Author's Note: Side-tracked!

Sorry all, I've been busy IRL, learning and working. As such, it's left me with little time to continue my writing. However, I do have some good news on this!

I've got about 1/3 of the next chapter written. There's going to be more as well, but you see, I've gotten the hankering to do a bit of writing in a slightly different genre. Two, actually. Mega Man (think the in-between of the Classic and X series), and Tales of Symphonia. I'll be back on this ASAP, though. Sorry to all who are waiting on the next chapter. In thanks... well, here's the 1/3. lol

Review Responses

Hotshot45: Short and sweet as always. Thanks for the continued support.

ngrey651: I'm glad you like my characterization of the 'Dragoon. I always liked the traitor, and at least now he gets a little more screen time than as a Ryu/Ken clone and an explosion, right?

Jazzerman: Hehe, were you the only one to catch that joke? I figured that I needed a little fun, after all, and that one was a little too hard to pass up. Plus, it fit well with the series this is based in.

Zaisha: Yes, Zero's testing procedure is cruel even by Reploid standards. Cain might be a recluse, and X might not like to fight, but neither of 'em could stand by and watch a cyborg get ripped to shreds.

Cor Strike FX: Whoa there! Easy fella, relax on the NoDoze and caffeine, will ya? I'm glad that you're happy that I'm back, but unfortunately my updates are gonna be few and far between for a while. Just let me know when you've finished your little MMX ficlet, and I'll stop by.

starfighter48: Um... thanks to you, too. I'm glad that you're enjoying my first real MMX-type fic.

Archaon: Thanks for the summary of the action for the first 8 chapters. And yes, X's buster does begin as a mk.17. However, keep in mind that in every game (not counting Command Mission) since X1 that he uses the standard blue suit normally, he retains the same power of attacks from the buster. Also, not it's not until X5 that he starts out with a full suit of armor (normally) that came from the previous game. So, he would upgrade from mk.17 to, say, mk.20 or 21 in that instance. And yes, I am really, really harsh on my characters. This is to keep people from thinking that this is a self-insertion fic, mostly.

Aria6: I'm glad you're enjoying my main characters' misery. lol

And now, to the story. I again apologize for the lateness of this update, but writer's block got to me... along with real life. Mostly real life.

A hidden base

"I really hate waiting." came the disembodied voice. It was rare that there was a voice in this small bunker. It wasn't so much a base as a foxhole close to the Maverick Hunter HQ. In fact, it was in the basement ruins of the original Maverick Citadel. Where Zero had died, and Mega Man X became a true hunter in his own right. The voice had come almost absent-mindedly from one of the speakers of the computer where the originator of the voice was now. The screen was static, and there really wasn't anything around. Not even a single mechaniloid at all. This small facility had been created by the Maverick Hunters after the first part of the original uprising, but was rarely ever monitored. Mavericks never went back to the same place they had already been, for some reason... except, now, for one.

The room was dark and stuffy- no air travel worth mentioning, and there just wasn't a whole lot to look at. There were chairs and such- a storage room, and a weapons locker in case Maverick Hunters were somehow forced off the main base. It was rather small... and there was only one door leading in or out. That one door was quickly forced open as a tall, somewhat thin reploid walked into the little facility. The disembodied voice looked coldly over to the newcomer with its sensors, and found the maverick signature that it had expected. The figure was in red pain... no hair from behind it. Which was an obvious good thing, since that meant it wasn't the Maverick Hunter known as Zero.

"Reporting as ordered." came the flat voice from the reploid that had entered. It had shoulder guards that stuck upwards, as if a bull was looking to ram something. The eyes were red as well, though it had painted blue around them to make them stand out more. The reploid was obviously male in build, and was a bit heavier than its build suggested it would be. Each step that the reploid took resounded on the cement flooring- cement, not duracrete like was normally used these days. The red reploid came to rest in front of the screen, which was still filled with static. The disembodied voice made no sound as the reploid began its report.

