DISCLAIMER: Megaman Zero and Megaman X are the property of Capcom.
NOTES: This story takes place after the events of Megaman Zero 2, disregarding the specific events of Z3 and Z4. Things from them may later be incorporated, but I had to pick some place for a starting point.
And big, BIG thanks go out to Megaraptor, for helping me with building up various plots and characters for this story. Not to mention, helping me out on a couple of scenes. Wouldn't have gotten the story off the ground without his help, so if you find that this is worth reading, make sure to thank him too. :P

Megaman Zero: Cursed Paradise
Act I - "The Rising Storm"
By Infinity Blade

Waves crashed against the rocky shores of New Sydney, violently and without mercy. Winds, likewise, tore through the air at such a high velocity that it would be enough to knock mere humans off their feet. Luckily for the Neo Arcadian Guardian Fighting Fefnir, he was quite far from human, and had little need to fear the brewing storm. The Reploid stood on a landing platform overlooking the sea, built for incoming and outgoing transports. It was thus something that got used very rarely there. From that point, nothing held the winds back from striking Fefnir. Feeling their force, he could tell that this city was in for a hell of a night.

To call New Sydney a city, though, was something of a stretch. It was, more than anything, a fully automated Neo Arcadian munitions facility. Located on the continent once known as Australia, which had become little more than an uninhabitable wasteland in the past couple centuries, it was one of the primary points of origin for Neo Arcadia's war machines. Or "defensive" weapons, as it were. It consisted of dozens of buildings which stretched for miles behind Fefnir, each one specializing in a particular kind of weapon. Be it the Pantheon drones, Golems of varying types, or huge, hulking mechaniloids. The rows of factories were brightly lit, bright enough that Fefnir could see the rapidly churning ocean below. It wouldn't be long now...

Fefnir didn't want to be there. A place where he was about the only fully sentient being for miles was the last place he wanted to get stuck. Yet, Harpuia had stuck him there. The "Sage" said that he wanted to make sure operations on their defensive units were still running smoothly. Fefnir, being a self-proclaimed expert on high-powered weapons, had been selected for the task.

He knew, however, that Harpuia's "official" reasons amounted to little more than scrap. Under normal circumstances, Fefnir would believe he had been assigned this task just to get him out of Harpuia's hair. This was definitely quite different. This was, indeed, a facility for building weapons. Deeper within the "city," however, there lied many storage areas that only those with top level clearance could even get near. Fefnir wasn't even sure he had that clearance, but all the same, Harpuia had requested he also check up on something in there...

Fefnir grunted. Of course, he still had to finish with his official tasks there before he could even think of anything else.

Despite all of this, though, his thoughts tended to keep going back to one thing. Something unrelated to any of this, but something that still got to him every moment he had to himself. It had been two months since that time... Two months since he had been messed with by Elpizo and those "Baby Elf" things. Not to mention, two months since Zero had last humiliated him...

Fefnir's fists clenched involuntarily. Ever since the incident with Elpizo, Neo Arcadia had been a mess. The human officials in the higher levels of their government had been in a panic for days following what had happened then. Cover-ups to hide everything that happened from the mass public of Neo Arcadia had been very extensive. The Guardians, even if they held extensive power, still had to bow down to the will of the human ruled Supreme Council, which had been left as the main governing force in the wake of X's death. Thus, when much of the blame for the incident had been shouldered on them, there was no choice but for them to take it. Though Harpuia held great power in swaying the Council to typically abide by his wishes, and as acting commander of much of Neo Arcadia in general, he probably caught the worst trouble out of any of them.

Thus, as they were cast in the negative light of failure in the public eye, any outward action the Guardians wished to take had to be run by the Council now. As such, when Harpuia wished to hold his own personal... "investigation" of certain things down in New Sydney, the only way to accomplish that was to wait until the Council wished for an inspection of their forces. Thus, here Fefnir was.

Then, there was Zero and the Resistance. In the two months that had passed, Harpuia hadn't done anything about them. Nor had Neo Arcadia done anything that would incite them into action. No mass Maverick round-ups. No strikes against suspected Resistance-held areas. Nothing. If anything, one would say that Neo Arcadia was so busy trying to get itself straightened out - again - that they didn't have time to worry about them.

Yet, there was something about Harpuia. Something about the way he acted, the way he would almost flat-out ignore Fefnir if he brought up Zero or the Resistance. There was something very odd going on with that so-called Sage, and it was bothering Fefnir extensively.

