the surviving hunter. Well, the one injured by the irregular was still alive, but for how long? The power surges had reached his core, and without treatment that X certainly couldn't provide while they were under attack? His partner charged forward, wielding a beam saber, but the irregular had gotten a chance to study that weapon earlier, fighting Sigma.

It had liked it.

It wanted one. The pipe it grabbed to fight Sigma hadn't been glowy.

The support strut for one of the scanners it grabbed, really just a hollow metal tube, wasn't anywhere near as resilient as a beam saber or a properly reinforced pipe, but it did the job, smashing the hunter's arm aside so the irregular could get at its head, punching it, sending the lighter hunter back before lunging forward to drive that pipe into its throat.

Even that was really a distraction, though, even if it did like the shiny weapon. The hunter was no threat, but the shot from a few seconds ago had hurt.

As did the one that hit it as it bent down to take the saber.

X had a distance weapon, but this wasn't a large room and it was full of equipment. The irregular seemed to excel at lunges over short distances, and X had no combat training. If it could bat a hunter's weapon aside and close so easily, it could certainly do that to him if he gave it a chance.

He fired quickly enough to hopefully keep it busy dodging as he tried to circle so he had space to maneuver in (being forced back against a wall would be fatal). He was only able to land a few shots: the irregular was so fast it almost seemed to blur, and there were simply too many things to keep track of.

…was that buster fire and screaming he heard? Not his own, not the screaming of anyone in here. When X could next glance at the observation booth, he saw the door was open to the main area, but why was that hunter's armor cracked through? Why did the doctor in the observation room seem so panicked?

What happened to the doctor stunned X, enough that when Zero next lunged, X tripped on a wayward piece of equipment that had been kicked onto the floor in the scuffle. In a flash, the irregular was on him, slicing through his buster arm at the shoulder and pounding the beam saber through X's stomach into the floor.

Then, it stood, eyes sweeping the room again. No more attackers.

There was still fighting going on outside. It looked at the scene in the observation room, seeming to wonder about whether or not it should do anything about that. It seemed to decide it didn't care. The fight was over, anyway.

While thinking, it had taken a few steps towards the observation window. So, when it finally decided it was safe, it crouched down over the bodies of the hunters. Its hair swept over their bodies, before it reached down, seeming bored, and ripped open the head of the first one, picking through the contents. Nothing really appealed to it, X saw, still conscious. Again, it cracked the head of the second open like an egg, knocking the circuits down onto the ground. It picked one up, licked the nanites off of it, before making a thoughtful sound and biting in.

Its reaction could be summed up by the word 'ick,' and it tossed the chip aside. X's gasp drew its attention. It met his eyes – X had tilted his head to see what was going on – and looked vaguely surprised. Probably that he was still conscious, after more than enough trauma to send an ordinary reploid into shock even if nothing vital had been hit and no power surges had been triggered.

It moved over, kneeling next to him as it had the others, and X winced as he tried to move away and the beam saber cut into him with that slight movement. The irregular's head tilted forward, and what had seemed like a casual brush of its hair over the others turned out to be more: strands of that hair stabbed down into him like needles, hidden by the mass. They hurt, but just like pinpricks. The missing arm, still bleeding nanites and fluids, and the saber stuck through his abdomen were far more painful.

The irregular bent to lick the stump of his arm. It made a surprised noise, seeming pleased, and licked again. Now it was purring?

X began to feel dizzy, and wondered if it was the wounds, pain or fluid loss. This… wasn't good. At least someone was still fighting, even if the sounds seemed further away. He wondered if he should shut down flow to his shoulder, direct the nanites elsewhere, but at least this was keeping the irregular occupied. It left off for a moment, but only long enough to pick up X's severed arm, licking what it could from that before it grew stale, before returning to X.

After awhile, X had no choice but to shut off the fluids, not if he wanted to stay conscious for much longer, even though he knew that the irregular might smash open his head as it had those of those poor hunters. He left the repair nanites futilely trying to do something about the damage (he doubted he could regrow an arm, but reattaching it was likely possible), to see if that counted.

The irregular's purring stopped. It made a disappointed sound, then an aggrieved, questioning one. It tried lapping harder, than pawed at X's shoulder before pulling back and looking down at him, somewhat annoyed. It pushed at his chest again, seeming more like a petulant child than a ruthless killer.

Except, X was aware, at some point it would stop being mildly irritated and take steps. Perhaps by ripping off his other arm.

Instead, it pulled the blade from his stomach before bending to lick that wound. X tried to move, but he felt incredibly dizzy and it was far worse when he even thought about moving. Not to mention the strands in his systems, pinning him in place.

At least gravity kept the fluids in his stomach in place, mainly, except for those trying to scab the wound over. The damage reports informed him that they were succeeding, despite the rasping of that tongue. It was almost closed when the irregular jerked up, giving a low, threatening growl.

The hunter, the same one that had killed the other doctor, pulled back, before stalking forward another step, making a sound between a moan and a growl.

The irregular was unimpressed, batting at it lightly. Or at least it seemed like a casual backhand, until X heard the crash and managed to see that the hunter (something was very, very wrong) had gone flying into the fake glass, the same as the irregular had earlier. It emitted a sound almost like a strangled whimper, trying to get to its feet and failing, remaining slumped down on the ground.

Just from that? No, not just from that. The missing armor had been ripped off, and were those open wires showing, sparking? X shook his head, trying to clear his vision. It was like there was some foreign substance on the surface of his optics, clouding them.

The irregular, satisfied, returned to its meal, lapping up the last on X's stomach before callously turning him over, first lapping up the blood that had spilled on the floor (and not oozed down the hole left by the blade) before doing the same to the hole in X's back, the exit wound left by the beam saber.

