Something to Fight For

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: This is my first fic for the "Classic" branch of the Megaman fandom. It's based at the end of the Megaman & Bass game. Since only either Megaman or Bass can be played at any one time in the game, I had to decide for myself how to work things with how they fought their two opponents of King and Wily (I decided that they'd fight them both once and then later, Megaman would fight King and Bass would fight Wily, in order to combine the events of their separate endings in the game). Everything done here was done intentionally, so no telling me I've messed something up somehow, unless I really did, of course! ;) The characters aren't mine and the story is! And a special salute goes to Forte Wily at the Planet Megaman forums for plot help! You rock!

Megaman and Bass were forced to call a truce in order to defeat the robot menace King. Their ventures brought them at last to the forbidding castle belonging to the mad scientist Mr. Wily, who revealed that King was his latest creation. Both Megaman and Bass fought them before then splitting up to again corner their mutual enemies, who had slunk back into the shadows of the castle. While Megaman took on King, Bass confronted Wily, who had actually been trying to rid himself of the rebellious robot. Of course he denied it all, but Bass refused to believe him. At just the right moment, Protoman leaped into the picture and assisted in taking the man down by destroying his plans for a second King. Wily ordered Bass to destroy Protoman, but Bass hesitated. Protoman asked Bass why he was hesitating and if he didn't operate alone, without obeying the orders of a human. He pointed out that Bass would never defeat Megaman because Bass didn't have anything to fight for. Then he vanished when Bass yelled at him to go. And this is where our story opens.

Bass glared after the departing Protoman, muttering angrily to himself. "I don't have anything to fight for?" he growled, the red eyes narrowing. "That's ridiculous. I fight only to defeat Megaman, once and for all. I don't need any other reason to fight." He felt vexation rising within him as he clenched his fists. That was what he had been created for: the sole purpose of defeating Megaman. But even though he had the superior skills and talents, he was always defeated himself. Megaman always won out. And that angered Bass to no end. He was the best! He would always be the best! He hadn't especially wanted to team up with Megaman at the beginning of this little escapade, but he had grudgingly admitted that their enemies were the same and that they should work together to overpower them. But the truce was only temporary. Once this was all over, things would go back to normal between them. Their rivalry would strike up once more and they would remain enemies forever, until one or the other of them was destroyed.

In spite of his consuming rage toward Megaman, however, Bass wasn't entirely bad. After all, he had seen the problems that were arising from King's rampage and had wanted to stop the powerful robot. His thoughts turned to what was happening with Megaman and if he had found King again yet. Bass wanted to defeat King himself, just as he had defeated Wily. And he would do it, he vowed.

While Bass was pondering over all these events in his mind, however, he didn't notice that Wily was slowly crawling away from where he had been dazed on the floor. The madman was determined not to be beat yet and that Bass would die. All the better if he could take out Megaman at the same time! He sneered to himself as he took the miniature remote control out of his lab coat. Just one press of the button and all the bombs throughout the castle would be activated. And he would have plenty of time to get out before they went off. Bass, he could see, had been shaken by Protoman's words. The robot looked as if he would remain deep in thought for some time.

Wily had originally created Bass to defeat Megaman, it was true. But perhaps, he thought now, he had been too lenient in making Bass so human. He had a soul, almost, with emotions and feelings, so what was there, really, that separated him from humans? Frankly, Wily was leery of Bass by now. Bass had obviously turned against him and would keep doing so. There was no choice except to destroy him. And Wily had always wanted to get rid of Megaman. "Now, to kill two birds with one stone," he muttered with an evil grin, pressing the button. The two robots would never know what hit them.

Bass whirled around just as Wily slipped through a trapdoor and vanished into the recesses of the castle. The noise had alerted him, but too late. He couldn't determine where Wily had gone. With an angry cry Bass slammed his fist into the castle wall. He blamed Protoman for this, though he knew it was his own fault for becoming so distracted by the other robot's words. Wily was crafty, the conniving, slippery snake! But so was Bass. Though he couldn't find the trapdoor through which the man had vanished, Bass knew Wily well enough by now to know some of what he might be planning. He tried to kill me before, he thought to himself. He could do it again. But Bass couldn't imagine exactly what Wily's method was going to be. Muttering to himself again, this time with berating and self-hatred, Bass took off running, looking for Wily and King both.