In the end, it came down to the fact that Fefnir was itching for a fight. It was really as simple as that, and he wasn't afraid to say it out loud. There hadn't been a single major battle in the past two months, and it was getting to the Guardian. Just the anticipation of when he would next run into Zero made him antsy. That damned blonde-haired Reploid had beaten him four times. Four times. Since his activation, Fefnir had never once lost a battle with someone. Not until he met Zero in that desert. Now, he was lucky to escape from his fights with his life intact. He needed to settle that score, whether Harpuia liked it or not.

Despite all of those thoughts, Fefnir's mouth twisted into a grin. The winds had picked up even more, and sheets of rain began to suddenly fall down upon the Earth. Even most Reploids who wouldn't be harmed by it wouldn't enjoy being out in this weather. Fefnir, however, was different. Being exposed to these harsh elements did nothing but give him an overwhelming, odd sense of freedom.

He snarled, raising his gun into the air. Grinning like a maniac, he sent power charging through the weapon. This storm was a massive force of nature... but then, so was he! As he fired off a volley of fireballs into the wind and rain, he realized that he might look like an idiot doing this to any given Reploid or human in their right mind. He really didn't care though. There was just something freeing about letting his power out, in the midst of something so much more powerful than he was. Knowing that, despite this storm's power, it couldn't push him back.

"Fighting Fefnir, sir," a droning, mechanical voice said behind him, nearly drowned out by the rain pelting down onto the landing platform.

Fefnir growled, dropping his gun and turning sharply to find a Pantheon standing there. The X-like drone held a data pad in its hands. "Whaddaya want?" Fefnir said, not sounding the least bit interested. One good thing about being there was that drones wouldn't care if he was rude.

"The maintenance information that you requested," the Pantheon stated, its central red "eye" lighting up as it spoke. The blue robot held out the data pad, and Fefnir just snatched it away. Having no capability for emotion or individual thought, the Pantheon showed no reaction to this.

Fefnir eyed the data pad, and another sigh escaped his mouth. As loads of information poured down the screen, it suddenly crossed his mind that he seriously needed to cuss Harpuia out when he got back. This was going to be such a pain to sort through...

Almost as soon as he thought that, he soon discovered he wouldn't have to be worrying about that data pad right away. Off in the distance, he heard something. Something that was a very familiar sound for him; an explosion. A very massive explosion that sent a shockwave throughout the entire area, rattling the landing platform considerably. Fefnir barely kept his footing, while the Pantheon, unable to react as quickly, fell over... and then just lied there.

Ignoring the drone, Fefnir dashed to the edge of the platform, careful not to slip on the rain drenched surface. In the distance, he could see massive amounts of smoke rising from a single building. Then came another explosion, and that building went toppling over. Another explosion erupted from a separate building. Then another. And another.

Cursing to himself, Fefnir took a leap off of the platform. The distance that he fell would, quite simply, instantly kill a human upon impact with the ground. Once again, he was always grateful to not have to worry about such short comings. Landing on the already soggy dirt, he went running as fast his legs could carry him in the direction of the explosions.

As he reached the area of the chaos, Fefnir discovered little else but a large cloud of smoke rising up into the sky. So many explosions had erupted, causing so many factory buildings to collapse, that visibility was down to almost nothing. Any other scanners Fefnir may have had were useless, as well, thrown off by either the rain or all of the burning rubble now strewn about. Who on Earth could have the guts to try an attack like this, smack dab in the middle of a mass of Neo Arcadian military factories?

Even with his willingness to charge into battle no matter the odds, Fefnir wasn't stupid, either. He could very easily have rushed in to find the threat, but he knew doing so could quite easily be suicide. Instead, though it pained him to do so, he stood his ground. He knew reinforcements wouldn't be far behind, and sure enough, he soon discovered two Golems - one standard model, and one with electric-charged weapons - coming up on either side of him. The large mechaniloids weren't exactly the most mobile fighters, only able to move at a slow but steady pace with the repulsor lifts that kept them aloft... but they were something. Signaling silently to them, the mechaniloids were able to understand enough to move forward into the cloud of dust and smoke.

Mere moments after that, however, there was a distinct sound of metal against metal... and of metal being cut. Sure enough, the upper half of electric model flew out of the cloud, tumbling along the wet ground. It had been cut cleanly, almost perfectly in half. There was another sound from the smoke, of the standard Golem firing off it's primary beam weapon. Then another cutting sound, and an explosion.

Fefnir braced himself, holding out his gun and charging it. As soon as he saw whatever this was, he'd be ready for it. This thing wouldn't know what hit it...