"There is one reploid that was infected but is now infection free. According to the logs at the base, she was nearly overrun by the virus but her conciousness was physically removed from the infected body. She is, as of now, completely virus free." the reploid said, to which the disembodied consciousness would have physically shivered, if it had been capable of it. It knew much about what that was like, after all. "Also, low level virus spreads have infected several of the hunters. 80 of them were found and deleted. However, one Maverick Hunter in particular has shown to continue with the infection. Estimates show that Dragoon, Magma will obtain full Maverick Virus infection within 5 years. The agent, Double, knows nothing yet of his being an agent for the master."

It took a few moments for the consciousness inside the computer to consider this information carefully. "So..." the disembodied voice said aloud finally. "Sigma has finally decided to try another uprising, so shortly after his near brush with true death." it mused. It knew that Sigma didn't have the resources right now to pull out many more stops. It would be probably around 5 years until the next uprising would take place. Sigma enjoyed being ready, but the conciousness in the computer knew better. This time, Sigma had thrown everything into taking over Doppler before the anti-virus program could be perfected. He'd had his hand forced to be played before he was truly ready. With Sigma's resources in Doppler Town gone, the virus master would have to lay low... There weren't many maverick facilities left in the world, after all.

"Very well. Continue monitoring the situation. Expand your search to the Repliforce as well. I have heard rumors of Zero becoming interested in a reploid there, and I would know more of this situation." the voice said, and to that the red reploid bowed and turned to head off out the door. The voice directed its own communications array towards the Maverick Hunter's base, even as it transported itself to a smaller drive, which was shielded against any intrusions. The conciousness went into remission, cutting off everything save its sensors for the wait for the next report that would come at the end of the week.

Global Council, secret location

It was a slow day for Senator Gerald Bradley, up until the report of another cyborg having joined the maverick hunters came in. The courier delivered the information on paper- it was something that he preferred. Data files could be hacked into, but nothing could scan a paper through other papers when it was filed in a titanium crafted, magnetic field repelling file cabinet. "Well now..." the aged senator said under his breath as he looked over the multiple page report. The instances that brought the young man to the Maverick Hunters, the second Maverick Uprising. The horrendous crash that had nearly killed him almost put a dent in the smile on the older man's face. Almost. This man had seen worse in his day- one time, when he was a child, he had been playing near the train station that was taken over by Charge Man during Wily's fifth Robot Rebellion.

The three laws those days had been nearly destroyed by that madman, if it hadn't been for Dr. Light, he knew. And those three laws were constantly in jeopardy, again and again, thanks to the Mavericks. Humans could fight but could not get past the advantages that the reploids enjoyed. Teleporting long distances in less than a minute. Being able to carry high-grade weaponry on their person. To be able to survive extreme heat and cold temperatures. They had no true need to eat food, nor for oxygen either. They could survive even if the planet's atmosphere was completely burned away somehow. All they needed were sources of power for their generator, after all. With all that going for them, more and more humans had pushed for the creation of reploid armies to replace human ones.

Of course, that was until the Maverick Virus was discovered, during this last Uprising. First by Dr. Doppler, and then researched and confirmed by human and reploid scientists alike all around the world. It seemed that Doppler even created a vaccine, and according to the intel reports, Zero had managed to force feed it to the virus. But there was something that the GC knew that the rest of the world didn't. In fact, the Global Council knew this information, above and beyond that which the Maverick Hunters could possibly know for certain. This information was vital to the Maverick Hunters survival, and rumor had it that X, Zero, and that damned Dr. Cain had to know about it all himself.

Sigma was alive. Presumed missing in action, but alive. A virus, after all, multiplies and invades. The rest of the world seemed to dismiss the possibility that the Sigma Virus still existed, but the Global Council knew better. The Maverick Virus existed in all reploids that had been exposed to it at one time or another. There was no evidence pointing to the virus having been completely destroyed. Without no evidence that it was purged from every computer in the world, there was no reason to believe that it was gone for good. And because of that, the Bradley and the Council wanted the Hunters under jurisdiction, once and for all.

