This was originally planned to be part of a series of short Rockman stories, each showing a different character or even just a different side of the universe that wasn't glimpsed in the games - but almost a year after having written this one, and it still being the only (non-roleplaying/interactive) fanfic I've written, I figure I may as well post it. It was always my favorite of the ideas, anyway. I'll probably submit the others by themselves if I ever do write them . This is, of course, my first submission to as well, so be gentle ¬.¬ or better yet, be harsh and specific.

- Axel Hummerwibble

extra note now cleaned up a bit, with double spacing.


- Second Place -

Forte stumbled along unsteadily toward a large rock, then sat down in the shade. "Are you alright, boss?"

"I'm fine, Gospel. Just need to cool down." As though on cue, softly humming mechanisms kicked in to help return his inner-workings and the occasial exposed circuitry to optimum working temperature. The two robots sat in silence for a few moments, enjoying the respite. "Damn, how can I be on reserve energy and still overheating? It's like some horrible irony."

More relative silence, as the robots both wished they could absorb heat more efficiently. They were in no danger of running out of fuel, but emergency power was so... tiring.

"We'll... we'll get him next time, Boss."

"Both of them... They were lucky."

"But why did I have to call him to here, of all places? Damn kid."

"Well, we shoulda won, right? No problem if we did, then."

Forte smiled, and patted the mechanical dog on the head, "Hah, good point. Don't you worry, I know we'll get them. I know we're stronger. I don't know why I bother."

"We're better looking, too."

Gospel's comment was rewarded with a smirk, "Well, they've gotta give us that, certainly. Any idea how close we are to the nearest of Dr. Wily's bases?"

"Not for a good, long ways."

A deep sigh, "Nearest civilization where we can jack a ride?"

"Haven't a clue. Woulda told you already if guidance hadn't been knocked out in the fight"

"Heh... you should have seen the other guy."

"I'm serious, though, Boss. We'll get them, it's just a matter of power, and that's what we have. You're the most powerful robot built."

Another sigh, "Yeah, but we haven't won yet. Come on." Forte got to his feet, and walked back over to the highway. The desert stretched on endlessly, far beyond the horizon. He started down the road again, the same way he had been going before. Gospel stood, and followed after his master, limping on one leg.

After a few feet, the dog looked up, "I wonder how Rock's doing. He and Rush were pretty banged up too, before we went offline."

"He probably could have finished us, but just left us there." If robots could spit, he would have. "Probably got rescued by Dr. Light. Or Auto."

"Or Roll"

"Anyway, Boss, does Wily even know where we are?"

"I didn't bother to tell him. If he notices we're not back, he probably won't go through the trouble of finding us anyway."

"Well, hey, he's the one who needs us, right?"

"Right."

"Boss... I was wondering."

"Yeah?"

"I was wondering, why don't we ever... you know, take Rock by surpise? Or cut him off from Rush? If we were Super Adapted, and he wasn't-"

"We'd be cowards. No, that's not the word. Wily's a coward, hiding in those massive weapons, running away at any sign of danger. But I'd never prove my strength. I don't want to be the strongest if I'm not stronger than Rock!" Forte realized the hand that was whole was clenched in a fist, and relaxed it.

"But, like you always said, he's a weakling. He wins because he steals the weapons from the Master Robots, instead of by his own strength."

"Right. That's why I have beat him in a fair match. I could care less about honor or morals, but I'll be damned if there's any reason for anyone to say I didn't beat him! That's when everyone will know I'm strongest. Did you hear him today? 'A copy can never suprass the original.' Of all the arrogant-!"

"We're stronger than them, anyway."

"Exactly!"

"And faster,"

"Right!"

"We're everything Rockman and Rush are, but better."

"...right. We're just better versions of them, improved."

"Right."

Now, they were silent again, apart from the whirring and clicking of pieces of metal carefully designed, crafted, and fitted into place that were now knocked out of alignment, or broken and mishaped, or simply causing friction where they weren't supposed to. It seemed that Forte was morose again, having lost the fire in his words and stride only present a few moments ago.

"You know, he's right, Boss." Forte stopped, and Gospel limped up next to him. "A copy... a mere imitation... could never defeat Rockman."Gospel nuzzled Forte's side softly, "Which is why we'll win. That's exactly why we're going to win. And we're going to prove that we're both stronger than Rock or Rush could ever be."

"Come on, we're never gonna anywhere at this pace."