Summary: In a world torn by purposeless conflict, Reploids and humans can only rely on their uncertain resolve to continue striving for peace as old friendships are torn, and new ones are forged.
Disclaimer: Megaman Zero obviously does not belong to me; it belongs to whoever rightfully owns it (not really sure who). Anyway, this is just something that's been sitting in my computer for some time. Hope you enjoy it, and please don't expect frequent updates.
They had been created to serve. That was their sole purpose in life: to serve man, and when they could no longer fulfill their purpose, they would be destroyed quietly, without complaint, without regret, without fear. They were not supposed to have emotions, though they were programmed with the capacity to rationalize. They were the perfect source of manual labor; they were the unquestioning, obedient servants that could do things that men could not do.
But they were not perfect.
There was a problem in their programming, an anomaly that caused them to disobey the purpose for which they were created. This bug in their programming caused them to go berserk, or "Maverick," as men would later call it. These imperfections soon wreaked havoc upon the world that they had been created to serve, and men once again rose to the threat in the only way that they knew how.
Fight fire with fire.
A new generation was created and trained to destroy those "Mavericks," and once again, the world was at peace.
But peace never lasts long for man.
Neo Arcadia, Year 22XX
The city was under lockdown, allowing no one to move freely in and out. For the humans, it was an inconvenience, though they felt it was a necessary measure to eradicate those reploids that had gone Maverick. While many families were content in hiding in their homes, many reploids sought ways to get out of the city undetected. Their destruction was imminent, and they were afraid of being destroyed. That very fear of destruction was what the government of Neo Arcadia used to label them "Mavericks." After all, fully functional reploids should not have the capacity to feel emotion; they should not be able to feel fear.
She huddled silently in the corner of the toy shop, wondering gloomily why her programmer hadn't programmed her correctly. Why was it that she was feeling this strange sensation, as if her energy core was bursting, threatening to explode from her chest? She shouldn't have been able to feel that kind of abnormality from her power source. So where had her programmer gone wrong? And why had he made such a mistake?
She tried to make her already small body even smaller, willing herself to disappear from the face of the earth. She shouldn't exist. Everyone was right, she should be terminated. She wasn't "normal." She couldn't function without emotions as she had seen other reploids do. She knew that she should turn herself in, but every time she thought she had decided to go, she found that she couldn't move, and the same strange feeling she was having now would override her other senses, making her abandon all logic. It was something a human once told her was "fear."
So now she sat in the toy shop where she had been working for the past two years, trying hard to ignore the sounds of glass breaking and gunfire outside as a Maverick reploid was terminated. Maybe if she stayed really quiet, no one would notice her. She hugged her knees, her eyes feeling strange. They felt abnormally warm, and she could feel the muscles around her eyes constricting in an unfamiliar way. A peculiar shudder ran through her body, and her sound emission system wanted to emit some sort of noise. She could hear it in her central processing unit: a chopped, broken wail. But she refused to let that sound be processed and run through her speaker. Her owner's daughter had hidden her here, fearing for the reploid's destruction, and she would not let the efforts of that girl be wasted. The family was fond of her, but they knew that if there were orders for her arrest by X, then they would have no power to protect her.
The wait in the darkness was terrifying. From the shadows that danced across the walls, she could deduce what was happening outside. Reploids were resisting…and they were being terminated. It would only be a matter of time until they found her.
The glass suddenly shattered behind her, and she suppressed herself from emitting a gasp. She tried to make herself even smaller behind the counter, hoping that the Hunter would leave without checking her location. Unfortunately, the energy level of her core was higher than was normal, and the Hunter's heat sensor easily picked up her presence. Without a word, the Hunter walked towards her, took aim, and fired. She closed her eyes and screamed. She didn't care what others thought. She didn't care what she was supposed to be. She didn't care that she wasn't supposed to have emotions, wasn't supposed to feel. She was afraid, and she released the fear that she had kept bottled up inside her, shutting her eyes as the ball of light came closer. She was going to die, and her core only responded by making feel overloaded with energy, her CPU freezing as if there were too many things to process at once.
She expected to feel searing heat before her CPU would be shattered to useless pieces. Instead, she felt herself be pulled roughly to the side, landing hard on the floor while a series of shots rang through the empty building, reducing the Hunter to scrap metal. She looked up shakily at her rescuer, not quite sure if he was a dream or a nightmare. She quickly concluded that he was neither; reploids couldn't dream.