A private army, created by Cain Labs in order to defeat the Maverick threat had been the key to survival in the last two uprisings. But now, with a true lull between the attacks, the Council wanted them. But Cain was in the way. That damned archaeologist! Bradley sighed as he remembered the first orders that were given merely two weeks ago to the man, during the very middle of the operation against Sigma's citadel, that Cain was to hand over the Maverick Hunters and their facilities. Lock, stock, and barrel were to be at the Global Council's beck and call. But Cain had lawyers and the rights given to him during the emergency of the first uprising to back up his claims and ownership of the hunters.

"We must have them... if not the hunters, then the Repliforce." Bradley mused. The boy that had been found having become at least 90 percent reploid was perhaps a future key to the Hunters. However, that would likely have to wait until the end of the next Uprising, or at least a year or two if they were careful enough. Whenever it came to reploids, humans could not endure as long. But Bradley knew that humans would win the numbers game. Their ingenuity, intelligence, and sheer will to endure could overpower any reploid. Despite the three laws basically instilling such comparable capabilities, they were, after all, only machines. Bradley grinned a little, but there was something in the back of his mind that nagged at him- was that really all there was to them? At least, there were two that showed more signs of humanity than a mere robot should possess...

"Just like the Blue Bomber." he mused. Robots were ordered to do what they did. There was no way to blame a robot for something like that. For them, the three laws were the laws of their very lives. Even thinking about disobeying them would likely result in a neural collapse and memory wipe. The core of the machine would shut down, and anything saved within it until then would be gone. But there were legends, half-truth whispers of rumors that he had heard back in the day that the original Mega Man had nearly been pushed to the edge in the drive to keep Wily from taking over the world with his modified robots and their twisted laws. He had heard that on more than one occassion, Mega Man had been capable of ending Wily's life.

And, ironically, the human race was tired of the man. He would have eventually been put to death. Before the seventh rebellion, he had been waiting on Death Row when his robots freed him. But no, his only true time for death would have been at the hands of a robot that, beyond anything ever known by then, was incapable of dealing to the demented doctor the only sentence that would have rid the world of his madness forever. In the end, Mega Man was merely a machine as far as anyone knew. The laws held firm in his mind. The metaphorical trigger had never been pulled, the shot of death never injected. Light died of old age as the years of 20XX continued on, and it was never proven how or if Wily had ever submitted to the sands of time as well.

But leave it to the two doctors who helped to save humanity to leave humanity their final hope in Mega Man X. Wily had contributed perhaps the most, for X knew many of the things that had happened in the early-to-mid 20XX era. The robot rebellions. Their attack patterns. Test results garnered from the Maverick Hunters regarding holographic simulations of the robot rebellions during the rookie X's stages showed that he blasted through almost all of them with little to no damage. Only the few robots, such as Shadow Man, Quick Man, and those from the seventh rebellion had managed to do any true damage to the founder of the reploid race. X was the next generation Mega Man, there was no doubt about it. Leave it to a family of robots to let the world have its peace.

Bradley pushed aside these thoughts, closing his eyes before he reached to the phone and dialed in a number as he picked up the reciever. As it rang, he punched in another code, and then put the reciever back into place before he smiled a bit. The information was sent to the council members whom he found most trustworthy. Within an hour, he would know how best to proceed with their intentions in mind. And the boy, Arik... well, he would quite likely be a pawn in their game. Whether he consented to it or not, however, was of little consequence. He was too young to know better about the Global Council, even if Cain had warned the lad about them. There were ways around the small things, after all. And all the while, he knew that the GC's master goal was continuing and getting closer to completion as the years continued.

Maverick HQ

The main building was 35 stories tall, with 15 of them underground. Each story was almost half a mile long and a half mile in diameter. Ten meters of reinforced durasteel and duracrete provided the framework of the building, making it jokingly referred to as the modern-age castle. The headquarter level was underground, with a shaft in the back of the building providing a turbolift straight upwards for emergency purposes. The underground levels were restricted to all but officers, administrative staff, and those with special clearance. Regular elevators abounded throughout the building, to the point where the map was difficult enough to use without turning to a search feature in the program to decide the fastest course of action. There was a ten story R&D building, almost as large as the main HQ, and a four story repair facility beside it. A 20 story building lay a mile out from the main base, nearest to the public entrance, was the visiting center and public relations office buildings. Beyond the R&D facilities, that were to the north of the main HQ, and to the west was a 15 story building that was the Maverick Hunter dormitories. An extension was being constructed as well, from what Arik knew from experience.

