Arcadia, Lost City
It had truly been a magnificent city, with its tall buildings standing like needles piercing the sky, and its quiet parks sitting as still as a stone in a lake. The windows were polished and cleaned so that they would have been piercing to see during dawn, and the streets were wide and flat, almost a symbol of the calm that the city was supposed to represent. At night, the tiny shops by the streets would have added their vibrant colors to the city, lighting and livening up the otherwise gray tranquility of day. The city must have been bustling with life, with people laughing, talking, enjoying, living.
And now it was all ashes.
It hadn't been all of her doing. After all, she only commanded a quarter of Neo Arcadia's army, perhaps even less. Who knew the exact size of Neo Arcadia's military, save X and the more powerful members of parliament? What she did know was that the Old City was destroyed, and she had helped destroy it.
She stood at the outskirts of the Old City, looking down at the smoking rubble of what used to be Arcadia and the rebel reploids. If an archaeologist dug this place up after the truth was forgotten, after Neo Arcadia became just another myth, he wouldn't find much. But from what he could find, he would guess that a terrible war destroyed the old city of Arcadia, forcing its inhabitants to build a new city on top of it, and calling the new city "Neo Arcadia." How wrong that archaeologist would be. But how could he ever guess that it was Neo Arcadians, centuries later, after the old city was abandoned, who would return and destroy the city that had been lying in peace for centuries? For what reason would they destroy that part of history that had hidden itself from them?
It was ludicrous, and she knew it. There had been no need to go to these lengths to destroy the runaway reploids, and yet, these lengths had been taken. She could only stare at the ashes and smoke, recalling from her memory banks the image of the city before they had attacked. Such peace… She had wished for a moment that she had been a human living in this city so long ago, and she could only imagine what life in this city must have been like. What had caused these people to create reploids in the first place? And how did they manage to create a reploid like X centuries ago, when X still surpassed many of the modern reploids, even if he was only a copy of the original? She stared at the lost city, willing it to answer her questions, but it just laid smoking in silence.
She could hear a loud thud behind her as a certain red reploid made his way noisily towards her. She sighed, knowing her momentary peace was soon to be ruined.
"How many, Fefnir?" she asked lazily, not bothering to look at him.
"Dunno. Haven't checked yet," he said, scowling at the ruined city. "This wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be."
"They're escapee service reploids. How much fun did you expect them to be?" she asked dryly. "Honestly, use your head once in a while. I know it's difficult for you, but please do try."
"They're not all escapee service reploids," he retorted sulkily. "I thought that I would at least encounter some former military reploids, but no such luck."
"How would you even know if you encountered one or not? You blew most of them up before you even got close enough to look at the light from their busters," Leviathan sighed, eyeing a part of the city that was still on fire.
"Fire is my specialty. Of course I have to blow them up," he said defensively. "That's why it's hard for me to keep track of how many units I destroyed."
"You should make your attacks quick and clean like mine," Leviathan said, running one hand down her long spear. She swung it around a few times to demonstrate what she meant. "One swipe and they're dead."
"I don't like doing things that way," Fefnir shrugged, not really caring. "Harpuia likes electrifying and attacking from the air. Phantom likes sneaking and catching them by surprise. You like slicing them in half. I like blowing them up. We all have our own preferences for destruction."
"That is, if we even prefer to destroy," Leviathan said quietly, surveying the ruins once more. She gave Fefnir a dirty look. "Except for you, of course." He grinned in reply, showing all of his teeth.
"They're just Mavericks, so who cares?" he said, carelessly kicking a stone down to the city. He watched as the stone made a little cloud of dust as it landed among the rubble. Suddenly, Leviathan stomped on his foot.
"Ow! What was that for?" he asked angrily, moving away from the water reploid. He knew that she could get temperamental at times, but he had never seen her suddenly becoming so violent before.
"You're a Maverick too, moron," she said angrily. "You feel pain, don't you? Real reploids aren't supposed to feel anything."
"Don't be stupid! I'm made from X's DNA, so of course I can't be Maverick," Fefnir said, equally furious.
"What kind of logic is that? Who says X can't become Maverick?" Leviathan sighed, shaking her head at his foolishness.
"X is a hero, right? Heroes aren't Maverick," Fefnir reasoned. "If he went Maverick, he would no longer be a hero."