"Can you stand?" She nodded dumbly. "Then get up and quickly follow me." She followed his instructions in silence, careful not to look at the destroyed Hunter. Had she not been pulled to the side, she would have been the one scattered all over the shop. She clenched her fists tightly, trying to stop her body frame from shaking. She must have system failure. That would explain why her body wouldn't stop trembling.
"It's ok," he said, slipping his had over hers, and squeezing it reassuringly. "That one was the last Hunter in this district. All we have to do now is get out of here." For some strange reason, that simple gesture stopped her frame from trembling. She wondered if her rescuer was some kind of repair reploid. There was no other way that he could have fixed her so quickly.
They stepped through the streets quickly, their mechanical feet crushing the shattered glass beneath their feet. They moved in complete silence. She was fine with it. She didn't think that she could have spoken if she had wanted to.
She saw a sudden movement in an alleyway, and her grip on her rescuer's hand tightened. He turned around, looking at her questioningly.
"Milan! Over here!" a voice whispered from the darkness of the alleyway.
"It's all right," he reassured her. "It's a fellow escapee." He gave a quick glance around his surroundings, then ran inside the alley, pulling her along.
"Hurry it up! You're the last one, slowpoke," the masked reploid said, opening a hidden door in the wall.
"I was doing some last minute checks, and it was a good thing I did, too," Milan said, cocking his head in the direction of the reploid who still held onto his hand like a lifeline.
"Whatever, hero-boy," the other reploid said, rolling his eyes. She looked at him in confusion. The reploid was imitating emotion in broad daylight! Well, in a sense. She hadn't thought that there were any reploid that would dare imitate human behavior. He must be a Maverick! A Maverick, just like her…one that could feel, if she dared call it that.
"C'mon, we have to get out of this city quickly, before the defense barriers are reactivated," Milan said, pulling her along the dark passage. The other reploid followed them, closing the door behind them, and leaving them in absolute darkness. For a moment, she couldn't see anything, moving only by feeling her way through, but soon, her eyes began to glow, and she could see the details of the passage they were going through. There was rubble in her way, and she could hear the distant sound of water running somewhere.
"This is the old city," Milan whispered to her. "The City of Tranquility: Arcadia." They reached the end of the passage, and beneath her feet, she saw a large city, abandoned, decaying, but a spark of its former glory still remaining. Tall glass buildings reached for the ceiling of the large cavern, almost as if it were reaching for a heaven that it could never obtain. There were large, long platforms supported throughout the city, appearing to be an advanced version of their own highways. The entire city glowed an eerie blue, like the after image of a spark of electricity, quickly dying away.
"The others are in the Central Hall," the reploid said. "I have to go check in with the others. I'll meet you up in a bit." They saluted, and the reploid left, leaving Milan with the little reploid.
"The old city is amazing, isn't it?" he asked her, sighing a little. "We're using it as the base for our actions now. Since the humans won't let us live in Neo Arcadia, we'll just live in silence here, existing as shadows." He glanced back at the dark passage way that they had just crossed. "Adieu, ma maison."
She looked at him, her language program unable to understand what he had just said. He simply smiled at her, squeezing her hand slightly, and leading the both of them down the stairs to the city below them.
"I'm Milan," he said, feeling uncomfortable with the silence. "What's your name?" He was only greeted with silence. He felt her grip his hand harder. He looked at her in confusion and saw panic in her eyes. Her mouth opened, but she could not make a sound. He could feel her small frame begin shaking, and she looked at him, eyes reflecting desperation and fear.
"Shh, it's all right," he said, kneeling next to her and putting a hand on her shoulder. "It's all right. You probably can't speak because you were too frightened back there. That scream must have damaged your vocal system." The tiny reploid in front of him looked like she was about to cry. He smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry! I'll take you to Ciel. She'll fix you right up. Now let's get going." She nodded, and they began their steady descent down the steps once more. Behind her, she saw the once dark hallway suddenly light up with light. The defense barrier was up again. There would be no way for her to return from whence she came.
Arcadia, Old City
"That should do it," she said, clapping her hands together to rid them of the dirt. "If there's a flaw in Neo Arcadia's defense system, it's that their defense barrier keeps their enemies out, but also keeps them in. They won't be able to get to us unless they lower the defense barrier, and if that should happen, we can just escape from Neo Arcadia all together."
"If that should happen, we're going to suffer a lot of casualties," a resistance member said next to her.
"Then we'd better pray that they don't want to waste the energy to wipe us out," she replied, trying not to sound worried.