A relatively small 5 story building beside the headquarters was the living quarters for the main officers of the maverick hunters, as well as guest facilities for those staying overnight. That was where the commanders of the different squads stayed, though some elected to remain with their squads in the dormitories. The Cain Labs facility had a five-story surface level, a three-story airborne structure that was reminiscent of the still-standing Space Needle in the USA, and eight underground levels. Each facility was at work on some project or another, according to the information gleaned from the program, though there was no true information on what exactly was being studied.

Arik sighed as he glanced up to the ceiling. The tests had finally ended... save for the last one. That one was slated for today. This one would actually decide my combat status. Further testing on marksmanship, tech savvy, strategic sense, ingenuity, and speed/agility courses had taken up my time for the last week. Not only my time, but the time of the others in my testing class. The others had all been reploids, I remembered. Most were of the third generation types or newer, and of various sizes and builds. Several were in the image of jungle cats, and as expected with their streamlined bodies had performed very well in their speed and strategic tests. Still others were of various capabilities and builds. There was a Kraken-style reploid, who had performed poorly in all tests other than tech savvy so far, but this combat test would have all sorts of different conditions that they would be forced into, so the reploid would definitely have his time to shine.

There were about half a dozen humanoid reploids that did well in various ways... there was even one that was ape-like that was quite tech savvy and rather ingenious, but pretty clumsy when it came to speed and strategy. Ayumi had actually done perfectly compared to everyone else when it came to being strategic, and had gotten good marks everywhere else. When I brought up my own scores, I couldn't keep the smile hidden. According to my test scores, I'm very tech savvy- hell, even Cain called up and commented that those were the scores he expected to see from the kid before Dr. Cain had been summoned away by a GC call. High marks in strategy and tech, average in others, and just barely above average when it came to speed and agility. My lighter frame made it difficult for me to possibly utilize the famous "triangle jump" maneuver that those with dash thrusters were capable of. It was found that I could, however, jump farther than most reploids his size thanks to his own dash thrusters and light weight, but he just couldn't dig his feet into the walls as other reploids could, and launch himself upwards. The wall was still dented where I had 'landed' as a result of my first jump. And I'd had a migraine for the rest of the day, too.

It was also found that unlike a few other modified cyborgs, he also couldn't dash while in the air. Not vertically or horizontally, not in the slightest. It had been rather disappointing to learn this, but Arik consoled himself that his systems hadn't been fully tested, nor had my full energy reserves and functions been fully taxed. Today, they would be, and I knew that I'd be able to figure out my full limits. As would the entire class, no less. This would test out everyone's physical and mental capabilities, one-on-one if the little lecture that they had been given yesterday had been any indication.

The testing was to take place in an hour from now, at the recruit training center. It was a 10 story building, though only half of them were above ground. The ceiling was also used, and the center was also known as the "Wreck Center" for the other reploids that were already past the recruit stage. Each level simulated different terrain features that could be found, or had been found, in various areas around the world. Locations would be holographically projected or actually created to simulate the harshness of the environments in question. It was rumored that the designs were taken directly from Commander X's memory banks regarding the previous uprisings, as well as speculated designs of even earlier opponents against robot masters from the Age of Robots. Wily's Rebellion robots, that is.

A chime came from the door, and Arik sat up from his stasis module. It was actually more like a bed, though rather snug to say the least. The size of a twin bed and yet larger so as to form the recharge capsule, it rested against the wall and was capable of moving upwards if needed for ease of cleaning underneath. "Come in." the cyborg said aloud, and that caused a small red LED to change to green at his voice. The door slid open, and in walked a reploid in green base armor and silver rim. Only the reploid's face remained familiar, since I had only seen this particular reploid in her armor beforehand. She wasn't Ayumi, obviously, and it did take me a moment to remember her from a week or so ago. "Heya Gwen. What's up?" I asked her as she smiled and came into my quarters.