Finally, something emerged from the smoke. It was a Reploid, and one that wasn't much taller than Fefnir. She wore green armor with large shoulder pads, a chest plate, and a mask with a swept-back helmet. From the chest down, however, her armor was slim and form-fitting, which most likely granted her greater mobility and agility. She held a long halberd in her hands, the blade formed by green energy, smoke sizzling from it as rain struck the burning power.

Fefnir's eyes darted around. That couldn't be it. She couldn't be all that was here... how could someone like this slip through their detection like that? Snarling, he took aim for her. "I'm just gonna ask you one question before I blow your head off," Fefnir spat across the distance between them. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

The warrior said nothing. Instead, she dashed at him with an incredible level of speed. Fefnir was barely able to jump back in time, avoiding the swing of her weapon. As he hit the rain soaked ground, sliding back a couple feet before he stopped, Fefnir blinked hard. He hadn't even had the chance to shoot! Before he could even think to raise his gun, he saw her preparing to rush him again. Moving on pure instinct, Fefnir clenched his free hand into a fist and energized it, slamming it down into the ground and sending power surging through the Earth. The ground in front of him exploded as she neared him once more, catching the warrior in the attack and tossing her back.

Despite the fact that he had obviously caught her by surprise, she did a graceful mid-air flip and landed in a crouching position. This was a rather impressive feat for wearing that bulky armor, but Fefnir really couldn't care. All he cared about was the fact that he now had a clear shot. Not only that, but he could hear the sound of dozens of footsteps approaching their position. This wouldn't last much longer.

Jerking his gun up to aim at her again, he wasted no time in unleashing the charged shot he had been saving. Still getting back to her feet, the warrior was caught off-guard, and thus nailed by the oncoming fireball. She was knocked back, sliding across the slick ground until she finally collided with a piece of rubble.

Fefnir gave a howl of victory and began to run towards the downed opponent. She hadn't realized who she was up against! She should have known better than to just attack one of the great X's four (well, three) Guardians!

Pantheons were marching in from all sides. The sheer amount of drones that were now filling the area was just uncountable... Fefnir couldn't help but laugh, though. They were far too late. This was almost finished...

As Fefnir reached the warrior, still sprawled out against a hunk of twisted metal, he promptly stuck his gun in her face. "So, who sent you here, girlie?" the Neo Arcadian asked, grinning madly.

The blue eyes of the warrior opened, slowly.. and then quickly narrowed. "Sucker."

In the blink of an eye, she was back on her feet, grabbing Fefnir's neck and lifting him up into the air. He gasped, the sensation of pain surging through his system. A second after that, he found the warrior dashing along the ground at an insane rate, holding him out in front of her and making him crash through dozens of Pantheons. The moment following that, he found himself slammed up against the outer wall of a factory.

So fast... how could something with armor that big move so damn fast?

"Perhaps I'll get further if I speak to something with sentience, little thought that may be," the warrior said, her masked face right in his as she held him against the wall. "Plus, I reckon these drones aren't going to shoot you."

Fefnir looked out over the female's shoulder. Every single Pantheon present had their busters trained on her, but none would fire thanks to the fact that he would get caught up in it. Try as he might, Fefnir couldn't break out of her grip, either. In fact, he couldn't even move his right leg or his gun arm, nor feel them. They were still there, certainly, but slamming up against the wall with such speed and force seemed to have broken several things within him. All he had that could do him any good was his single good arm, and as he started to move it, she dropped her halberd and caught him by the wrist with her other hand. Slamming it up against the wall as well, she shook her head.

"No go, buddy," she said.

"Who... the hell..." Fefnir grunted, barely able to speak with her hand gripped around his neck.

"I'm Steel Massimo, for all that will matter," she said. "Now speak. What was being done in this facility with Project Eden?"

Fefnir's eyes widened, and he tried to give a growl that came out as more of a gurgle. Due to the way his head was tilted up, he found his mouth catching a lot of rain water... which he then spat out onto her face. She snarled, her grip on both his neck and wrist tightening. "Speak!"

Fefnir smirked. "Bitch." The palm of his working hand suddenly surged with energy... which shot straight into the hand that she was holding his wrist with. The power jolted through her body, and she jerked back involuntarily, thus releasing Fefnir from her hold. Unable to keep himself upright with a bag leg, Fefnir fell down, but not before slamming his energized fist into the ground at her feet. An explosion erupted from the ground, sending her straight up into the air.

Massimo landed hard when she finally came down. She didn't exactly have a quick time of getting back onto her feet, this time. As she finally did so, however, she found herself faced with all the Pantheons now focusing their aim on her. She was vastly outnumbered, and now without her weapon which laid at Fefnir's side. Her eyes narrowed, shooting a glare at Fefnir. Then, as the Pantheons began to open fire on her... she ran.

