DISCLAIMER: None of the characters here, or the universe itself, are

mine. I make no claim to them.


Foreword: Many people know me as an Eva fic writer. Indeed I am. But

I'm also a Mega Man fan. I wrote most of this story in the space of

about 12 hours, some time after playing Mega Man X4. I was enthralled

with the idea of a Mega Man game almost having a plot for once, and I

had to do something with it.

As you might guess, there are Mega Man X4 spoilers here, so if you

haven't played that game, read at your own risk.

I should say, this is a NON-YAOI fic. Repeat, there is no guy-on-guy

action here. Now that I've alienated about 90% of the fanbase, I

present to you my little Mega Man X story, focusing on the coolest

reploid of them all, Zero.


" " = speech

= italics (emphasis)

= thoughts


Time Off

Author: Ryan Xavier

Zero opened his eyes, blinking slowly as his body switched out of its

dormant mode. Groggily, he looked at his reflection in the glass of

the maintenance capsule, watching it stare back at him with unfocused

eyes. He was currently in that blissful instant between asleep and

awake where his memory hadn't yet started up. As the instant passed

and his body completed its startup procedures, he groaned. He'd just

remembered something he hadn't wanted to.

Today was his day off.

The pod hissed quietly as it clamshelled open, moving its glass cover

aside for Zero to step out. He sat up in the pod, putting on hand on

his head and running his fingers through his hair. His helmet and most

of his armor had been removed during his maintenance hours, as per the

usual procedure. In case of emergency, the pod would re-armor him

before waking up. It seemed there was no emergency, then. Just his


After Sigma had gone maverick, Dr. Cain had instituted a new schedule

for Maverick Hunter headquarters, one that gave all Hunters one day off

per week. The idea was that reploids, with their complex and delicate

neural nets, needed some time where they weren't fighting. If their

days consisted solely of battle, stopping only to repair or perform

routine maintenance, then it was only a matter of time before they all

went crazy. Even if their metal bodies could handle the stress, their

minds just couldn't keep up that kind of pace.

Zero hopped out of the maintenance pod, his feet clanging noisily on

the floor. He'd thought the whole 'time off' thing had been a good

idea too, back when he'd first become a Maverick Hunter. It seemed to

work, too; the number of Maverick Hunters who themselves had gone

maverick had dropped by more than ninety percent since the program had

been established.

But that had been in the past. Now, Zero wished they at least didn't

make time off mandatory. As it stood, when his day off came around, he

was strictly prohibited from fighting, or even carrying weapons. His

trusted Z-saber and Z-buster were sealed back in the maintenance pod,

kept under lock and key so he couldn't get at them. Without them, he

felt more vulnerable than he did without his armor. On these days, he

found himself wishing Sigma would come around and try some other evil

scheme, as only an emergency of that magnitude would be enough to call

Hunters back from their time off.

He walked out of the maintenance room, letting the pod hiss closed,

locking securely until he came back.

"All right," X said into his communicator. "I understand. Second


He tapped the shoulder of the spotter in front of him, making sure she

was listening. The girl gave no indication she noticed, but the screen

in front of her flashed, giving a satellite view of the Second

District. As X's eyes focused on the screen, a scattering of dots

appeared, most of them blue but a few red. His eyes narrowed, seeing

this. Red stood for maverick, and blue for noncombatant.

"I see them," X said. "Intel indicates a half-dozen mavericks. Is

that how many you...yes, yes we're on our way."

He looked back to the operator. "Iris, contact the fifteenth unit.

They should be armed by now."

"They are, sir," Iris said flatly. "15th unit is currently on standby.

Shall I send them to the Second District?"

"As fast as you can."


X let out a slow breath. The day was off to a violent start, to say

the least. Six reploids going maverick at once was not uncommon, but

it was still a huge problem for the Hunters. Fifteenth unit would have

to evacuate the noncombatants as fast as possible, and try to minimize

property damage. All the while they were going to be getting shot at

by crazed reploids who didn't care about things like civilian

casualties or collateral damage. In other words, it was another

regular day at Maverick Hunter HQ.

"Sir, fifteenth unit is mobilized. Split Mushroom indicates their ETA

is three minutes."

"Good job, Iris."

"Yes, sir. I am returning to surveillance now." Even as she said

this, the screen flickered again in front of Iris's unblinking eyes,

breaking into a dozen smaller screens, each with their own view of the


X nodded quietly at this. His focus was broken, however, as he heard

the door slide open.

"Zero?" he asked, seeing his friend walk in. At first, he didn't

recognize Zero, who was without his classic red body armor. The blond

ponytail reaching down to his ankles was still there though. How Zero

didn't trip over that was a constant mystery to the other Hunters. X

shook his head, suppressing a smile at the thought of the ultra-

coordinated Zero getting tangled up in his own pretty-boy hair.

"What're you doing here?" X asked. "Thought this was your day to


"You know me," he said nonchalantly, shrugging. "Anyway, coming here's

better than watching the news channel. More up-to-date, too."

"Right..." X said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

"Good morning, sir," Iris's voice came.