Megaman clenched his fists as King disappeared. He had beaten him, but now the other robot had decided to teleport out. Was he hurt badly . . . even fatally? Where was he going now? Megaman had tried to convince him that he shouldn't be working for Wily, but it didn't seem like it had sunk in. And Megaman had to admit, he felt inefficient. Why couldn't he have helped King see that Wily's plan was wrong? And where was Bass, anyway? Shouldn't he have caught up by now?

Worried, Megaman turned to look down the winding pathways throughout the castle, but he could see nothing. All the rooms and hallways were dimly lit and eerily empty. No one was in sight: not Wily, not King, and not Bass, either. Had something happened to him? Megaman swallowed hard, his eyes narrowing. He didn't want anything terrible to happen to Bass, even though Bass was always trying to permanently defeat him. All Megaman wanted was for them to be friends. They had teamed up on this venture, but Megaman knew their truce was only temporary. He sighed, heading off down one of the pathways. Bass wouldn't have missed out on the action of fighting King again unless he was having action go on where he was.

Why does it have to be the way it is, Bass? Megaman thought to himself in frustration. Why do you have to be so bent on proving yourself better than me? But he knew why it was, and it wasn't entirely just because Bass had been programmed to defeat Megaman. That was it in the beginning, but after his first defeat, Bass's self-confidence had shattered. Since then, he had wanted to defeat Megaman to prove that he could do it. He wanted to feel that he was capable of doing something because he didn't feel that he was able to accomplish anything of worth. Bass thought that if he could prove he was the strongest robot by defeating Megaman, he would feel better somehow. But you won't, Bass, Megaman thought sadly as he hurried around the next corner. Maybe you'll be happy for a short while. But it won't last.

That was when he became aware of an ominous ticking sound. The blue robot froze, looking around desperately for the source of the noise. It definitely didn't sound good and he had the terrible feeling that something was indeed drastically wrong. "It sounds like a bomb!" he whispered aloud. And he was right.

Swallowing hard, Megaman looked around desperately to locate the source of the bomb's ticking. At last he came upon a small box attached to the wall and slowly advanced, not wanting to make a sudden move and possibly set it off. The digital clock said it was going to go off in less than thirty minutes.

Carefully he opened the door to the inner workings and studied the wires. "Think, Megaman," he muttered. "This is no time to mess up!" After a thoughtful analysis of the brightly colored wires, he finally pulled out the red one. For an agonizing moment, nothing happened. But then it shut off with a beep and Megaman relaxed.

A soft bark called Megaman's attention to another pathway as Rush padded over. He had gone off earlier—before the fight—at Megaman's request to try to find King, but now he was back, still not having had any luck. The canine robot looked at the bomb, blinked, and then growled.

"I defused it, Rush," Megaman assured him. "But . . . if Wily is behind this, there's probably more of them." He froze, his eyes widening. "Bass," he whispered then. "He's after Bass!" He remembered how, when the both of them had met Wily earlier, he had as much as said that Bass was now a thorn in his side. And of course Megaman knew that Wily wanted to get rid of him, as well. It only made sense that he would try to kill them both if he thought he could. But if he was going to blow up the castle, that must mean that he himself had already made a hasty retreat.

Rush whined and then barked, turning to head back down the path he had come. Obviously he wanted Megaman to follow.

"Do you know where Bass is, Rush?" Megaman asked, turning to follow the dog. "And Treble?" he added, remembering that Bass had brought his own canine unit with him on their mission.

Rush barked, hurrying on ahead and checking back every now and then to make certain Megaman was still following. He hadn't seen Bass or Treble, but if Megaman wanted to find them, Rush was willing to help.

It wasn't long before Rush found a second bomb. He looked at it with suspicion and growled until Megaman came over to investigate. After he went through the same process to defuse it, they resumed their journey.