"Not much. Just got told to come down here and tell you what armament you'll be given so you can be ready for your tests today." she told me, and I nodded slightly. I could guess as to what the techs had come up with, but I knew that it was best to let her tell me, rather than make an ass of myself by guessing incorrectly. The female reploid walked over to sit against the reinforced desk, and it amazed me to see just how human like she was when she sighed. It was like a girl leaning against a wall after they'd been walking a while to relax, I thought to myself. "You'll be given the Mk.14 buster. The techs actually designed it just for you. They managed to come up with some sorta device to allow you to at least be on par with most reploids... but you only get one level of charge shot with it. Let's just say you won't be giving me a run for my money." she said, and I couldn't help but to laugh at that.

"Great... am I gonna be another guinea pig, Gwen?" I couldn't help but to ask. When I wasn't training or testing with the class, I'd been spending time with Ayumi, or even Double once in a while. Other than that, the techs had been going over my data and frame strength, to see how a cyborg could be upgraded with the newest in technology. Double had been relegated to a more support role almost immediately, and had been taken out of our class early on. Gwen looked kinda thoughtful for a moment before he nodded in agreement and gave me a small smile. Yup. "Figures... Still, if they're sure that they worked the kinks out, I guess I'll be able to stay alive for a while in the combat tests today." I commented. Gwen smirked, and I couldn't help thinking that I really should just shut up once in a while.

"Don't worry, they'll give you a secondary weapon of some sort, I bet. Probably a magnetic rifle or something. I've used one in combat before, and believe me, they pack a wallop." she hinted, before slipping from the table and back to my door. "Anyway, good luck Arik. Hope to see ya in one piece after the tests are over. I've got a hundred zenny riding on the fact that you'll survive." she said as she gave me a smug grin. She reached the door and it opened automatically so she could walk through the open doorway. The door closed a few seconds afterwards, all without waiting for a response from me. I shrugged and pulled up the internal clock, and groaned a bit. Damn, only a few more minutes before I should head out to the Wreck Center, I saw. With a shrug, I walked out from my quarters and down the hall to the exit. No need to waste time here when I could go and get outfitted early, right?

But it was no more than a minute after I exited the lift that led outside that I found myself walking beside a humanoid reploid that I had never met before. The reploid looked as if it was a flagpole, from the way that it was walking stiffly. That, or it had just got off the assembly line with some sort of problem with the installation of it's legs, anyway. I found myself looking to the reploid after a moment, and then it turned to face me before I found myself wincing and looking away from a sudden burst of information flowing between us. The reploid continued walking, but I was forced to lean against the side of the nearby dorm building. One hand rested against it, palm against the duracrete as I gasped for air- not that I really needed it anymore, but there was a sudden pain in my head as my processes began to get scrambled. Priorities began to shift in my body, even as the document that had been sent to me opened itself. My mind had gone through a sudden thought process that would have chilled me to the bone if I was still in my human body, but instead my body went rigid as everything other than the document and my life support shut down. On the edge of panic, I was completely unaware of time as I forced myself to look it over.

The letter

To Mr. Silwat,

It has come to this organization's attention that you have joined the Maverick Hunters. We applaud your decision, for we feel that any human would do well in a reploid-based organization as that one. However, we believe that because the Maverick Hunters are a privately owned organization, that they are not funded as well as they should be, and are therefore possibly unable to respond effectively to all threats that may be upcoming. Thanks to two of their ranks, Sigma has been defeated, and we feel it is time to try and increase the numbers of humans in the ranks of the Maverick Hunters. Our organization has become aware of your possibilities, and we are willing to help you to succeed in your endeavors in this new capacity.