Both X and Zero looked to the girl. Iris was looking back, face

expressionless. She met Zero's eyes for a moment, then turned away,

looking back at her screen. "You understand you are prohibited from

engaging in combat or - "

"I know," Zero bit out.

"- combat related activity of any sort," Iris finished, as though Zero

hadn't even spoken.

X could see Zero's expression, looking at the back of Iris' head. His

eyes were narrow, burning with a sort of quiet anger. It wasn't anger

directed at Iris, though. Rather, it was aimed inward, at himself. X

thought it best to step in, at this point.

"Come on over here," X said, throwing one arm across Zero's shoulders

and turning him away from Iris. They walked over to the other side of

of the Maverick HQ command center. Behind them, Iris promptly forgot

they existed, her eyes focused entirely on the screen in front of her.

"So what are you doing here, anyway?" X whispered to his friend.

"Just staying up-to-date on things," Zero replied, shrugging again.

"Want to check in on my friends, too. Figured this is where they'd


X nodded, slowly. Every once in awhile his and Zero's time off would

fall on the same day. When that happened he usually managed to drag

his friend out of Maverick HQ and into the city, but every other time

it was like Zero was still at work, just not in his armor.

"How's Iris?" Zero asked, after a pause.

"Well, you could ask her yourse - "

"How's Iris?" Zero asked, more firmly this time, his eyes going hard.

X sighed quietly. "All right," he answered. "As good as you can hope

for." Zero just nodded at this, looking away. "Her reprogramming is

still pretty fresh, Zero. Give it some time."

"Time, yeah, of course..." Zero muttered. He looked at one of the

screens. "You're sending fifteenth unit in?"

"Yeah, I thought it would be a good way to see if Mushroom's

reprogramming has taken - "

"No, no!" Zero cut him off, shaking his head. "He's only been in a few

sims, you don't want to dump him right into a live-fire combat

situation like that. He might go unhinged right when you don't need

him to." He turned and grabbed another spotter sitting at a terminal.

"Get me the fifteenth unit," he said. "I want them called off. Is

sixth unit on duty?"

"Uh...yes sir..." the reploid at the terminal said hesitantly. "I can

get you a connection to them if you like."

"Yeah, do that please."

"No, don't," X cut in. He put a hand on the operator's shoulder.

"Ignore those orders, please. Commander Zero isn't on duty today." At

this, X shot Zero a cold look. Zero returned the gaze, unflinching.

Between them, the poor operator became steadily more frazzled, confused

on what to do.

"Just keep the fifteenth unit moving," X ordered, not taking his eyes

off of Zero. Without waiting for a reply from the operator, X put his

hand on Zero's shoulder and started pushing him towards the exit.

"You shouldn't be here right now," X said, fighting off Zero's


Zero twisted, shrugging off X. "Fine," he said. He straightened out

his ponytail. "Maybe I'll see what's going on in...Second District,

was it?" he said, smirking, as he headed for the door.

X shook his head quietly, watching the door close behind his friend.

His eyes trailed back over to Iris. The female reploid was still

working diligently, giving data and orders to the mobilized Hunter

units, keeping them informed on the movements of both the targets and

the civilians. She hadn't even looked up when Zero had left the room.

Zero flew through the air, propelled by the rocket-assisted hydraulics

in his legs. His Z-saber hummed in his hand, slashing through three

aerial mines in a single slash.

He landed solidly on the floor and regarded his opponent. It was a

combat frame, an exo-armor suit a reploid could seal himself into to

increase his fighting ability. A combat model like Zero had no need of

such a suit, but it hadn't been designed for him. Rather, it had been

made so that non-combat reploids could have a chance of defending

themselves in case of a sudden attack. It was a powerful unit, too: so

heavily armored it was nearly indestructible, and was capable of firing

immense beams of energy. As if that wasn't enough, it also had a

defense circuit that released aerial homing mines every time it was


There was a standard protocol for what to do if a maverick was ever

found in one of these suits. After a few hits, the suit would deploy

an orbiting crystal that aided defense and had an energy beam weapon of

its own. But this crystal was also the suit's weak point: destroying

it would cause the suit to self-destruct. The force of the suit's

explosion would barely scratch a reploid like Zero, but a non-combat

reploid sealed in the suit when it exploded would almost certainly

suffer critical damage.

He'd trashed dozens of these things in the simulator before. He'd

gotten to the point that he could take one down without sustaining any

damage at all. Only this time was different: he was not following

standard procedure. He was trying to find out a way to bring this

thing down without killing the rider.

More mines approached. He struck them down without even thinking about

it. He jumped, landing on the thing's shoulders and slashing at the

window with his Z-saber. As always, the armor simply channeled away

the energy, suffering no damage while at the same time letting out more

mines. Zero somersaulted off its shoulders, struck down the mines in

mid-air, and landed behind the thing, going for its legs. Still no

effect. This time, the crystal deployed. Zero looked at it, and its

promise of a victory. He did not want to be beaten by this thing, but

apparently it was so solid that the only way to bring it down was

through destruction of that crystal, now hovering just a few meters

away from his face.