And Megaman pondered as they walked. He had found two bombs already. Wily was just crazy enough to set bombs throughout the entire castle. And what if all of them were set to go off in thirty minutes? He would never find them in time! And that meant that they would perish. But Megaman refused to let that happen. He would concentrate on finding Bass and Treble—and King, if he was still in the castle—and then on all of them escaping. But if he ran into any more bombs . . . should he stop to deactivate them? He shut his eyes tightly. This was one of those situations where any wrong move could mean disaster and death. But what were the wrong moves . . . and what were the right ones? If he didn't stop to defuse the bombs and instead just tried to find the others, that could mean that they would be able to escape . . . but it could also mean that they might get caught right in the worst of the explosion. If he did defuse the bombs he found, maybe a certain part of the castle would be safe to walk through. But then, if he couldn't find Bass, Treble, and King, they might only be killed in the explosion anyway if they weren't in that part of the castle.

What should I do? he screamed inwardly.

Bass, in the meantime, had also found several of the bombs and had deciphered Wily's insidious plot. He frowned, looking up from Bomb Number Five when he heard a noise from behind him. But he relaxed when he saw it was Treble, his faithful dog. "Look at this," he growled, pointing to the now-deactivated bomb. "Wily's done this. He's trying to get rid of me . . . and Megaman too, no doubt." The black-and-yellow robot kicked the wall angrily in self-hatred. This is my fault. I practically told Wily he was free to go off and blow this place to Kingdom Come! Can't I accomplish anything without screwing it up?

Treble looked at him and then whined softly, sensing his master's frustration. It wasn't Bass's fault. Wily would have found some way to press the button that activated the bombs and then escape, no matter what the case. But because he had escaped while Bass had been momentarily distracted, of course he blamed himself.

Bass clenched his fists. "I'll never be able to deactivate all of them in time," he muttered before heading off down the hall again. Treble hastened after him, not wanting them to get separated again. But fate was not about to be kind to any of them. It would wind up falling to Bass, for once, to get them out safely.

Wily's castle was only three levels, but those levels sprawled on for yards upon yards, confusing anyone who wasn't familiar with the layout—as Megaman and Bass most definitely were not. They hadn't even known the edifice belonged to their old enemy until they had found him in one of the rooms and he had told them himself. But they should have known he would be behind everything, somehow. He always was.

There were ten minutes left before the set time of the explosion when Rush finally picked up the trail of Treble and barked, running ahead. Before long he came upon the other dog and barked again in greeting. Treble turned and barked back, causing Bass to turn around as well. He crossed his arms and glared a bit when Megaman came out, having followed his dog.

"It's about time," the red-eyed robot remarked grouchily. "Have you heard? Wily's trying to blow this castle up, with us in it!"

"Yes, I've heard," Megaman replied with a slight sigh at Bass's form of greeting. "I've been looking for you, Bass! I was worried."

Bass grunted. "There wasn't any reason to be," he said, turning back around. "Where's King?"

Megaman quickly fell into step beside him when he started walking again. "King disappeared," Megaman said sadly, "after our battle. I don't know what happened to him. I hope he isn't still in here. . . ." He glanced about in concern, looking for the other robot, but the halls were deserted. King had probably left the castle, wanting to be alone . . . especially if the damage he had sustained was irreversible. And that was often the case with Megaman's opponents.

"How could you even feel worried about him, after what he's caused?" Bass snapped as he suddenly spotted another bomb ahead. He growled to himself, weighing the decision of what would be best to do. He wasn't sure that they could even find the way out in ten . . . no, eight minutes. Now he faced the same dilemma as Megaman had moments before: Should they stop to deactivate this bomb or not? As they got closer Bass made up his mind not to stop and to keep looking for the way out instead.

Megaman watched Bass's hesitation over the bomb and then quickly tried to catch up when he abruptly determined to keep going. "Well . . . Wily said he was brainwashing King," Megaman replied at last in answer to Bass's question, "and . . . well . . . that just seems like a sad existence. I wanted to help King see that he was wrong and that he should stop listening to Wily . . . like you did." He had admired that about Bass—that he would refuse to work for such a devious mind.