"You really are simple-minded, aren't you, you fighting freak," Leviathan sighed again. She leaned into her spear, letting the sharp end dig into the hard earth. "I'm ashamed to say that we were both created from the same DNA source."
"Too bad we are," he said, sitting down next to her. "Hey, that would make us siblings!"
"Ugh. Who would want to be your sibling?" Leviathan asked, disgusted. She scooted away from him.
"Wait a minute. That doesn't make much sense," he said, frowning in thought. "If we were both created from the same DNA, wouldn't that mean that we should look the same?" Leviathan stared at him, dumbfounded.
"Are you pretending to be dumb, or do you really not know?" she asked, marveling at his idiocy.
"What are you talking about?"
"The DNA I'm talking about isn't deoxyribonucleic acid," she shook her head in disbelief. "Why on earth would reploids have that? That's only something living things would need. I'm talking about dispersed nano application. Honestly, you call yourself a reploid when you don't even know such a thing?"
"Hey, I'm only responsible for getting rid of problematic factors in Neo Arcadia, not for knowing whatever goes on in a reploid," he growled, irritated with how she was always acting as if she knew everything.
"Are you retarded or something? Never mind, I already know the answer to that," she said, much to his annoyance. "Dispersed nano application is what controls the actions of the nanobots in our bodies. Each of us Four Guardians were given some of X's nano applications, but not all. I was obviously given the part that controls the nanobots in the head, while you were obviously given the part that controls those in the feet."
"Are you trying to insult me?" he asked, half amused, half irritated.
"In any case, when I'm talking about reploid DNA, I'm not talking about the same thing as human DNA," she said, ignoring him. "And so, just because we have our DNA from the same source, doesn't mean that we're related, otherwise, it could be said that all the reploids in the world are siblings. After all, we all share the same basic programming."
"That's just great, smarty-pants," Fefnir said, getting up and rotating his joints. "But I don't like the idea of being related to the reploids that I'm ordered to destroy."
"And yet you let that one reploid and his friends escape on one of your vehicles without trying to stop him," Leviathan said slyly, not looking at him. "If that doesn't show that you're related to those rebels, then I don't know what does."
"How do you know about that?" he asked directly, not looking at her either. He stretched his back lazily, not really fearing if the government knew about his involvement with the rebels. If the government really wanted to destroy him, then he would simply kill those that he could, and join the resistance. So long as there was someone he could fight, he didn't really care which side he was on. It seemed to him that both sides had their own rights and wrongs anyway.
"Don't forget which department I'm from," Leviathan said, brushing her hair back nonchalantly. "I have my own information network, too."
"I thought Phantom was in charge of gathering information," Fefnir said, looking at the domed, earth ceiling and wondering what would happen if he fired a large missile into it.
"He's in charge of illegal information," Leviathan sighed once more, wondering if Fefnir even paid attention during meetings. "I'm in charge of information that can be obtained legally."
"Is it legal to go through a Guardian's records?" he questioned.
"I have complete access to each Guardian's military vehicles and weapons record," Leviathan recited from her memory. "All it took was a little command and I had the entire list of your vehicles and the state of their condition. I noticed that one of them was mysteriously labeled missing, and it was only labeled missing after the attack on the rebel reploids. Not to mention that the feedback that some of those new combat reploids gave me indicated that a certain guardian was standing nearby watching while a group of rebels waltzed past without doing anything."
"You gonna tell anyone?" Fefnir asked after a while. He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, noticing her flamboyant grin.
"Depending on the excuse you give me, I'll keep my mouth shut," she replied. He sighed, looking at the other end of the city where Harpuia was.
"He used to work under Harpuia," he finally said, his voice quiet, unlike his usually loud self. "And he's helped me a few times to gather information when I needed it."
"Hey, aren't you supposed to come to me for information?" Leviathan asked, feigning anger.
"Hmph, and risk letting the government know what I'm up to? No thanks," he said, ignoring her acting.
"What? You doing something illegal?" Leviathan asked jokingly. He said nothing, and his silence worried her.
"In any case, I don't forget those who have helped me before, that's why I let him escape," he said simply, walking back down to the ruined city. Leviathan bit her lip anxiously, staring at Fefnir's retreating back.