No, he refused to believe it. No design could be so perfect as to only

have one weak spot. He just had to find some other vulnerability.

With that in mind, he rolled between the suit's legs, striking at it as

he did so. Still nothing. The suit was nothing but armor and

hydraulics; it didn't have a soft spot. Its power source was the

crystal, and its guidance system, i.e. the rider, was exactly what Zero

was trying not to destroy.

More mines descended. He slashed as fast as he could, ramming the suit

with his shoulder in frustration. The suit barely even moved with the

impact, though Zero's shoulder pauldron was dented. Even as he

recovered from this, both crystal and suit fired their energy beams,

catching him in the crossfire.

Zero cried out as the intense heat set in, starting to melt some of his

armor off. He dove out of the beams, auto-repair systems already

trying to fix the damage to his shell.

"Damn you!" he shouted, jumping on top of the suit again. "Why can't

you just die?!" He slashed wildly with his Z-saber, leaving nothing

but a few scorch marks on its surface. He was so distracted trying to

get through the armor plating that he didn't even see the mines coming

up behind him until it was too late. He was blasted off as the mines

detonated, sending him flying through the air, towards what was going

to be a painful face-first meeting with the floor.

He never hit the ground, however. As he sailed through the air, the

world jumped, then suddenly dissolved, everything but Zero vanishing in

a sudden wave of static.

"Hey!" Zero shouted, annoyed. He opened his eyes.

He was back in the VR center of Maverick Hunter headquarters. The

simulation he'd been running had ended before he was ready, leaving him

a bit disoriented and off-balance. As such, he didn't move when

someone yanked the connection cable out of his body, disconnecting him

fully from the VR computer that had been running the simulation.

"Get up," X's voice ordered.

Zero put one hand to his forehead, fingers brushing the blue gem that

remained there even when his helmet was off. "What is it?" he asked,


"You should know," X said, grabbing Zero's other arm and dragging him

out of the VR couch. "What're you doing here?"

"Hey, it's allowed," Zero snapped at him. "Not real fighting, you


"I know that," X shot back. He paused for a moment, looking at his

friend. "Why are you here, anyway? I thought you'd have better things

to do."

"This is important," Zero answered. "Keeping my skills sharp, and


"Yeah, but..." X said, shaking his head. "You've got six other days to

do that. Why is it that when Dr. Cain himself says you don't have to

fight, you go looking for the nearest battle?"

"It's just how I am," Zero answered, more quietly this time. He headed

for the door.

X followed him. "It's not healthy," he continued.

"Thank you, mother. I'll keep that in mind." The two of them exited

the VR station and headed down the hallway, Zero trying to outspeed X

and not having any luck.

"Is it because of Iris?" X finally asked, after several minutes of

walking in silence.

Zero stopped short, whirling on his friend. The look on Zero's face

was one of almost unbridled rage. His jaw was clamped together, his

eyes burning as he stared at X, and his fists were clenched into tight

balls. Even though he was the one wearing full combat armor, for a

moment X was afraid for his life. He made himself relax, fingers

gingerly touching his X-buster to remind himself that it was there.

"What do you think?" Zero almost growled out.

X closed his eyes for a moment. "Sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have

asked. But I'm just telling you, as a friend, that killing yourself or

driving yourself crazy won't help anyone."

Zero turned on his heel, showing his back to X. He didn't start

walking again, though. "I know that," he said, quietly. "But it's all

I can think to do."

X said nothing to this, sensing that more was coming.

"Iris died because I couldn't stop fighting," Zero said. He stepped

over to one wall of the corridor and leaned against it, closing his

eyes. He looked tired, suddenly. "Because I couldn't put down my

sword, things just got more and more out of hand. Even before

that..." he looked at his hand, now, the one that normally held his Z-

saber. "...even before that, I wouldn't let her get close to me. I

knew she had a crush on me, and all. But I'm a fighter, before

anything else. I can't let something like...that get in the way.

But somehow..."

X nodded at this, but still remained silent. He quietly thanked fate

that this hall was empty, at the moment.

"Somehow she grew on me," Zero said. "I don't know how. But

then...well, then we had that thing in space, and..." he shrugged.

"You know it's policy to reprogram mavericks so they can go back into

society. I mean, that's what happened to me. They let me keep my

fighting ability, but changed my personality so I was less..."

"Homicidal?" X ventured, seeing Zero search for a word.

Zero looked at him, confused for a moment, then grinned, slightly.

"Yeah, I guess that'll do. Made me into a good little Maverick Hunter.

Iris, they let her keep her spotter status, but..." he closed his eyes,

saying nothing more.

X understood. He'd seen Iris since the reprogramming. A toaster had

more personality. But then again, it made logical sense. It had been

Iris' feelings for both her brother and Zero that had caused her to go

maverick. So, if she were stripped of all feelings, then she could go

back to being an effective Spotter.

"So then why..." X asked. "If not being able to stop was what did all

this, then why do you want to keep fighting?"