Bass glared ahead. "Would you listen to someone who kept increasingly trying to end your life?" he growled. "I'm smart enough to figure out myself that I don't want to listen to that snake. If King had any brains, he would have figured it out too. I wouldn't waste any time sobbing over him." He glanced up the next corridor and then the one after that, discovering to his exasperation that no exits seemed to be forthcoming. Were he and Megaman destined to be stranded in here to their doom? This isn't exactly the way I wanted to pass an evening.

Megaman watched as Bass gave Treble the command to go on ahead and try to find an escape route. The wolfdog barked in agreement and took off running down the hall and around a corner. After considering their options for a moment, Megaman sent Rush to follow him. "Bass . . . are you like that about everything?" the blue robot asked then, looking up at his rival. "So . . . cold and detached?"

Bass didn't look at him. "When I'm fighting, I put my all into it," he retorted, feeling along a wall to see if there were any secret panels. But he had the feeling that wasn't what Megaman meant. "You know that." And it's never enough. I give it everything I've got and I still can't beat you, Megaman.

Megaman sighed, assisting him with searching for a panel. "Bass . . . what I mean is, Don't you have any feelings of compassion at all?" he asked sadly. "Are you really just only out for yourself? Did you come along on this mission because you wanted revenge on Wily and because you wanted to see if you could beat King?" He didn't want to believe that was the only reason. He was certain Bass did have good within him—it was just extremely hidden.

At that precise moment, several things happened at once. All of the lights went completely out. The two robots, momentarily startled, clanked into each other and accidentally opened a trapdoor leading into a slippery slide. And of course, they wound up falling down. Both of them cried out in stunned shock and surprise, quite forgetting the conversation they had been having, and then abruptly crashed at the bottom in a tangled heap.

Bass struggled to free himself, discovering that his right hand was caught in some sort of odd crevice. "To answer your question," he said in a highly sarcastic tone, "what if I did? What would you say then, Megaman? Would you wish you could 'save' me too?" He finally got himself completely extracted from his predicament and stood up, not offering to help Megaman do so. Instead he looked about, struggling to figure out where they were. By now they probably had less than five minutes. Would there be any kind of exit down here? And what of the dogs, especially Treble? Would they get out?

Megaman got up then and, finding a light switch, clicked it on. "Yes," he admitted, "I would wish that." He surveyed their new surroundings, seeing that they were in a large room that was mostly empty except for a few scattered cobwebs. There was only one way out, so obviously they would have to go down that path and hope it would lead to their salvation. Megaman also entertained worried thoughts about the dogs. Would Rush realize that they had fallen down to the next level? Would he and Treble be able to find either them or the exit before time ran out?

"You see, Bass," Megaman continued as they started to walk down that path, "I do have compassion on other robots . . . and humans. I don't think any of them are all bad, so if some of them are doing bad things—like King was—I want to stop them, but . . . I also want to help them see that what they're doing is wrong. And if someone's so angry at everything that they don't have any compassion, I feel sorry for them. I wonder what might have happened to make them be that way. I don't think anyone is 'programmed' to have hatred, whether they're robot or human."

"You're idealistic, Megaman," Bass retorted with a snort, following after him. "You say you want to help them see they're doing wrong. Most of them aren't going to listen to you." His gaze traveled over the sparse walls. Wily wasn't much for interior decorating, he decided dryly. "And do you want to know why?" He brushed aside a hanging cobweb to find another pathway turning to the right. He also found another bomb, which brightly displayed the time till detonation as being three minutes. With a muttered exclamation of irritation Bass walked past it, his concern for escape growing. "They think they have all the answers and that you don't have any."

Megaman sighed. "I know that, Bass," he replied, keeping a lookout for any of Wily's robots that might come to distract them from getting out. It seemed strange that they hadn't run into any yet. . . . "But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try, anyway. I wish. . . ." But he trailed off, not finishing his thought aloud. I wish that we could just be friends and not rivals. I don't want to be your enemy, Bass. We have the same common enemy in Wily. Can't we concentrate on that and forget about which one of us is the strongest?

Bass didn't bother to ask what Megaman had been about to say. He had just stumbled upon something much more pressing—indeed, Wily had left some of his robots, knowing that Megaman and Bass were likely to uncover his plan and try to escape before they couldn't do so. Now Wily's minions were all attacking. With an angry snarl Bass powered up his blaster and began to fire. But they were pesky little creatures, and every time Bass thought he'd gotten them out of his way, more were immediately there.