However, it is required that we obtain vital information that only the Maverick Hunters possess. Such as, any and all information regarding the Sigma virus that might be withheld from public knowledge. Any and all information regarding Unit 0 and Unit 17 leaders, Zero and X. In-depth analysis of the previous Maverick uprisings, including any and all records gained from Maverick Hunter X from the first uprising, as well as the second. Also regarding the X-hunter incident of the first uprising. This information is required to provide better response times and more effective and efficient reploids in the future.

We will be in contact with you within two weeks, at any random time. You will be unable to resist our programs, as we are capable of looking up your specifications and any alterations created to try and change your specs from what they are as of this moment. This document will self-delete within 10 seconds after you have read this. If at the future time you wish to join in our efforts to make the world safer by providing us with the information that we have requested, we shall be able to ensure your success in the future as well, in whatever capacity you wish.

After the letter

I groaned inwardly- it must be the GC, from what Dr.Cain had warned me of when I had first joined the Hunters. I could feel my body's hardware shutdown, the strange ambient noise finally shut off for the first time ever. Panic set in my head... my brain, really. I couldn't sense anything more. I couldn't see, couldn't feel, could hear, or do a thing. Time passed, blackness flowing through my mind as I felt myself fade. But, finally, there was warmth that displaced the cold that told me something was happening. There was that slight electric hum that I could usually sense, vaguely, in the back of my head. Information began to flow, and relief flooded me as I shivered again. A full shutdown- that had been something that I had forced out of my realm of possibilities, shortly after I had recieved my new body. That had been a forced restart of my system, just to get rid of... of that letter?

The diagnostics came on and sight came back to me. Then feeling, and there was the sense of being jostled about as someone held onto me. At first, my sight was fuzzy, and then it came back to me before I could begin panicking again. "Arik! Hey, Arik!" came a familiar voice. It wasn't Ayumi, or Gwen... and it certainly wasn't one of the Commanders I'd met in the past week. It was Double, and his face was filled with concern as I managed to focus on him. He was already armored, and wearing a bit of a ridiculous helmet- the kind that a punter in american football usually wore.

"Wha... where's that tall reploid?" I asked, moving to stand upright as soon as the diagnostics finished. No faults detected, but I was shaken up a bit thanks to the fact that I could've died if my body hadn't rebooted in time. "Dammit... Global Council..." I muttered, unaware of the fact that my arms had fallen to my sides during the whole process. Double was looking up at me, and then looked around as he obviously heard what I had asked. GC reploids were usually not allowed on base, but of course all of them were hidden and remained that way. Afterall, one can't infiltrate another organization unless they can hide within it. The Global Council consisted of just about every nation in the world that remained from before the 20XX years. Only Japan and China remained independant from the full reaches of the council.

"Arik, in case you haven't noticed... almost all the reploids around here are tall compared to me." the yellow reploid responded, to which I rolled my eyes and sighed. A good point, but sarcasm was something I didn't need at the moment to say the least. Quickly, I created a message and sent it off to Dr. Cain with priority on it, describing what had just happened. Double blinked, and I could guess that he had sensed the transmission- I'd heard that reploids that were navigators were capable of sensing that sorta thing. I stretched a bit, and nodded slightly before I realized the time hadn't changed at all since I had shut down to be forced to read that message.

"Dammit. Double, do you have the time?" I asked him, and was replied to with an answer that I truly didn't want to hear. I only had a few more minutes before the testing began on the recruits, but it was pretty likely that I'd be forced to wait my turn, since everything would be done alphabetically. Reploids rarely had more than a single name, but when it came to humans and cyborgs... Last name, then first name, just like normal. "Sorry Double, but I gotta go. That test is gonna start up soon." I told him, and then I took off running for the Wreck Center. I'd heard that anyone late was gonna get the difficulty rating increased compared to what it would've been on the default setting.

"Good luck!" he called after me, and I just waved as I continued to run.