"Because," Zero answered. "Because every time I think about it, I get

angry at myself. So angry, I can feel the old me starting to wake up."

"You mean - "

"The me from when I was a maverick," Zero explained. "You can't just

delete part of a reploid's personality, we're too complex. A little

bit of me is still like I was back then. It's just waiting for me to

lose control, get put under such stress that I just can't resist it any

longer..." he shook his head. "The only way I can make it stop is to

keep fighting. When I'm in the middle of a battle, I don't have to

think, or feel. I just..." he trailed off, looking to X and shrugging.

X nodded. "I understand," he said, quietly. "But what you're doing

still isn't healthy." Zero sagged at this, nodding mutely. "Now, as

the ranking officer in this hallway," X said, putting his fists on his

hips, "I order you out of this building." Zero cocked an eyebrow at

him. "I don't want to see you back here until after sunset."

Zero got up from the wall. "There's more out there than just fighting,

Zero," X continued. "I just think you should go look for it."

"Maybe," Zero said, starting down the hall. "But then again, we sure

do a lot of fighting, don't we?"

X said nothing to this, watching Zero proceed down the hall. Zero came

to an intersection, turned, and abruptly stopped.

"Uh..." Zero mumbled, his face going white with shock.

X was by his friend's side in an instant, following Zero's gaze.

Standing just around the corner was none other than Iris, her placid

gaze aimed politely at the wall, and a folder clasped protectively

between her hands.

"Uh..." Zero said again.

"Commander X," Iris began, turning sharply to face X. She handed him

the file. "The maverick situation from District 2 has been resolved.

Here is the report from the fifteenth unit."

X took the folder, snapping it open and having a look at the papers

inside. "So much for the paperless office, right?" he asked, grinning

at Iris.

The girl did not return the smile. She continued staring at X, having

not even acknowledged Zero's presence yet. "Is there anything else,

sir?" she asked.

"Uh...X, I'll leave you to this," Zero muttered. "Maybe I'll

just...walk around, or something." He started down the hallway,

glancing at Iris as he passed by her. She did not even turn her eyes

to look at him.

"See you later, Zero," X called after his friend. He looked back to

Iris a moment later. "Um..." he began. "How much of that did you

hear, anyway?"

"How much of what, sir?" Iris asked innocently.

"How long have you been standing here?" X asked, changing tactics.

"Since you and commander Zero emerged from the VR suite, sir."

"Oh..." X said nervously, feeling himself go a little red. "Well, I

hope you don't feel offended or anything. Zero really cares about you


"What he said is true, sir."

X's brow furrowed. "What?"

"The reploid consciousness is highly decentralized. A personality

trait cannot be deleted, simply repressed. Under the right conditions,

a previous personality can be made to emerge."

"What do you mean, 'the right conditions'?"

"A situation of extreme stress," Iris answered matter-of-factly.

"Critical injury can also trigger a regression." She met X's eyes. "I

have conducted several studies on this matter."

"Have you, now?" X asked icily. He took a breath. "OK then, back to

business. Has there been any other maverick activity reported?"

Iris nodded, once. "Affirmative. Possibility of mavericks gathering

in District 6."

"Junkyard?" X asked, not quite believing it. "How about you show me at

the command center..."

Iris shook her head, cutting him off. "I apologize sir, but I was

headed to maintenance for the next few hours."

"All right then. Have fun," X joked. Iris, predictably, did not

laugh. Without another word passing between them, they parted ways, a

very confused X headed towards the command center and an impassive Iris

headed towards the maintenance bays.

To his credit, Zero almost managed to comply with X's orders. He'd

been told not to come back until the end of the day. As he came back

through the doors to Maverick Hunter HQ, the sun was just setting

behind him. He figured that was close enough.

He'd intended to just go on a brief walk, something to give him time to

sort out his thoughts. He'd ended up going all over the city. It

hadn't been an unpleasant experience, though. He'd gotten to feel the

sun on his face. Seeing the city not being attacked had been nice,

too. It was good to remind himself once in awhile that all his

fighting was accomplishing something.

Now, though, he figured he could probably just plug himself back into a

maintenance pod and sit there until tomorrow, when he'd be back on duty

and this whole 'time off' thing could be forgotten until next week.

But before he did that, he had to clean up. Maverick Hunter HQ was a

sparkling clean building, kept that way by the best technology the

cleaning industries could provide. The rest of the city was not quite

so spotless, and he'd managed to get a fine coating of dust and dirt

collected onto his body. That was going to chafe under the armor if he

didn't clean it off.

He entered into the building's main washroom, a place full of pressure

washers with so much power they could liquefy cement. It was just the

ticket for a hardy reploid like him. Zero patted the bottle he'd

brought in with him. "Ah, Herbal Essences...without you, I am


He heard a dull crackling, like a bad electrical connection. Above

him, one of the overhead lights flickered.

"Damn piece of junk..." he muttered, tapping the light with his finger.

"You'd think if they could make reploids they could at least make a

decent lamp..."

The light finally stopped flickering, going back to its constant, harsh

glow. Still, Zero's sensitive ears could pick up that electrical

crackling coming from somewhere.