Megaman was also busily fighting their new opponents. He tried to tell them that the castle would explode in a short time and that they should try to escape with him and Bass, but they refused to listen, being bent only on destroying the two robots who had invaded their lair. So Megaman continued to blast them away, at one point attacking one that had been dead set on sending electricity through Bass, which would have caused him to overload and short-circuit. The black-and-yellow robot looked back briefly, acknowledging what Megaman had done, and then went back to ridding their pathway of these menaces.

At last they were able to continue again, with only a minute to spare. Now they were both running blindly down the hall, not knowing where they would be taken. Each attempted to contact his dog, as they had before, but the connections seemed to be being jammed—no doubt another trick of Wily's. They could only hope that Rush and Treble were both safe.

Megaman briefly glanced over at Bass as he continually tried to contact Treble while he ran up some stone stairs. Just ahead was a faint stream of light. Was it a way out? They could only hope. Afterwards, when Megaman thought back on the experience, he remembered thinking that Bass did care about his dog. And Treble seemed to be very devoted to him.

The next few moments were all a confusing blur. The minute wasn't quite up yet, but some of the bombs were starting to go off prematurely as the two robots reached the top of the stairs and headed for the light. They were thrown back by the blasts, but then regained their bearings and hurried on their way. "It's coming too fast," Bass could be heard to mutter. The last thing Megaman recalled before the major explosion rocked his world was a rough hand shoving him out through what was indeed a door.

Slowly Megaman opened bluish-green eyes, finding himself laying in a mixture of grass and debris at the edge of the property. Remembering the explosion, he immediately sat up and looked around. If he possessed a human heart, it would have been pounding frantically in alarm at the sight before him. Most of the castle had, indeed, come down. All about him were broken stones and bricks, all that remained of the stronghold Wily had owned. And it almost looked like Megaman was alone here in the aftermath. I must've been propelled here by the force of the explosion, he realized.

He coughed, brushing the smoke and dust out of his way. "Bass?" he called in alarm, realizing that he didn't see the other robot here at all. Where was he? And . . . had he really pushed Megaman out of the castle just before the explosion, endangering himself in the process? Why would he have done that? "Bass, where are you?!" Upon receiving no answer, Megaman continued his search in determination. Bass had to be here! He refused to believe otherwise.

It wasn't until Megaman was right up by the worst of the damage that he thought he saw a hint of black armor glinting under the moonlight. Carefully picking his way over the piles of marble and stone, Megaman dropped to his knees next to the battered black-and-yellow robot, looking in horror at the damage. In several places, the coverings had been torn completely away, revealing the sparking inner workings of the entity before him. No limbs had been severed, miraculously, but Megaman could see the damage was extremely extensive. The robot was laying very still, trapped beneath several different stones of varying size, and his eyes weren't open. Megaman swallowed hard, fearing the worst. "Bass!" he cried, his voice rising with the increasing panic. "Bass, come on, you've got to wake up!"

After a long moment the red eyes opened again. Bass struggled to focus on his rival, but his vision was going in and out. He could tell he was badly hurt. And this wasn't something that could be easily repaired. With an irritated mutter he reached up, trying to shove the heavy stone off of his chest. Megaman quickly assisted him, despite Bass's muttered protests, and together they shoved it aside. Bass then collapsed back into the debris from the castle, staring blankly up at the sky.

"Why, Bass?" Megaman whispered in stunned shock, wanting to look away from the crushed body but not being able to force himself to do so. "Why did you do this? You pushed me out of the castle, but now you . . . you've taken the brunt of the blast yourself!"

"I was hoping you wouldn't remember that," Bass hissed in discomfort. "Don't go getting any ideas about friendships, Megaman," he snapped weakly. "I didn't do it because I finally decided we should be bosom buddies. I did it because I didn't want something other than me to defeat you." He turned his head to the side, gazing at the pile of broken stones laying next to him. "I want to be the strongest. I want to prove I can defeat even the mighty Megaman . . . someday. I can't do that if Megaman gets offed first."