Wreck Center

"Ayumi! Front and Center!" the gruff voice came, and the oldest member of the class came forward to face the red, dragon-like reploid who was standing just before the holographic training level. She wore a sky blue suit of armor, augmented in several places by additional thruster ports. She saluted the commanding officer before her- Magma Dragoon. He had recovered from the loss of his unit, and as such was now awaiting new troops to be placed under his command. The Dragoon had a personal interest in this batch, since these new recruits were the first batch to be trained since the second Maverick Uprising. Beside the Dragoon was his unit's Technical Supporter, his navigator in her pink armor. And Ayumi's friend, Alia. In the time since Ayumi had been reconstructed, she had been taught many things by Alia in her time away from Arik.

It was at that time that Arik managed to arrive, the boy's heavy boots coming to a halt beside the other members of his training squad. The Dragoon noticed this, but since he was busy with the blue armored reploid, did not bother to reprimand the cyborg instead. "Cadet, get ready for the simulation. The goal is to save as many humans as you can from mechaniloid attack while attempting to reach where the maverick general is attacking the population. Or maybe you'll be facing robots. Given your testing results, and the fact that this is randomized, the computer will send you a signal once your mission begins, and it will tell you what you will be facing. This will happen for all of you cadets, including those of you who were late in arriving here." the Dragoon stated, turning to glare at the cyborg.

Arik sighed at the obvious standing out that the Dragoon had made of him, but said nothing. It took Magma Dragoon to set the plan into motion for the quite literally reformed Ayumi, and then she was gone, teleported away in a haze of light blue into the air, and then down again into the building a second later. After setting up a link to the inside of the holographic testing room, the Dragoon turned and gazed at the remaining cadets before telling them to teleport away as well. One by one, they were gone, until that left Arik alone in the prep room with the dragon-like humanoid reploid. "Cadet Silwat, since there aren't enough test rooms, you may as well get comfortable. As soon as one becomes open within a few hours, it'll be your turn." he told the young cyborg.


I stood in place, after the commander told me that I'd have to wait. I simply was kinda stunned by the way that the commander spoke to me, as if he was looking down on me. But then, I remembered that there was certainly a good reason for it. I wasn't a reploid. I was somewhere between human and reploid, after all, and as such certainly not near as powerful as he was. "However, before that..." he said, and the Dragoon turned to face the wall, where there was some sort of strange gauntlet on a table beside it. "That's the blaster that R&D wants you to use." he told me. I walked over to it, and lifted it off the tray. The gauntlet even had a hand on it, which was rather surprising to me. The other one I'd tried had no actual hand port, due to the extreme plasma heat that would be fired.

"Interesting..." I said quietly, though I was unaware that the Dragoon wasn't even paying any attention to me anymore. He was busy monitoring the progress of my fellow recruits, I could tell. Dragoon's breathing had lessened and he stood completely still- he wasn't even using his active sensors. I shrugged, and set the gauntlet down on the table that it had been on before. I took off my gray gauntlet easily, and I looked at the suit before shaking my head. This thing needs a paint job, I thought to myself. My entire armor suit was almost the standard steel gray color, though I did have it darkened a bit more. I didn't like the idea of having it changed to whatever other color had been shown before. Pure black, red, blue... some god-awful yellow?

The gauntlet was left the same dark gray that I had chosen to go with, and I flexed my hand as it came out from the gauntlet that I had been wearing. It took only a moment for me to slide the new one on, and the fingers of the special heat resistant gloves fit snug around each of my fingers in turn. The thing immediately registered in my systems, and the schematics came up to my sight as I pulled up the specs of the new gauntlet. It wasn't just one single buster, I found from the design. As I went over the design, I sent a signal to the buster to change mode from mobile to buster. My hand was swallowed by the extension of the gauntlet. From the middle portion extended a nozzle, but was strange was that I felt my hand seem to grip at a bar that grew from the sides of the inside of the gauntlet. With my fingers and thumb wrapped around it, a type of 'door' slid shut in front of my fist.