"Probably another light," he reasoned out loud, as he started looking

for an open washroom. He ignored the annoying noise, even as it became


He'd just found a stall that looked clean enough for him when he saw

something out the corner of his eye: a lock of brown hair, lying on the

floor, trailing around the corner and into another stall. Zero quirked

an eyebrow at it, not quite understanding.

"Hello?" he asked, his voice echoing off the walls. There was no


He looked back and forth, as though trying to find someone else to

explain the situation. Finally, he sighed, and went to have a look.

As he came around the corner, he stopped dead in his tracks. He'd

found the source of that crackling noise.

Iris lay on the floor, glazed eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. Her

limbs were askew, and her beret lay forgotten on the floor. Her chest

plate was opened, revealing the vital components stored there. What

made Zero's heart freeze was the damage he saw: inside Iris' chest, it

was havoc. Wires had been pulled out, circuits had melted, vital

components nearly torn from their sockets. She literally oozed solder

and silicon, liquefied by the heat of a power surge.

"I..." Zero tried to say. "I...I...Ir...Ir...is?" He slowly knelt

down next to her. Hands shaking, he touched her face. It was cold.

He tried to say something, choked as his throat closed. He swallowed

and tried again. "Iris?"

Zero stared, disbelieving, at her unresponsive form. He'd felt

something inside him turn to ice the moment he'd seen her on the floor.

That frozen spot was growing, slowly spreading through him, killing him

from the inside out. He could only stare; even though it was right

before his eyes, he couldn't yet believe what he saw.

Iris' eyes suddenly twitched. Agonizingly slow, they turned in their

sockets, landing their unfocused gaze on Zero's face.

Iris mouthed a word, mech fluid trickling from her mouth as her lips

parted. She repeated the motion, this time her voice synthesizer

struggling to keep up, sounding like it was under water:


Zero slammed his eyes shut, feeling something well up behind them. He

had seen destruction before, and death, both among reploids and humans.

He had been the cause of many of those deaths. But this was different.

This was not just another reploid, another nameless face to find lying

in a puddle of its own vital fluids. This...was Iris.


Zero opened his eyes again. They went wide a moment later, as he saw

Iris' face again.

Iris was smiling.

Something in her exposed chest cavity sparked, and her whole body

shook, quaking with the effort of staying functional. More mech fluid

trickled from her lips, framing the smile Zero had been wishing to see

since Iris had been brought back online.

"No..." Zero muttered. "No..."

He put one arm under Iris' neck, and another under her knees. Lifting

her carefully from the ground, he started to move. First it was a

careful walk, so as not to disturb the precious cargo, but it sped up,

to a run, then a sprint, then a full-out dash that reduced both of them

to little more than a blur down the halls of Maverick Hunter HQ.

The last thing Iris - the old Iris, that was - had done before she'd

died had been to look at him, and smile. That smile had haunted Zero's

dreams ever since that day. Both hating it for what it had meant and

wanting to see it again on Iris' cold, expressionless face, that memory

had nearly torn him apart.

He would not let it happen again. If he could just make it to repair

bay, maybe...maybe...

As he sped through the corridors, the lighting suddenly changed, going

from the sterile overhead lamps to the glowing red of an emergency.

The PA system crackled.

"This is a Code 1 Alert!' it announced. "Maverick buildup in District

6. Military models involved, believed to possess assault-class

weapons. All units, full alert!"

Zero closed his eyes again, but only for a microsecond, as he

maneuvered through the halls, flashing past confused reploids who

barely had time to recognize him before he was gone. This was it.

This was what he'd been wanting to have happen on his day off. Some

excuse to don the armor again, and...

Iris twitched in his arms, something else in her chest melting down.

She spasmed, coughing up mech fluid that looked so much like blood.

Zero held her tighter to him.

He just had to get her to repair bay...

A few minutes later, X was running. Not quite as quickly as Zero had

been, but he was still moving quite rapidly. In his mind, he was

following Zero's transponder signal. Of all the times for his friend

to disappear...

He tore through the entrance to the repair bay almost before the door

had opened. The lights, sensing movement, obligingly switched on,

lighting up the room as bright as day. X, momentarily blinded, closed

his eyes.

"Zero?" he asked the room. "Zero, are you here?"

He blinked, letting his eyes recover from the sudden flash of the

overheads. "Zero, we've got a situation in District 6. They need us

down there, now."

He moved among the banks of computers, tools, and repair capsules,

looking for his friend.

"Zero, come on. Now is not the time for this. I've already got your

0th unit mobilized for you, you just have to..." X trailed off as he

rounded a corner, and found the errant reploid.

Zero was sitting placidly by a repair pod, leaning on his knees and

staring at the glass window of the pod. He was in full body armor once

again, the familiar red metal suit adorning his body, right down to the

helmet that sealed in all of his hair except for the ponytail. His Z-

saber hung on his back, and X could see Zero's arm was currently fitted

with the Z-buster, as well.