As she rounded a corner, out of his sight, Fefnir just laid on his back, letting the heavy rain smack him in the face. Something he felt he deserved very much right then. He had been cocky, and had let himself be taken advantage of. He was supposed to be one of the greatest warriors of Neo Arcadia, and yet...

Fefnir just sighed, closing his eyes. He couldn't move now. He was far too damaged. He would need to put himself into standby mode and hope that the Pantheons would have enough sense to get him repaired...

He knew in the back of his mind, however, that neither Harpuia or the Council were going to like this...


Zero's eyes snapped open. The Reploid lay flat on his back, now staring up a the darkened ceiling of his sparse quarters. It was always like this. Whenever he allowed himself to do this, to let his body recharge in the Reploid equivalent of sleeping, it was the same. As he let his defenses down and his body automatically reset and charged his systems, he would see them. Hear them. Vague faces and voices. Feelings of anger, love, pain, and friendship. These were all things he couldn't truly place the origins of. They were just there, somewhere, in his memory banks... somewhere that he just couldn't seem to reach on his own.

Sitting up in his bed, he swung his feet over the side of it, staring blankly at the room's door. Or the direction that it was in, anyway, given that his room was pitch black. The concept of Reploids sleeping and experiencing dreams were things Zero imagined most humans would have a tough time comprehending. They were robots, and to do such tasks most likely appeared weird. To humans, anyway.

Dreams to them were more like memory backlogs that resurfaced at random when a Reploid's mental defenses were at their weakest. This was typically during their recharge cycle. As far as Zero's memories went, or the lack of them for anything but the past year or so... any time he slept, it was a very confusing experience. He would see things that he knew he should recognize, yet try as he might, he never could. It made him feel helpless, almost frightened, to be faced with all of these images and yet not know how they fit into his life.

Needless to say, Zero didn't like to sleep. It was necessary, however. He just made certain he was only down for as long as he needed, and no longer. A Reploid didn't have to "sleep" for as long as a human, nor as often. Zero, in particular, found that he could go for far longer than any other Reploid in the Resistance base. The fact that he was a very unique Reploid was a given.

He just couldn't remember why he was unique.

Tapping his bed, which was horribly stiff and something that would probably give a human back problems, Zero frowned. It did suddenly strike him that there was something out of place about him being able to recharge like this without any exterior source beyond the Energy Crystals that powered Reploids.

In his last dream... he had actually been awakening from another dream. More like a nightmare, actually. In that, he had been in some sort of... pod. That's what he thought, anyway, but it was so brief... Still. It made waking up in a bed come off as slightly odd for him.

Zero just shook his head to himself as he got to his feet. How he slept didn't really matter. He was awake now, and wouldn't have to sleep again for a few days. No need to dwell on all of that.

The blonde Reploid was still suited up in full armor, aside from his helmet which he knew was lying around somewhere on the floor. He knew that the other Reploids found the fact he never went without his armor strange. They couldn't fathom how he could possibly be comfortable in it. Yet, he always found himself the most uncomfortable without it. He was a warrior. He had been built for that purpose, that much he was certain of.

The door to his room opened, and he emerged into the hallway. The entire base was quiet, and any sound he made echoed off the walls. He figured a majority of the base's residents were in recharge still, and he would thus have plenty of room to wander around without anything to interrupt his thoughts.

As Zero stepped onto the elevator at the end of the hallway, he hit the button to send it upwards. Sighing, he leaned against the elevator's wall. Even after a year, everything he could remember about his life was still so limited...

Chief among those things was X. He could remember X. Or things about him, anyway. He could remember fighting alongside the blue Reploid, knowing the strength that he held, and that he was the best friend Zero ever had. He knew enough to know that Copy X was a copy just by laying eyes on him. Even if Ciel hadn't explained everything beforehand, Zero was certain he would have known.

Other than that, the faces of all those he had known before... they were fuzzy. They were so close, and yet he couldn't see them. It frustrated him to no end, but at the same time, he wondered if there were things about his past that he didn't want to remember...

The elevator came to a stop, and Zero stepped off. He hadn't realized which floor he was going to until that point, realizing it to be the one where central command and labs were located. Just wandering without any aim, he entered the command room to find that it, much like everything else, was pretty dimly lit. The only light came from the glow of various active monitors tracking various signals. The operators that ran the systems weren't there, and the room was thus void of any sentient life.

Standing in the center of the room, where the Trans-Server was situated, Zero stared up at the largest screen, which held a map of the world. Involuntarily, the warrior found one of his fists clenching. The territories held by Neo Arcadia were clearly outlined on the map... and that very easily covered a majority of the world. Outside of that, Zero knew that the rest of the world had been ravaged to an almost unsalvageable level from the Maverick and Elf Wars.