It hadn't bothered to stick its hair back in, after it had removed it so that it could move X, and X realized that this might not be an oversight. He really didn't think that he could move. Something was interfering with his movement programming and his inner ear equivalent. That mass couldn't simply be raw materials, even if they seemed like that was all they were to the nanites he had investigate it. Even thinking about trying to get up was just unbearable now.

An interesting, if unpleasant, way to paralyze an opponent, he thought, as the wound in his back closed and he found himself wondering what the irregular would do next.

Apparently, flop half on top of him, leaning on an elbow and poking at his neck with the free hand, undoing his helmet and prodding the exposed area with a claw, looking for a weak point.

Then it bit.

The sensation was indescribable.

The word good was inadequate. Orgasmic it certainly wasn't, even if X's one experience with that had been just testing the system and not all that impressive. Even sexual pleasure was a mounting desire coupled with a hunger, and there wasn't hunger here. Not on his part, anyway. Nor any sort of crescendo.

On the other hand, it wasn't exactly soothing, or tranquilizing, even if it had that effect. His fear and stress had fallen away, and his attempt to be alert and do something had been defeated, this had certainly accomplished that.

Another interesting way to keep the prey immobilized, he thought, but there was an odd echoing distance to it, and it was impossible to muster any ill will against the irregular, even after seeing it kill. Even if the poor thing couldn't help how it was made or what it had been programmed to do. It might be clever, but even if it had the capacity or raw intelligence to think or speak, it hadn't been led to do so. It might not understand anything but what it had been doing so far: hunting, killing, feeding. Surviving?

Everything felt so distant. Not quite the dreaming state he knew so well, after so long in his capsule, but familiar. Comfortable. As though every indicator was green and certainly nothing was wrong. Ah, that must be it, it was tweaking his status inputs as well as the resultant emotions. Causing him to feel as though everything was alright, that this was exactly as it should be. No reason not to just fall asleep and let the irregular that was making itself seem familiar have what it wanted. It seemed to be enjoying the meal, purring against his back before pulling him up a bit, onto the irregular's lap as it knelt.

Like opium, a painkiller that worked by making the human patient too happy, pleasured to care about the pain, the chemical interfering with how their brains judged such things.

X couldn't even focus enough to keep his head from lolling bonelessly to the side. His eyes were open solely because it would have been an effort to close them. Tired, tired, so tired, low on energy from all this draining, needing to heal, and like this it was hard to tell himself that he needed to stay awake.

A chance to wake up and another surge of adrenaline happened when another hunter's broken body entered and the irregular surged forward, knocking it through the still-open door this time. It jammed the door closed, hard, throwing the table, the other bodies, and quite a jumble of equipment against it, in a makeshift barricade that it then kicked a few more times for good measure, trying to make it stay.

He wasn't dizzy anymore, X realized, as his eyes focused on the drawer that held the e-tanks for administration to patients. No, he was dizzy, but disrupting his signals had insulated him from that feeling that he was going to shake apart if he moved. The irregular draining him this much had insulated him from whatever it did to incapacitate him, but now he was in the red on system resources and about to be incapacitated by that. He had to move fast before he fell unconscious.

The irregular ignored his movements, although X was sure he was aware of them. X wasn't a threat and the intrusions were an annoyance. There were more vacant-eyed and, in some cases, empty-headed ones looking in the window now, and it made X shudder as he pulled the drawer open and drank.

Fortified, he realized too late that the e-tanks were restoring not just his proper movement programming but the connection between him and the status of his body. Either he would be able to move soon, instead of merely crawl, or he would soon be incapable of moving, trapped by that awful vertigo again. Whichever came first.

Holding another tank, he tried to crawl towards his arm as the irregular stalked over. Observing what he was trying to do, it kicked the arm over to him, which felt oddly considerate of it. X shook his head as he tried to sit up and attach the arm, knowing how irrational that feeling was. How stupid it was to think that the irregular wouldn't hurt him.

He was still confused, clearly not thinking clearly. Even if trying to move resulted in a horde of error messages, as though he didn't already know that something was very wrong, he should have done more than try to lean away a little when it knelt down again to pull him to it, lap at his neck to find where the bite had been before the e-tanks had healed it before biting in again.

Clawed fingers were clasping at his shoulders, but X's eyes were drawn to the window. He shouldn't have pulled back against that chest, away from the terrible things staring in this direction with a combination of fear and hunger. Shouldn't have felt relieved when dark, red-veined wings wrapped around him, shielding him from the sight of those, those things. Certainly shouldn't have shuddered with relief, at that strange consideration. Shouldn't have assumed it was consideration instead of just wanting to keep its prey to itself. If it wouldn't let… those things have X, then X very much doubted it would allow X to be rescued, either.

X could still hear buster fire, in the distance, and other sounds, and he could hear some of the things beyond the window moving away, in search of unguarded prey.

He could feel his arm reattaching, settling in place more firmly, but the teeth at his neck dulled the ache.

He shouldn't have yawned, not when it should have caused those fangs to rip an even larger hole in his neck. They shifted instead, allowing him a little give so he didn't slice himself on them.

Was the irregular just hungry? Just trying to be safe while it fed? How much had it taken from X? X knew that he had redundant amounts of repair nanites. They'd also stuffed the irregular full of them while they were trying to fix it. Was this just peckishness, as opposed to real hunger?

He didn't really know enough to speculate, and he felt so very tired.

He was allowed to lie down on an oddly soft wing (only a thin layer of padding, but textured), the irregular moving down with him. It was odd how companionable it felt. Was the irregular really cuddling, or was that a delusion?