"Zero, I..." X began. He cut off as Zero turned his head, locking his

gaze with X's. For the second time that day, X felt afraid, looking at

the other reploid. Zero's face was cold, lips tight, all emotion

drained from him. But his eyes were another story. They stared

unblinkingly at him, just a slight hint of madness in their emerald


Zero's arm twitched. "Yes, X?" he asked.

X treaded carefully. "We're being called out," he started. "We've got

a situation in - "

"Do me one favor," Zero said quietly, but firmly enough to cut X off.

X blinked, looking at his friend.

"Don't ask me to go," Zero continued, without waiting for a response

from X. He looked back to the pod. "If you ask me to go, then I'll

have to go." He shrugged, a small smile tugging at his lips. "It's

what we reploids have to do, isn't it? Follow our orders like good

little servants."

"Zero..." X said, slowly walking towards his friend. "Get a hold of

yourself. What's wrong?"

Zero said nothing. But X got his answer all the same. As he moved,

the glare of the overhead lights moved off the glass window of the

repair pod, letting him see who was inside of it.

"Oh..." X whispered. One glance at Iris' body was enough to see the

extent of the damage. In the pod, repair bots were working on her as

fast as they could. X winced as he saw Iris twitch. She was still


"What happened?" he asked, gesturing to the pod.

Zero just shook his head, closing his eyes.

X took a breath. "Did you..."

"No!" Zero shouted, his head whipping around to face X once more. "I

didn't lay a hand on her, except to bring her here."

"Oh..." X said, swallowing. If Zero was telling the truth, then that

was a relief. He was a bit concerned, after what Iris had said in the

hallway. If something had happened to bring out Zero's old maverick

self, then armed as he was with those Maverick Hunter weapons, he'd be

unstoppable. There'd be no telling what would happen, how many would


X shook his head, blocking out that train of thought. "Zero, we need

you. She'll be all right. She's safe, now."

Zero didn't respond, at first. He just kept his eyes on Iris' body,

showing no emotion even when she shuddered in pain. X was just about

to repeat himself when Zero finally spoke.

"She died the first time because I couldn't stop fighting," he said,

quietly. He looked at X again, his eyes much softer this time. "I

can't just leave her again," he explained. "Even if I'm a reploid,

I've got a right to make my own decisions, to feel any way I want." He

hung his head. "And I want to stay here."

X sighed, quietly. He walked over to Zero and put one hand on his

friend's shoulder. "Zero..." he began.

"You don't really need me, I know that," Zero said, without looking

at him. "You just want to have me around as a backup if you fail." He

shook his head. "You won't fail, X. You...you're a better Maverick

Hunter than I am."

X removed his hand from Zero's shoulder. A long moment passed, during

which neither of them said anything. X looked at Zero, who looked at

Iris. Finally, X sighed, half-turning away.

"Fine," he said. "I'll tell them you're unavailable."

Zero did not move, even as X walked away, and left the room. Some time

after the door hissed closed behind his friend, he mouthed two words:

"Thank you."

A power surge directly to the main processor is usually enough to kill

a reploid. The delicate circuitry simply cannot withstand being

overloaded, and fails. Without that network of wire tracery, no

reploid can operate. It has been compared to having one's own heart

torn out.

For that reason, most reploids have numerous back ups and fail-safes to

prevent this occurrence. A simple fuse is often enough to prevent

catastrophic failure. Reploids operating as Maverick Hunters are built

much more sturdily, often with full backup systems just in case. This

even went for the Spotters, the ones who, if all went well, never saw

combat first-hand. No reploid had ever been hurt by being too safe

against overload.

Whatever had happened to Iris, it had gotten around all that. A huge

voltage had been blasted directly into her processor core, melting key

parts of both her primary and backup circuits. Some credit is due to

the one who designed those systems, as even half-destroyed they

continued functioning, albeit inefficiently. But even as sturdy as

they were, the circuits simply could not handle that sort of damage for

very long. By the time Zero had gotten her to the repair bay, Iris's

control processors had all but melted away to slag.

In human terms, Iris had needed a heart transplant. That was a simple

enough procedure; processor chips were standard enough that new ones

could be fit in without much trouble. Fortunately for her, none of the

power surge had hit her memory crystals; had that happened, she would

have needed more than just some replacement microchips. But even so,

repairing the physical damage to her system was quite an ordeal. She

was lying in the repair tube, half-conscious, for over eight hours.

Finally, the synthetic pain in her system receded, as fresh hardware

was finally integrated into her newly-rebuilt system. After a

diagnostic to assure that all was well, a tiny voltage was applied to

her processor, starting it back up again. She opened her eyes.

The first thing she saw was her own reflection, staring back at her

with an impassive expression. She blinked, regarding herself for a

moment, then turned her head as she saw something out the corner of her


Next to the capsule she was sealed into, there sat a reploid in shining

red armor. His blond hair flowed down his back, extending down so far

it almost touched the floor. His hands were clasped in front of him as

he leaned on his knees. His head was tilted slightly down, and his

eyes were closed. She could tell by the way his breath fogged the

glass of the repair tube that he had fallen asleep.