Looking at that gave Zero an uneasy feeling. The thought that this force controlled so much of the world made their Resistance look almost pitiful in comparison. He couldn't help but wonder at times how they could possibly hope to really change the tide of things. He had defeated Copy X, and yet Harpuia rose up in his place. Any desire to take out Harpuia was thus something that Zero just couldn't feel. He knew that if he did that, someone else would instantly rise back up. Neo Arcadia was far too large for that to not happen.

No, this war wouldn't end with force. It couldn't. He cast a gaze to the other door in the chamber, which led to both Cerveau's workshop and Ciel's lab. No matter how many weapons Cerveau created for Zero, it would only ever be enough to hold Neo Arcadia back a little bit. In the end, it would all have to lie on that human's shoulders.

Finding himself drawn in that direction, Zero came out into another hallway. Reaching the door to Ciel's lab, he opened it... and was quite surprised at what he found.

Ciel was sitting there, awake, and steadily working at her terminal. An empty pot of coffee sat to the side of where she worked, and she didn't even seem to notice Zero as he entered. As the door shut behind him, he just stood there, staring at her in surprise.

It was the middle of the night, and almost every Reploid in the base except him and whoever may have been on guard duty was asleep. While this human, someone who needed far more rest than any one of them, was awake and hard at work.

"Ciel?"

The blonde girl jumped in her seat, shrieking. She spun around quickly, and then breathed a sigh of relief as she saw him. "Oh... Zero," she said, giving him a weak smile. Ciel lifted up the visor and Zero could instantly see her eyes were incredibly bloodshot. It was painfully obvious that she was insanely tired, but she was working even still. "I didn't mean to scream... what are you doing out around here at this time of night?"

Zero blinked, wondering if she understood how strange that question was. "I should be asking you that."

"I just had some work I needed to get done," Ciel said, still smiling. "I should be done in another couple hours..."

The crimson warrior raised an eyebrow. "It's four o'clock in the morning. It'll be dawn in two hours."

She just stared at him for a moment, seemingly a bit surprised by that. She then merely shrugged slightly, turning a bit to look back to her terminal. "It doesn't really matter... I can rest when my work is finished. Besides, that's why I've had all of this caffeine," she said, indicating the empty coffee pot. There was some amusement in her voice, but given that she was the only one in the Resistance base that actually consumed such things, it was somewhat lost on Zero. "I just can't rest when I'm so close." She stopped, a heavy yawn interrupting her speech. "So close to finalizing my plans for the substitute energy..."

Ciel's smile faded, and she looked back at Zero. The look in her eyes, beyond the obvious one of being tired, quickly became sad. Almost painfully so. "Even as we speak right now, there are still innocent Reploids out there that can be declared as Mavericks. The fact that they can be 'retired'... having their lives slaughtered and wiped out of existence... I can't even imagine what it must feel like to have just simply die like that. So I can't let something so insignificant as my own needs get in the way... not when I'm so close."

Zero didn't want to say it, but he was sure he knew what it was like to die. He was fairly certain, somehow, that he had done it once or twice. He just couldn't pinpoint it in his mind.

"How can you expect to really be any good to anyone," Zero said, staring straight into her eyes, "when the human body and mind need rest to function properly?"

"Zero, I-" Another yawn. "-I... I'm fine. Honestly... you don't need to worry about me. With everything you do for us, doing all of that without question... If I can somehow end this quicker, even if just by a short while... If I can make it so that you-" Ciel paused again, but this time not from a yawn. She bowed her head, her cheeks turning slightly red. "If I can make it so that none of us have to fight again a little sooner..."

Zero continued staring at Ciel. Her posture was really quite horrible, slumped over as she was. Her bloodshot eyes looked as if they could barely stay open. On top of that, she continued to yawn every few seconds.

Zero almost just shook his head at the sight. Her selfless determination to grant Reploids their deserved freedom was truly admirable. The fact she had literally thrown her life away for a bunch of machines, knowing fully that she would never be able to return to Neo Arcadia, to other humans... It was something that Zero sometimes had a hard time wrapping his mind around. How many other humans out there would make that sacrifice? How many Reploids out there, with the state this world stood in, would make a similar one?

Yet, Ciel would never be willing to accept any sort of praise for her efforts. She was just doing what was right, what should be done. That was her mindset. She would make all of these sacrifices, and constantly put herself in harm's way, just to protect these Reploids... but, at the same time, she would be so apologetic towards Zero for having him fight for their cause. For every mission that he went on, especially after he disappeared for a year, whenever he returned he would be immediately greeted by her apologizing. That, more than anything else, was something he couldn't understand. What he was doing was no different than what she was doing. For that matter, what she did was far more than he could ever do.