From around what used to be the opening that my hand had extended from came a trio of nozzles. These nozzles extended about four inches. The placement wasn't directly in the middle, but was actually to the sides- two alongside where my forearm was, and one on top of that pair. The design that I had pulled up in my mind showed that it was a rotary buster, something that actually alternated in energy expending. It was a unique design- within half a second, I could have three shots fired off, and it even allowed for a second level charge. That would be something to see, I could tell, and the memory chips of the gauntlet seemed to make a correct correction as I felt it shift and 'snap' into place on my arm. With that, diagnostics came online and potential energy expenditures came to mind, taking over from where the specification screens had been. I let the diagnostics come on and I felt a small sap of my power systems as it took a fair amount of energy to do the required test.

I stood still as it accessed my memory banks for history of energy expenditures, to the previous tests that I had taken before this to calculate the safe zone of energy usage. I turned the screens off but left the program to prompt me once the results had been obtained. This required a level of minute management that I knew not even reploids cared to worry about, so I wasn't too interested in it myself. I knew that due to the safety features of my reploid body would regulate the safety zones unless overriden for some reason, which I doubted that I'd have to do. Time seemed to go by quickly as the diagnostic worked it's magic- off to the bottom of my vision was a small bar that kept filling up slowly. It was less than a third of the way done when I finally looked to a clock on the wall and saw that an hour and a half had gone by already.

No one had returned yet, I noticed, though there were a number of reploids that were hooked into the viewing ports. They could watch any 'channel' of any of the rookies, I knew, and I figured that I was being considered the main event. No cyborg had passed Class C for posting before, and from what our previous test commander had told me, and that was a total of three tests. Starting at a Class E and working up towards the higher classes, I was going up a steep hill that I doubted anyone would think I would make too far up it. The diagnostic had finally almost finished after an in-depth analysis, and a moment later it had finished. The results posted for me, and I pulled up the stats for respectable, standard reploid buster design that had been issued to the other recruits. With beam sabers in short supply for any but officers, it was busters for all of us.

Six shots in a row, then a ten second recharge period would be required. That meant two full bursts! A second-level charge would require the same amount of time to charge enough power after before being able to charge up for the second level blast again, as well. A second level charge would take five seconds to be reached. Unlike most busters, this one only had memory for up to half a dozen different weapon types, and only of certain designs. Which made sense, given the limitations already stuck on the buster. No charge shots with alternate weapons either, which was something that I had hoped to utilize. But with the way that this delicate balance was being worked with, I knew I was lucky that the thing would work on a consistent basis. I pulled up another screen that had information on the types of weapons that I could access were- almost any projectiles, save for particle blasters and remote systems. Elemental weapons other than stones that were larger than 6-inches around. No homing weapons, it seemed, either.

The screens were closed and I looked over to the cadet line, to see that one of my fellow recruits had returned. It was one of the feline-like reploids, and he was standing beside a printout that was busy with processing his test results. That lag in my attack time is really going to slow me down, I considered. There was no way that a reploid wouldn't be able to take advantage of something like that. The blasts were weaker than a standard buster, but with the way that the shots and charged shot were more concentrated, at least I'd cause about 80 percent the damage that a normal Reploid could. With that information in mind, and the laughing of the entertained reploids behind me, I started changing the programming of the buster.

It was something that I'd learned how to do mechanically back in my parent's repair shop. We'd once in a while get a Maverick Hunter come in for some quick repairs, and my parents taught me how to tweak a damaged buster to the point where it was usable again... at a modified level, that is. I took the time to power down the weapon, and with a few switches in the weapon compartment, I turned it back on. I re-ran the diagnostics, and then grinned a bit as it finished up much faster this time. The firepower had been reduced to 65 pecent of a standard buster's, and it was a lot faster now, if I read it correctly.

"Cadet Silwat, front and center!" came the Dragoon's voice, and I powered back up completely before walking over to him. "Your testing room is the last one down the hall, on the right. Be ready the moment you step into the hologram room, kid. Your settings will be a little different when you enter the testing levels in that you will have more access to weapons other than your buster." he told me, and I saluted the reploid before he turned away. I turned and walked down that hallway at that. I could feel myself start to feel even more anxious than I had been before as I got closer to the door. The power generator that they'd fitted me with began to pump out energy at a faster rate, and I had to start breathing a bit more quickly in order to keep up with rise in temperature.

To be Continued...