"It's not like you need to worry about anything," she could hear someone grumble quietly. "You're human." She frowned, but said nothing. Whoever had said it was right. She was human, and reploids simply weren't programmed to harm humans. In fact, she was pretty sure they couldn't, unless they were Maverick.
"We appreciate the effort and help you've provided us, Dr. Ciel," a reploid said loudly, obviously speaking more to the one who had complained than to her. "We wouldn't have been able to escape with as little casualties as we had suffered. Your continued presence is a great help to us."
"I'm only doing what is right," she said confidently. "Now, let's get to the Central Hall. The others are probably waiting for us already." There was a general murmur of consensus, and the group began moving towards the center of the old city. Ciel swallowed. She was doing the right thing, wasn't she?
She shoved the thought out of her mind and began concentrating on her surroundings. No time to second doubt herself. She had only one road to walk now. She couldn't turn back.
Her foot made a slight scuffling sound as she moved across the stone pavement, thankful for the reploid that held a light to light the road up for her. She knew that the other reploids didn't need the light. After all, she was the only human here, and was therefore the only one who needed that light.
She began to feel uncomfortable in a company composed only of reploids. She knew that with her decision, she had cut off all contact with other humans. She would never see her family or friends again. Not until she finished developing another source of energy, that is, but she was starting to wonder how long it would actually take her to come up with an alternative source of energy. Sure, she had been hailed as a genius back home for "resurrecting" X, but what she had been doing then was simply re-creating something that a true genius had made years ago. In all honesty, she didn't know if she had the capability to create another source of energy.
It also didn't help that some of the reploids here blamed her for their misfortune. She had been the one to create Neo Arcadia as it was now, a city with reploid enforced security, forcing peace upon its inhabitants at all costs. At first, her skills had made the city safer, reducing the damage that Mavericks caused, and lowering the crime rate in the city. But then, she had wanted the city to become even more perfect. She thought that she could perhaps create the city in the ideal that the legendary X had before he had disappeared. She thought that she had known what X's ideal city was, and in retrospect, she knew that she had been too conceited, too arrogant to realize that she knew nothing at all.
It started off as a simple surveillance program to watch and prevent crimes. But then, it developed to something more, and soon it infiltrated every household, watching every citizen's moves until there was no such thing as "privacy" anymore. But the people had not minded, and instead, applauded her for her efforts in rooting out potential threats to the city. But that very network she had created soon trapped its creator, along with the inhabitants of Neo Arcadia in a reality that could not be escaped from. So when the Neo Arcadian government realized that an energy crisis was imminent, it used that very network that she had created to incriminate reploids, sentient beings that she had worked and grown up with, in an effort to reduce energy use.
The reploids that were targeted first were those reploids that were most human in their appearance and actions. After all, having an emotional reploid meant that the reploid consumed more energy, so the natural solution for the government was to eliminate those reploids that were using more energy than necessary.
In the span of one night, all the reploid coworkers that she had come to care for disappeared, leaving behind only emotionless drones that could only carry out tedious chores. She hadn't thought it was that serious at first. Perhaps those reploids were only going to be placed in temporary hibernation until the energy crisis was over. Unfortunately, the government had other ideas.
It had taken only a few months, but by then, a resistance faction had been formed by reploids, protesting the unjust treatment that the government dealt to them. The government responded by using X and the four guardians to eliminate the "Mavericks." The resistance faction then appeared to disappear, leaving the other neutral reploids living in fear. And the steady destruction continued.
The other reploids had every reason to dislike her, even perhaps hate her. She had created the network that pinpointed each reploid's position and activities. She had created X, who ended up destroying countless reploids. She had been the one who forced them to abandon their lifestyle for a slim chance of survival. And now, she didn't have a clue how to continue these reploids' existence.
She had bought them some time, but it had been a high price. The government now knew that reploids were officially revolting, which would mean next time they met, it would be all out combat. And none of them had any way to protect themselves from the Neo Arcadian army. If attacked, they would not only suffer heavy casualties; it was quite possible that they would all be wiped out.
So now all the reploids that had escaped were heading towards the Central Hall, putting their processors together to hopefully come up with a solution that was not quite so bleak. Ciel wished she could do more, but the truth was she hadn't planned anything beyond the escape from Neo Arcadia to the old city. It had been difficult enough to coordinate a mass evacuation while Hunters were outside preying on reploids. She wondered how many reploids were lost in this movement, and sighed as she realized that she would never know. They had never known how many reploids had the potential to go "Maverick" in the first place.