She regarded his face curiously. He was a handsome reploid, the

bishounen qualities of his face somehow increasing the sense of

masculinity. He looked peaceful, but not relaxed. Like a soldier,

sleeping in the transport on the way to battle. It was almost as

though he didn't know how to relax. Slowly, almost unaware of what she

was doing, Iris reached out, flattening her hand against the glass of

the repair tube, in front of his face. Feeling the warmth of his

breath coming through the glass, she closed her eyes, just for a


Sensing its occupant's status, the repair tube beeped loudly,

announcing to the room that repairs were completed. At this, the red

reploid stirred, slowly waking up. Iris pulled back her hand as his

eyes snapped open.

He looked at her, eyes focusing quickly on her form. She saw something

in his face: concern, and...guilt? Something tickled in her mind, at

this. She had the vague feeling that she'd seen this expression once

before, and that she was one of few people who had ever seen it.

As he shifted his balance, turning slightly to get a better look at

her, Iris caught a glimpse of something over his shoulder. A grip,

some kind of weapon...

Her eyes widened, as a repressed memory suddenly surfaced. She had

seen that weapon activated, becoming a glowing beam of annihilation

that this reploid could wield as a sword. She'd seen him use it

against her, striking her down with it. His expression had been so

different, then, she seemed to remember. Such grim determination,

action with full knowledge of the unwanted consequences...and in it, a

sort of coldhearted cruelty. Something devouring all emotions, all

unnecessary feelings, in favor of the all-important Mission, that which

must be carried out, no matter the cost.

He stood, as the repair pod hissed open. His movements, smooth, and

with controlled strength behind them, made Iris' eyes widen, slightly.

She realized that before her stood a machine of war, something made to

kill, and kill, and kill, until there was nothing left. And she was


It reached for her, gingerly, with one white-gloved, armored hand. She

remembered it as being the hand he used to wield the saber on his back.

"Iris..." he said, quietly.

She recoiled in fear, pulling her arms against herself protectively,

trying to roll away in the tight confines of the repair pod. The

reploid before her froze, his expression changing to something she

could not comprehend. He closed his eyes, nodding mutely as he stepped

away from her, his arm falling limp to his side.

"I'm glad you're okay," he said, almost in a whisper. "I..." he cut

off, his voice suddenly giving out. Shaking his head, he turned slowly

and walked out. Iris watched him, feeling that his movements looked

slow for some reason, his shoulders sagging just a little. She said

nothing, even as the door slid shut behind him, leaving her alone in

the repair bay.

I hurt him.

She heard the voice in her head.

I hurt Zero.

"What?" she asked the air, her voice emotionless. "Zero? That is that

reploid's designation."

Why does that always happen? I just wanted to be close to him.

Iris sat up in the repair pod, putting one hand to her head. Even as

she did this, her thoughts scrambled, becoming a medley of conflicting


He wants to protect me.

Another image surfaced, of the red reploid battling against a giant

monster, a Maverick dragon-mech, that would have destroyed her.

He wants to find a life outside of battle.

An image of the reploid...Zero...laughing, as he told some joke. A

picture of his face, smiling at her now, as she remembered herself

laugh. Laughter...an alien reaction. Something that had been cut

away, taken from her somehow.

He doesn't have many friends. There aren't many people he'll show his

smile to. He's afraid of losing them...

Zero running towards her, as she lay on the ground, feeling her body

fail. The look on his face...of horror, as he realized what he had


I was one of them. I saw his smile, and he...

"I just wanted to live...with you..." Iris mumbled under her breath.

She shook her head, putting her hands over her ears in an effort to

block out the sound, trying to drive away surfacing memories.

I wanted to be close to him. I wanted him to see he didn't have to

always be alone.

One last memory, this one from not too long ago: of Zero, carrying her,

the look on his face just short of panic. He'd held her against him,

not wanting to lose her again. She remembered pain from her injuries,

but also a strange sort of...warmth. A feeling of safety, a knowledge

that no matter what happened, it would be all right.

But I...I...

"I hurt him..."

Zero opened his eyes, feeling the sweat on his forehead.

The maintenance pod opened immediately, and he sat up, breathing hard.

Slowly, with shaking hands, he wiped the sweat off his face. He leaned

forwards, holding his head in his hands. His sullen face betrayed

little, but his thoughts were a mess.

Watching Iris become that emotionless thing had been one of the most

difficult experiences of his life. He'd known it would happen; it was

standard procedure to reprogram Mavericks. He hadn't said anything,

hadn't tried to make them stop from reprogramming her. Because it

wasn't his duty to dictate policy on that matter. He was just a

soldier, something made to bring down Mavericks. That sort of logic

was enough to make him hate himself, at times.

The term 'once-in-a-lifetime' means little to a machine, which can

theoretically live forever. But looking at Iris, he understood what it

meant, and understood that he'd missed out on it. He hadn't wanted to

let her get close to him. But she'd gotten to him, all the same.

It was her smile, he'd reasoned. The carefree smile she had, how she

could so easily show it, had been enough to soften his warrior's heart.