If anything, he should be apologizing to her.

Now that she was coming so close to completing her project, she was pushing herself far too much. He could see this in the way she had been acting the past couple of weeks. She constantly seemed much more tired and weaker on a normal basis...

"This is hardly the first time you've pulled an all nighter like this lately, I'm guessing," Zero said. Ciel blinked, and then gave a small nod.

"Well, yes... that's true... I've just had so much work to do..."

"How much work have you done in the past several hours?" Zero asked.

The woman's expression went blank. "Well... not much... I've just had to think on some things..."

That gave Zero all the answers he needed. He knew how quickly Ciel was to work and think. Her self-induced sleep deprivation was definitely getting to her. His decision finalized, he walked over to her. The blue-eyed scientist blinked several times, staring up at him as he reached her. "Zero...?"

For a moment, she blushed furiously as he reached down, grabbing her waist. She then gave a shout as he effortlessly lifted her up, tossing the human over his shoulder.

"ZERO!" she exclaimed while he walked towards the door. "What are you-"

"You're done for the night," he said simply, and calmly headed to her quarters. Ciel was obviously far too tired to put up a fight, as she didn't say another word. She didn't struggle either, not that she would have been able to escape from him even if she was fully rested.

Once inside her room, Zero walked over to her bed. Realizing fully that her body was much more delicate than his, he set her down gently on the bed. As he did so, he found that her eyes were wide in surprise, and that her face was a bright crimson. "Z-Zero..."

"Sleep," he said firmly. "You're no good to any of us if you could pass out at any minute."

Ciel opened her mouth, as if she wanted to say something to him, but nothing came out. It took a couple moments, but it struck Zero that something about their position may have been causing her to be a bit speechless. His hands were still resting on the young woman's waist, and he had yet to move them. Part of his body was thus now right over her as he stared down at her.

When the full realization of this fully hit Zero, he quickly released her waist and stood up as fast as he could. Ciel seemed to snap out of her stupor at about the same time, and grasped his hand with hers once he was on his feet. "Zero," she murmured, pulling herself up into a sitting position. She held his hand with a surprising firmness for a human, as if she wasn't going to let him go. "Thank you.. and I'm sorry..."

"Stop it," Zero said. Ciel blinked, and let his hand go, a look of disappointment crossing her face.

That hadn't quite been what Zero meant... but he also realized that it was probably a good thing she had let go. Turning to head towards the door, he just gave an audible sigh. "I meant for you to stop saying that. You have nothing to apologize for. You should never have to say that word..."

Somehow, Zero was unable to bring himself to look back at the human as he left the room. At that point, he figured it was probably best he didn't... for both their sakes.


Gripping both his energy sabers tightly, Sage Harpuia's expression hardened as he stared down his opponents. Seven standard model Pantheons, each with their busters leveled in his direction. Nodding slowly to them, each of the blue drones then opened fire on him.

What followed was very quick. Harpuia took to the air to avoid the shots, swinging his sabers in a downward arc. Waves of purple energy surged from each sword, flying straight down at the Pantheons. Each wave cleaved cleanly through two Pantheons each, and as their remains clattered to the floor, Harpuia was left with three more.

Before their limited mental capabilities could tell them to aim up at him, Harpuia swooped down. Passing by two Pantheons, he quickly beheaded the both of them. The bodies dropped to the smooth metal floor instantly, their heads falling some distance away from them.

Which just left one Pantheon, right behind the Guardian. Having landed in a crouching position, Harpuia could see that, in the floor's reflective surface, that Pantheon now had its buster leveled at the back of Harpuia's head. It didn't have the chance to fire off a single shot, however, and Harpuia quickly spun around, slicing through the drone's body with both sabers. One saber went low, straight through the machine's knees, while the other went high, going through its arms and upper torso. This resulted in the Pantheon falling apart into several pieces.

Rising up, Harpuia surveyed the area. Seven drones. Five seconds. Standard Pantheons may have been fairly pathetic in such a small number, but they were cheaply produced... and they still had purposes they could serve.

Suddenly, the sound of clapping filled the otherwise empty chamber. Harpuia nearly gave an irritated sigh, but stopped himself. This training chamber was for the use of X's Four Guardians, and only them. Thus, they were the only Reploids with access codes to it, and many other nearby areas, including their own quarters. With Fefnir away on a mission, that meant this could only be one Reploid...