"Dr. Ciel, we're here," a reploid said rather unnecessarily as they stood in front of the huge double doors that led to Central Hall. She approached the keypad near the door, cautiously moving her hand over it. The tiny screen began to glow a soft blue, and she quickly entered in the code that she and the other reploid leaders had agreed upon.
The doors opened with a soft hiss, revealing the hundreds of other reploids that had already gathered inside. She walked to the center at a brisk pace, knowing the reploids were anxious to know what they would do now. She felt a little frightened. There were so many depending on her, and she wasn't sure if she had the strength to fulfill their expectations of her. Finally, she stepped up onto the stage, facing them all. The entire hall became even quieter at her presence.
"Well, we've escaped the terror of Neo Arcadia," she said, trying to sound firm, but instead, her voice came out rather shaky. "The old city should be able to give us enough protection until we can manage a more secure route out of here. Until then, I urge everyone to stay on guard and alert the others if Neo Arcadians should decided to pursue us here. Until a safer route can be established, all we can do is wait."
"Dr. Ciel, what's going to happen to us?" a nervous reploid asked. She couldn't pinpoint the owner of the voice among the sea of artificial intelligent machines, and as she scanned the crowd, looking for the owner of the voice, she realized the true extent that her commitment required of her.
There were not hundreds of reploids as she had previously assumed. There were thousands, if not more. She didn't understand where most of them had come from. Her resources had told her that at most, there were only a couple hundred reploids that were in real danger of being retired. And yet, she was speaking to a crowd of thousands. She suddenly felt very small, as she stared from one similar face to another. They were machines, after all, so naturally they would have looked the same. What kind of manufacturer would waste money on making each reploid look different?
But even so, there were many different faces among the crowd, many custom reploids. So, the government had moved on to retiring private reploids now and was no longer restricting itself to retiring government reploids. The fact made her feel a little ill. Neo Arcadia was intruding too much in private life. But she couldn't change it now. At least, not yet. She had to first create another energy source. She could worry about correcting her mistakes later.
"Just band together," she said, much like a mother reassuring a child. "If you band together, you will have more power—enough power to defend yourselves against those that would do you wrong." Many reploids in the crowd nodded, while she noticed a few looking at her with skepticism. She was amazed that there were so many that would be willing to trust her, even when she was one of the very humans that were bent on destroying them. She smiled her thanks to them, and stepped off the stage. She was tired. She was, after all, only human.
"Dr. Ciel!" a familiar voice called, jogging towards her. She smiled at him, glad to see a familiar face after the dangerous night. She had been afraid that he might have been one of the casualties that they had incurred.
"Milan, I'm happy that you could make it," she said, the words feeling out of place on her tongue. She felt like she was addressing someone at a party. The words just didn't seem to have the gravity of the situation in them.
"I'm glad you made it out ok, too," Milan said, grinning. Ciel gave a small smile in return. "Anyway, I'm going to have to bother you a bit," he said, looking apologetic. He knew she was tired, but not so tired as to be unable to show a little of her expertise. That was one of the things she liked about Milan. He knew she was a human, and treated her like one; he knew when to protect her, and when he knew his actions would stifle her, unlike some of the other reploids, who felt they had to help her with everything.
"What is it?" she asked, giving him permission to continue with his request. He just grinned again, and moved aside to reveal a little girl behind him. Or at first, she thought it was a little girl, but then she realized that it was a child model reploid. The girl gave a small smile.
"Well, who do we have here?" Ciel asked, moving closer to the girl and allowing the other reploids to move past her and out of the hall.
"Her vocal system is damaged," Milan explained quickly. "She was screaming her head off when a Hunter was about to retire her." Ciel shot a look at Milan for his bluntness in the situation. He simply shrugged, still grinning.
"It's so strange," she said, looking deep into the girl reploid's eyes. "You're all so human."
"We were designed to imitate humans in movement and appearance," Milan said matter-of-factly.
"Humans scream when they're frightened," Ciel continued. "And some of them even lose their ability to speak after a great trauma. You could say the same for this little girl here."
"She was simply emitting a frequency that her vocal system couldn't handle at that volume, and for that duration," Milan said, as if that explained everything. "It has nothing to do with psychology. We're reploids; we don't have a mind like you humans."
"But you're afraid of dying, like us humans," Ciel said, looking sadly at the girl. "Come on, I'll fix you up at the lab."