The sound of her laugh had been even stronger. Hearing Iris laugh,

he'd often caught himself wondering if there was more to life than just


Just once, he'd thought. Just once, he'd wanted to see her smile

again. He'd wanted to know that the old Iris was somewhere in there,

that he hadn't let them take her away. Today, he'd seen it. Finally,

he'd seen her smile. But under such circumstances that he couldn't

appreciate it, that the sight of it had almost killed him instead of

saving him. Then, just when he'd begun to think that maybe something

of the girl he knew was still in there, he'd seen it: fear. Iris was

afraid of him.

He couldn't blame her. Not many people could look on the face of their

killer and smile. But...Iris had smiled, looking at him. That last

time, when he'd struck her down...again, the sight of her smile hadn't

warmed him, but frozen him, as it had finally come down on him that

he'd personally destroyed something most people would kill for.

The memory of that haunted him, kept hitting him in the middle of the

night. He kept flashing back to that time, kept seeing himself go

through the motions of battle, almost as though he weren't in control

of himself. Then he saw Iris, lying there...

It had been awhile since the memory actually been enough to wake him

up. Tonight, understandably enough, it had been particularly vivid.

He'd felt Iris in his arms, felt her go limp as life left her. And

he'd felt a small part of him join her, dying there on the floor.

He got out of the pod, shivering a little. At night the maintenance

bay was kept at a chilly ten degrees Centigrade, helping to keep the

computers here running at peak efficiency. In his armor, this sort of

temperature would be nothing. But as he hadn't yet gotten back to

duty, his armor was still in the pod, waiting for morning when it would

clamp back onto his body.

He looked up as the door hissed open. In the harsh contrast of the

brightly-lit hall outside and the dark maintenance bay, Zero could make

out little more than a dark outline. He squinted, his eyes adjusting

quickly. He froze as he recognized Iris.

It took him several seconds to get over the surprise and to process the

data, trying to decide on a course of action. He finally decided that

it would probably be best if he just lay back down and went back to

sleep. However, by the time he'd reached this conclusion, Iris had

crossed the width of the room and reached the cluster of maintenance

pods Zero was among.

He saw her eyes glowing dimly in the darkness, regarding him quietly.

He could only look back, even more confused that before, and not

knowing what to say.

He watched, as Iris lifted her hand, reaching for him. He did not move

as her fingers touched his face. He could only watch her, not


"Zero..." she said, quietly, in the darkness.

Something in her voice sounded different. Or rather, sounded familiar.

Zero blinked, hearing it.

"Zero...say something, please."

The tone in her voice was enough to make him respond. "Iris? Is

that...is that you? I mean...you?"

He saw her silhouette nod, mutely. "Yes," she answered a moment later.

Her voice wavered a little. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry for what I did.

When I woke up, I wasn't...I mean...she wasn't gone yet, and...I'm


Zero lifted his own arm, reaching for her. This time, she did not draw

back, but rather stepped forwards. The look in her liquid eyes was

enough to make Zero follow through, putting his arm around her waist

and pulling her up against him.

"No..." he whispered. "No, don't you apologize..."

"I'm sorry," Iris said into his chest.

"No, I'm sorry," Zero replied, feeling his own voice starting to give

out. "It's my fault..." his other arm went around her, drawing her

closer. Iris was pushed up against him, her arms going around him to

make the hug even tighter. They stood there, not saying a word, for a

long time.

Finally, he felt Iris shift in his arms. Zero looked down in time to

see her look up at him.

"I remember what happened," she said, quietly. "I remember being

awake, but not being...me. I saw you, and I couldn't remember you..."

Zero squeezed her, feeling his eyes going moist.

"But then I heard you talking, how much it hurt you, to see me like

this, and I had to do something..."

Zero blinked, looking at her disbelievingly. "Are you saying - "

Iris bit her lip, nodding. "I short-circuited myself," she answered.

"I had to do it where I knew you'd find me. I knew, if I could just

see you again..."

Zero shut her up by drawing her close again. He felt his chest going

moist from Iris' tears, and he lay his head down on hers. He held her

tight, not needing to hear any more from her, just wanting to feel her

against him, and feel that she was not afraid. He'd dreamt of this,

too, but had passed it off as little more than a fantasy, something

that could never happen.

Sometimes, he realized, dreams can come true, even for reploids.


Endnote: What can I say, I'm a sucker for happy endings and

resurrecting characters I didn't like seeing get killed. Besides,

everyone knows Sigma and Zero have pulled off multiple comebacks from

apparant death. I don't see why they should be the only ones.

What Zero said regarding his skill as a maverick hunter is not

necessarily this author's opinion.

I have no plans for a sequel to this one; this was just a moment of

pure insanity that, as I said, I cranked out in about 12 hours.

However, it was an excellent recharge to the old creative batteries;

perhaps another Mega Man X fic from me looms in the future.

Send any comments to otakusadisthotmail.com.

If you're an Eva fan, check out my other fics, and my web site: 8/28/03

Ended: 10/11/03