"What do you want, Leviathan?" Harpuia questioned, shutting off his energy sabers. He turned around, placing the hilts of the swords on his back. He looked across the chamber, which although spacious, was pretty much empty beyond the Pantheon wreckage that surrounded him. The walls were a simple white, and the floors silver. It was a very simple chamber, but it served its purpose. Standing at the large room's entrance was Leviathan, still clapping. The female Guardian was without her usual weapon, or her helmet. As such, long blue hair fell down past her shoulders against her back.

Harpuia began to walk towards her. Or, towards the exit, but since both of them lied in the same direction he had little choice. Leviathan finally stopped clapping and smirked. "An impressive display for someone who doesn't want to fight lately," Leviathan said.

Harpuia tensed a bit as he reached her, nearly giving her a glare. But he stopped himself, and stepped through the door as it slid open. Leviathan, not having gotten any real response, followed him. "Gee, did I touch a nerve?"

Harpuia glanced at her as she matched his stride, walking alongside him. "I have to practice in case the need arises for us to fight."

"Oh, really?" Leviathan asked, crossing her arms. "I suppose that little resistance we've been fighting for the past couple years just up and vanished, hmm?"

Harpuia glanced away from her, staring back ahead. "I don't see the need at this point."

"The need? You don't see the need?" Leviathan asked, her voice rising. "Well, lets see. They oppose Neo Arcadia, and then there's everything that maniac Elpizo just did... and Zero... Zero killed Master X. And Phantom... and-"

"Phantom sacrificed his own life to try and stop Zero," Harpuia stated, stopping as he reached the door to his quarters. "As for Master X..." He paused, and then locked her eyes with his. "How much does that really matter to you anymore? Or Fefnir? How much does that matter to you, and how much in comparison does it matter Zero has beaten all of us four times each?"

Leviathan's expression seemed frozen. She looked as if she wanted to do what she typically would... snap back with some sort of witty retort. Nothing came, however.

"Elpizo may have been a maniac," Harpuia said, "but he wasn't acting by the will of the Resistance. He was acting by his own will, and Zero stopped him. For that matter, after our encounters with him and those Cyber-elves... if Zero had not saved us, where would we be now? Where would Neo Arcadia, and the humans we protect be had he not stopped Elpizo?"

"He beat us!" Leviathan shot back, finding her voice again.

"He could have killed us," Harpuia continued. "Yet, he did not. Not even when I begged him to do so."

Leviathan's eyes widened, her mouth hanging open in shock. Harpuia just opened the door to his room, stepping inside. Leviathan quickly followed just before the door slid shut. Harpuia's quarters were, really, nothing short of impressive. Hanging on the walls were various pieces of art that would probably be worth a fortune to any given human. Everything inside was very white and pristine. Hardly a speck of dirt or dust could be found, and it made the whole place seem even brighter than it would have been otherwise. Much like the artwork on his walls, the various pieces of furniture throughout were finely crafted, and once again, would have been very expensive if Harpuia wasn't who he was. Leviathan and Fefnir's own quarters were similar in spirit, in that anything they wanted to be in there could be there at their whim. That was just a small portion of the kind of power they held.

Or the kind of power that was slowly starting to slip away from them, anyway.

"What are you talking about?" Leviathan asked. Her snippy tone had subsided somewhat, and there was almost a touch of concern in her voice. Harpuia figured he may have been imagining that, of course.

Harpuia strode over to a table, reaching up to grab his helmet. "Just as I said. Zero would not kill me. I knew I was going to lose control. I knew that I was going to become a monster from the power those Elves exuded... I would have rather died at that point than become some soulless beast. Despite my pleading, Zero instead spared me and saved me. Just as he did the both of you," Harpuia said. He lifted his helmet off his head and set it down. Running a hand through his short green hair, he then turned back around to eye Leviathan. "I have to wonder, thinking back upon everything, how it is we can place some of the labels that we do.

"On the other hand," Harpuia said, walking back towards Leviathan. "I know very well what you and Fefnir both wish. You want to defeat Zero, just as he has defeated you. It is not a matter of loyalty to Master X, or to Neo Arcadia. It's your own pride."

Leviathan shook her head. "N-no. You..."

She trailed off, and Harpuia crossed his arms as he got back to her. "Tell me I'm lying."

Leviathan just looked away from her fellow Guardian, smiling half-heartedly. "Well... it has been a rather entertaining game, playing with Zero..."

"Is that how you look at all of this?"