"The lab is still functional?" Milan asked, changing the subject.
"The city was abandoned, not destroyed, so the lab should still be in working order," she replied, guiding the two through the rather empty streets of the city.
"Hard to believe that the first reploid came out of this old city," Milan said in an easy-going tone. "Wonder why it got abandoned." Ciel had no answer to give him. They continued the rest of the way in silence, each mulling over the ghosts of their own minds.
They finally reached the laboratory, and to their relief, they found that they could walk in without entering any pass codes. Ciel didn't know what they would do if they had to enter a code for the building. She would probably have just asked Milan to blow the door up.
She fumbled around a bit in the laboratory until she found what she was looking for, then approached the little reploid.
"I'm going to have to shut you down for a little bit, ok?" she said, trying to sound caring while acting professional. "I'm hoping to restart your system and get the nanobots to start fixing your voice. It's really much better for you to fix yourself than to have someone tamper with your circuitry."
"What do you think made the nanobots stop functioning?" Milan asked as the girl nodded her head. Ciel pressed two points in quick succession on each side of the girl's neck, and watched as the light faded from the reploid's eyes, signifying a successful shut down of the system.
"When reploids get too emotional, their energy core begins consuming more energy than usual," Ciel said, pushing the same two points to turn the reploid on again. "At the same time, the CPU also becomes overloaded with too many processes, and may freeze the system. We're not quite sure what processes are occurring when there's an emotional overload, but since the CPU can't handle so much at once, it basically freezes and nothing can get done.
"You should be thankful for the one who invented the double-system for reploids," Ciel said, patting the little reploid on the head. "They allow the reploid to function even when certain systems have been frozen. Can you say something for me?" she asked the little girl.
"Um…" a quiet, timid voice said experimentally. Ciel smiled.
"What's your name?"
"Wait a minute, what double-system?" Milan interrupted.
"I'm 0NB9," the reploid replied.
"What's wrong with your owner? If I had a cute reploid like you, the first thing I would do is name you," said Ciel, standing up and brushing imaginary dust off.
"Don't ignore me!" pouted Milan, acting like an immature child. 0NB9 giggled.
"I thought you were in the information department," Ciel said, looking around the lab for other tools that she could take with her.
"The information department only gathers information on the citizens of Neo Arcadia, not scientific documents," Milan said, feeling a little irritated. People always expected him to know things simply because he was in that particular department, and at times, it was a little annoying.
"The double-system means that in addition to the CPU, there another control unit in your body so that if something should freeze the CPU's functions, the second system can take over and allow the body limited function," she explained, gesturing to the others to follow her out of the laboratory. "You can't always depend on the secondary system, though. It doesn't always take over the primary system's function. When that happens, a reploid repairer or mechanic is needed to go into either the primary or secondary system to restart the reploid."
"The secondary system is like the DOS system on those ancient computers, right?" 0NB9 said suddenly, just when Milan was about to ask for clarification. "And the primary system is Windows."
"Well, yes," Ciel said, looking impressed with the little reploid. "How did you know that? Not many people know much about ancient technological history."
"I read it in children's book back in the toy store," smiled the reploid. "There were many anecdotes on how people used to live back then."
"See, Milan? Even a little girl knows more than you," Ciel joked, heading towards a building that looked like an apartment complex. "Some information specialist you are." He stuck his tongue out at her, causing the child to giggle again. "Looks like the other reploids have already opened the door," she said, noticing the electronic lock on the door was already opened.
"Good thing, too," Milan said, guiding the other reploid through the large, glass sliding doors. "Otherwise, knowing you, you would've just asked me to blow a hole in the lock."
"It's faster," Ciel said in defense, following the two into the building. "Which floor would you like, 0NB9?"
"Hmm?" asked 0NB9 in confusion, cocking her head slightly to the side. "What do you mean?"
"I say eighth floor," Milan said, walking towards the elevator.
"Who asked you?" Ciel said good-humoredly, clasping the child's hand and also heading towards the elevator.
"Ciel is so mean! 0NB9, help me!"
"H-How?" she asked nervously, looking from Ciel to Milan.
"He's just being stupid. Ignore him," Ciel advised, walking past Milan into the elevator.
"Man, you were so much nicer when I didn't know you," grumbled Milan. Ciel took her own advice and ignored him. The small reploid just smiled. The events of the night seemed like something from another lifetime. Perhaps in this old city, they could really find a new peace.