"But Bass. . . ." Megaman trailed off then. He didn't want to finish his sentence. He couldn't. Because he knew that Bass was done for. The unspoken words hung in the air, both robots being aware of them. You can't defeat me now, anyway, Bass. You're dying. Megaman realized that, in spite of Bass's words, that was not the only reason why the red-eyed robot had pushed him away from the blast.

Bass struggled to get up and soon found it fruitless. More sparks emanated from his frame as he fell back down once more, knowing that, indeed, this was the end of him. And he could tell that Megaman saw that he wasn't really being very truthful. He knew that he had saved Megaman because, in spite of their rivalry, somewhere deep down he had come to respect the other robot, even if he wouldn't admit it. He was one of the only ones worthy of being Bass's opponent and Bass enjoyed fighting against him—though he didn't enjoy losing. "We both know I won't be coming back," he muttered. "Not this time."

Megaman stared at him, feeling tears well up in his eyes. Bass was a pitiful sight, whereas once he had been so strong and proud. And yet . . . he had never seemed more noble than he did now. "You didn't have to do this," he said shakily.

Bass grunted in response. "I know," he muttered. "I didn't have to. I don't even know why I did." This last part he said in a whisper. Was it because of what he'd said to Megaman a moment ago? Was that why he had rescued him? Or did he want just to be a hero for once and to know he had done something right? But he was too damaged to survive this. Though Megaman hadn't spoken his thoughts aloud, the words could still be heard clearly by both him and Bass. He wouldn't be able to defeat Megaman and declare himself the strongest.

But Megaman disagreed. "Bass . . . you are the strongest," he said shakily. "You don't need to prove anything now." Bass was both strong physically—to have even survived the explosion at all—and strong of heart—to do what he had done. He had a good heart, it was just hidden underneath his thirst to be the best.

"I don't need you to tell me that," Bass retorted.

A low whine interrupted their conversation as Treble made his way over to them. He nudged at Bass sadly, seeing that his master was near-death. Weakly Bass raised his hand, patting the dog on the head and feeling a sense of relief that the canine had made it out. Treble laid down next to him, studying him with worried eyes. Treble had managed to get out of the castle with Rush just before the explosion that had injured Bass. Now he whined softly again, thumping his tail in the dust. He hadn't wanted to find Bass like this. . . . He and Rush were fine and it appeared Megaman was as well. Only Bass was hurt—and severely. The red-eyed robot muttered something to Treble that Megaman couldn't catch, before looking up again.

"Look, Megaman . . . don't do something stupid like getting yourself knocked off," Bass said now, the light in his eyes starting to go out. "That'd be pointless now," he added, meaning that, since he was giving his life for Megaman, the blue robot should try to stay alive. "And just in case there is something to the theory that even robots have souls, I'll be watching you to make sure you stay alive." He pointed a forefinger at Megaman in emphasis. "And then maybe someday we'll settle our score, once and for all."

Recently, along with the activists that were always fighting for Robots' Rights, a new organization had sprung up, one that controversially claimed that, since the robots had real human emotions and feelings, they must actually possess some kind of souls. Most people (and even some robots) believed it was all ridiculous. Only humans had souls, they insisted, and a robot was merely a bunch of nuts and bolts and wires with fancy coverings. They might look human, and even act human, they argued, but they were only mechanical. If they behaved differently than just what they were programmed to do, it was merely because of malfunctioning. Bass himself didn't know what he believed. It all sounded odd to him, though he liked to think that disobeying Wily wasn't simply a malfunction.

Megaman wanted to say something in protest. He wanted to tell Bass to stop talking like this, but he knew it wouldn't do any good. More sparks rose from the battered frame as Bass struggled to shift position and get more comfortable. But it was hopeless. There was no comfort now.

"Maybe Dr. Light could repair you, somehow!" Megaman cried at last, clenching his fists and grasping at any little bit of hope there was.