Leviathan gave a sudden laugh, throwing her hands up and glancing back at him. "Okay! Fine," she said, her typical smirk reforming on her lips again, "you want me to be honest? I love to fight. Is that honest enough? Combat excites me in a way that few things can... and Zero is the only worthy opponent I have ever faced. I know that we're these protectors of Neo Arcadia's people, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy what I'm doing."

She pressed a finger against his chest armor, leaning closer towards him. "And don't you dare tell me, pretty boy, that you don't enjoy the thrill of battle. The sense of freedom and power that it gives you... I watched you tear through those Pantheons like they were nothing. I saw that look in your eyes..."

Harpuia stared at her for one long moment, and then turned away, looking off into one of the large windows on the far side of the room. "I won't lie. I do feel that way. However, I also know that I- that all of us -are part of something far larger. I'm responsible for the safety of Neo Arcadia, and all those in it. If you want to ignore all of that, merely throw it away for the thrill of battle... That is your decision." He glanced back at her. "Know, however, that with that in mind, even if you defeat Zero in combat, he will have already beaten you."

Leviathan stared once more, dropping her hand to her side. Her expression seemed to change by the moment, ranging from obvious anger to a look that looked almost hurt. She opened her mouth, and just as Harpuia was ready to field whatever she may have had to say... Alarms suddenly began blaring throughout the chamber.

"SAGE HARPUIA. FAIRY LEVIATHAN. PLEASE REPORT TO THE SUPREME COUNCIL CHAMBER."

Harpuia didn't say anything. He dashed back over to the table where his helmet rested, donned it, and was just as quickly out the door. He knew Leviathan would be behind him soon, but he also figured she might have needed a little bit to think...


As he did every morning when the denizens of the Resistance HQ began their daily activities, Zero headed to the command room. It was a basic routine that he had grown accustomed to, if just so he could get the latest news on Neo Arcadia's activities as soon as possible. This morning, in particular, he had been waiting with some anticipation, having been up for several hours. If only to get his mind off of his dreams, and... other things.

Straightening his helmet as he entered the chamber, he was surprised to find that it was a relative flurry of activity. The two operators were hard at work on something, while Cerveau was staring quietly at the monitors with a look of some concern. In fact, he hadn't even noticed Zero when he entered. As well, the little child-like, glasses-wearing Reploid known as Perroquiet, who often acted as Ciel's assistant, was running right for the door Zero had just entered. Thus, Perroquiet was running right at him.

Zero quickly hopped on one leg to avoid the small Reploid, narrowly avoiding a collision. "Hey!" Zero shouted, whipping around. Before Perroquiet was even out the door, Zero had grabbed him by the back of his shirt and lifted him up. "Just what's going on here?"

Perroquiet shrieked, and then glanced at the crimson warrior and smiled sheepishly. "Oh, uh... hi Mr. Zero! I was just going to go get Ciel and tell her about-"

"Ciel's asleep," Zero said, in an almost dangerous tone. He hadn't intended it, really, but it was enough to make Perroquiet look even more nervous. "Just tell me."

"There was an attack sometime in the past twenty-four hours," Cerveau said from behind, and Zero turned to look at the Reploid scientist. "Our information networks are just getting us information on it."

"An attack?" Zero asked, still holding the wiggling Perroquiet up by his shirt. "Where?"

Cerveau jerked a thumb in the direction of the nearest monitor. "New Sydney. Neo Arcadia's self-automated factory city, which produces many of their 'defensive units.' In other words, it's one of their primary war machines."

"Sydney?" Zero asked, tapping his helmet in thought.

"Hey, uh," Perroquiet muttered. "Zero, sir, could you, y'know..."

"That's Australia, right?" Zero asked.

Cerveau nodded. "Indeed. Or, what used to be Australia, anyway. The entire continent was nearly obliterated in the last few wars." He looked to the monitors. "All that's left is a desolate wasteland, other than the remains of Old Sydney... and, off the Eastern shore in the Pacific Ocean, an abandoned man-made island called Giga City. It was once the foremost supplier of Force Metal, but the entire place has been shut down since Neo Arcadia came into power-"

"OUCH!"

That was the sound of Perroquiet hitting the floor face-first. Zero had released him unconsciously, a blank look washing over his face.

"...Zero?" Cerveau asked, looking back at him.

"Giga... City," Zero muttered. "There's something about the name of that place... Something... familiar."

-End Act I


NOTES: Thus ends the first chapter of my very first Megaman fic. Hope it was alright. As I said at the top, this takes off after the events of Megaman Zero 2, but that's not to say I'm ignoring EVERYTHING that came after it... This was just the necessary spot to make my story work.
Oh, and yes. I'm well aware that Massimo isn't a girl
Next: Act II - "Raised Sword"