Bass laughed hollowly. "Be repaired by the same doctor who created you, my eternal rival? I don't think so." Anyway, Megaman . . . you know even he couldn't do anything now. All my circuits are damaged and more than half the wires have been severed. I can't feel my legs, nor my right arm. It's a "miracle," if you want to call it that, that I'm still the least bit operational. But that's not going to last. I can feel everything else shutting down now.

He pulled Treble closer to him, sensing the dog's upset. This canine robot had always been his faithful companion, loyal and loving. They had fought so many battles together . . . had won out over so many enemies. . . . It was only Megaman that they couldn't defeat. Only him. Bass felt a certain inferiority complex because of it, which he covered up with his boisterous speech and seemingly egotistical actions. Treble knew when Bass was putting up a facade. Treble and Bass had been a team, a good team . . . a broken team now.

"Megaman . . . I'll see you around." Bass spoke for the last time as his eyes dimmed and then closed. His grip on Treble loosened and then failed entirely, his left arm falling back to the ground. A few last sparks sputtered from his body, but then even those died out. There was no life left. And if robots truly didn't have souls or something resembling them, Bass truly was no more.

Megaman just stared at the broken form blankly, his bluish-green eyes widening in horror. Never in his life had he thought he would ever see Bass like this. Bass had always seemed invincible . . . indestructible. . . . Even in their battles, Bass never seemed to get hurt that badly, save for his pride. He was always back right away with a new attempt at defeating his rival. But throughout this entire mission, it had been different. They had been forced to become allies to destroy a mutual evil. And then Wily had decided to destroy the both of them.

A haunting, wailing howl interrupted all of Megaman's thoughts and he turned to look at Treble. The dog had been nudging Bass again, trying to get a response. When he didn't get one, and he knew that he wouldn't, Treble had looked up at the sky and began a mournful cry for his friend. It chilled Megaman many times over.

"I'm sorry," he whispered shakily. "I'm sorry, Treble. . . ."

A new thought occurred to him and he began looking around worriedly for Rush, realizing that he hadn't seen his own dog since the explosion. A slight panic had started to form as he could find no trace of the red canine unit, but then he found that he had no need for concern.

"You should be more careful," a calm voice remarked as Protoman stepped out of the shadows. Rush was at his side, and upon seeing Megaman, he ran over, barking joyously.

Megaman had to chuckle softly as the dog displayed his pleasure at being reunited with him, but any cheerfulness he had was soon replaced by a sad, sinking feeling when Treble's howls refused to cease. "Bass," he whispered brokenly. "Bass is. . . ."

Protoman came closer, laying a hand on Megaman's shoulder. "I know," he replied, "and I know why. I must admit, I wasn't expecting him to do what he did." He looked off ahead at the darkened sky, dotted with stars. "I told Bass earlier, when I destroyed Wily's plans to build the second King, that he didn't fight for anything the way you did. I wonder if maybe that wasn't entirely true." He heaved a sigh. "Bass did want to stop King, after all. I don't know . . . I figured he probably just didn't like the idea of another robot being stronger than him. But maybe he does have some kind of principles and moral code." He frowned. "I mean . . . maybe he did."

Megaman looked down. "I think so," he said quietly. "And I don't think that he only rescued me because . . . because he didn't want something other than him to defeat me." He had to smile slightly when he said it, though. That was so like Bass, to say something like that. He would hide his true feelings and motives no matter what it took. And now he was gone.

Protoman was silent for a moment. "What are you going to do with him?" he asked finally. "I doubt you want Wily to get hold of the remains. He'd destroy everything left." He could see that Bass was too damaged to be rebuilt, so he didn't even mention the possibility of Wily trying to do so. But he had the feeling that Wily wouldn't create another robot that looked or acted like Bass, not after everything that had happened. But then again, Wily never seemed to learn his lesson.

Megaman had thought of Wily's intentions already. But he didn't know what to do with Bass's body now. "I guess . . . the only thing I can do is take him back home," he said finally. "And Treble. . . ." He looked back at the wolfdog as he continued to lament his loss. "I can't just abandon him. He'll have to come back too."

Protoman nodded slowly.

It was very late into the night by the time Megaman had managed to get Bass completely free of the castle's debris. He looked at the robot who had been his rival for so long, seeing the expression of slight pain gracing his features. There were still the purplish markings on either side of Bass's face, though the red eyes were closed now. His odd helmet, which almost reminded Megaman of the headdresses worn by ancient Pharaohs, was tilted slightly, revealing lavender-colored hair poking out. Gently Megaman laid him down in the grass.

Treble watched all of the proceedings, helping where he could, and then finally laid by his master's side for the last time, staring at him with sad eyes as he whined softly. He was alone now. Without Bass, he was alone.

Megaman petted Rush slowly as he watched the scene, his own eyes melancholy. "You were fighting for something, Bass," he said quietly. "I guess . . . no one really realized it for a long time, maybe not even you. But . . . I think you figured it out before the end—you were fighting for acceptance, both from others and from yourself. And . . . I think you were the real hero here. You really did have a good heart, deep down. If things had been different . . . I think we could've been friends." The moonlight gently splashed over Bass's prone body, giving a slight glow to the armor. Treble, though knowing that Bass was gone, laid his head on the human-like robot's shoulder, being careful not to further disturb the damage. Rush whined softly, leaning against Megaman and being grateful that his master wasn't destroyed, though he felt sorry for Treble. Megaman sighed sadly, holding his dog close, and then stood up, surveying the destruction around them. At last he spoke.

"We need to go."

Rush stood as well, making his way over to Treble. The other dog growled softly at first, not wanting to be disturbed, but then finally got up as well. He looked back down at Bass, knowing he had to resign himself to the fact that his master wouldn't be getting up. But it wouldn't be easy. From the very first moment when he had been activated, Bass had been there. And he had treated Treble in a kind way, though to most others it appeared that Bass was only vengeful and rude. No one would able to take Bass's place, not even if Megaman proved to be kind as well, as he seemed to be.

Megaman looked at Treble sadly. "I know it'll be hard," he said. "And I wish Bass was still here for you. But he'd want you to move on." He knew he couldn't take the place of Treble's master. He wouldn't blame the dog if Treble decided to suddenly attack him. But if Treble was willing, Megaman was willing to "adopt" him now.

Treble whined again.

Protoman came out from where he had been among the shadows, mostly just silently watching. "Let's go," he said then. Then the two brothers and the two dogs teleported away, together with Bass's body in tow. They left behind the site of Wily's castle, where Bass had proven the nature of his true self.


Megaman read over King's letter once again, a slight wistful smile coming over his features as he sat in the grass outside Dr. Light's laboratory. He remembered how happy he had been when Roll had first brought him the letter upon his arrival home just before the dawn. King wanted to repent. He said in his letter that it was only because of the battle with Megaman that he had been able to realize that Wily's way was wrong. Now King wanted to make amends for the wrongs he had committed.

The blue robot set the letter down quietly and looked up at the sky, rich with its sunset colors of pink, orange, lavender, and red. "What do you think of that, Bass?" he spoke aloud to the silence of the wind. "I know not everyone will listen to me, like you said . . . but King listened. He wants to turn good now. He isn't going to listen to Wily, just like you decided not to listen to him anymore."

Megaman leaned back against a tree and looked over sadly at Treble, who was laying in the grass sullenly and hadn't moved for several hours. Once they had gotten home, Treble had immediately retreated to this spot on the lawn and had remained there all day long. Nothing anyone did could coax him into moving.

"Treble misses you, Bass," Megaman quietly said now. "And . . . well, I do too. I didn't get the chance to even thank you for what you did. In a way it kind of seems like saying thank you isn't good enough." He sighed sadly, looking down at the grass. "I knew you had good inside you. I just never thought you'd prove it to me like that."

Maybe it was only his imagination, but Megaman could have almost sworn he heard Bass answering him.

Prove it? I proved nothing. Don't read more into things than there is. And don't mope around, Megaman. Go on with your ridiculous idealistic concepts. Who knows. Maybe you'll actually accomplish something. And someday we'll battle again. I vow it.

Megaman looked around, blinking in surprise, but there was nothing to be seen and Treble hadn't seemed to hear anything. "Guess it was just my imagination," Megaman sighed then, again turning his attention to the sky as the sun disppeared completely and twilight began to set in.