"Fefnir!" she shouted, running a little ways after him. "Those who betray Neo Arcadia never live for long." She waited for him to reply, to tell her that he had no such intentions. Even if she couldn't tolerate such a simple-minded fool, he was still one of the Four Guardians, and she felt an innate need to protect and cover a Guardian like herself. She had seen the bills that the government had incurred just from the military department, and she could only guess the size and power of Neo Arcadia's full military force. She knew that it was next to impossible for the rebel reploids to survive for long, but she knew that a traitorous guardian would have no chance of survival.
"Worry about yourself," he said gruffly. "Don't stick your nose into things that are too deep." She looked at him questioningly, but he didn't say anymore and quickly made his descent down to the city to check for any survivors. If there were any survivors of the traitors of Neo Arcadia, they would be mercilessly eradicated. It was a fact that they both knew, and yet, here was an idiot who would dare defy the absolute law that was Neo Arcadia. Leviathan wanted to knock some sense into Fefnir's thick head, but she doubted her fist could penetrate his hard skull. More likely than not, she would end up with a bruised fist, but no other results.
Desert, South of Neo Arcadia, Dawn
She huddled next to Alouette, the gradually rising morning sun ironically making the temperature feel colder to her. She had gotten through the rest of the night without much sleep, dozing off once in a while, waking up whenever she heard a strange noise. As the morning sun slowly crawled up into the sky, she felt her fears dissipate as the rays of the sun began to touch her and actually begin to warn her. Alouette stirred slightly next to her, the small reploid still fast asleep.
"Are you awake?"
She turned to the source of the voice, seeing the older reploid glancing at her direction. Passy had long since been placed in her capsule, so the only one on guard the whole night had been that solitary reploid. She looked worriedly at his arm, but he shifted himself so that she could not see it.
"We should probably move as soon as possible. I don't think you can last more than two more days without food, no matter how stubborn you try to be," he said, looking at the quickly brightening sky. "And who knows how long we can run before our energy runs out also."
Ciel didn't answer him, instead gently shaking Alouette awake. She felt bad for the child having to experience so many things all at once, and she was sure that Alouette was tired from the trek through the desert, but Dande was right. They really couldn't afford wasting any more time resting.
As soon as Alouette was awake, the trio began their slow climb up the sandy ditch. Dande slipped a few times, his broken arm not really helping him in the process, and in the end, Alouette and Ciel had to help him up.
"Which direction?" Dande panted, the climb taxing him more than he had anticipated.
"I don't know," Ciel answered honestly. "But there's really only one direction we can go: as far away from Neo Arcadia as possible. I'm quite certain that the Neo Arcadian forces will be back to search for us." Alouette clutched Ciel's hand more tightly, afraid of being discovered by the Neo Arcadians once more.
"But we don't know where that Neo Arcadian force from last night is," Dande argued, looking at the horizon away from Neo Arcadia. "If we run right into them, that would defeat the whole point of hiding from them."
Ciel also looked at the direction that they should be heading, wondering if the Neo Arcadians were really there. She wondered if they should take the risk. They really couldn't afford to stand around here forever. Soon the sun would reach the zenith, and then the desert would be so unbearably hot that they would probably have to find shade and rest in it. Just as she was debating whether or not they stood a better chance rushing into the unknown or staying where they were until they could be somewhat more certain that the Neo Arcadian force had left, a crackling static began to emit from the communicator in her headpiece.
"….in. C……in. Come in. Dr. Ciel, please come in."
"Milan? Milan, is that you?" she shouted into her microphone, half in shock, half in desperation. The other two reploids looked at her with a small amount of hope glowing in their eyes.
"Dr. Ciel? I'm so glad we've finally contacted you," the voice at the other end of the microphone said in relief. "I've been calling out your name for the past hour or so. We knew you were in the general vicinity, but we didn't know where exactly."
"H-How did you track me?" she whispered in equal, if not greater relief. She couldn't describe the sudden weight that had been lifted off her shoulders the moment she heard Milan's voice. She promised to herself that she would never joke at the reploid's expense ever again. Well… Unless he did something really stupid.
"Hello, Ciel? Your communicator? Or did you forget that you still have Cerveau's tracker from when you were down in the sewers?" Milan said, making her sound as if she were a retard. "Are you really a doctor?"
"Milan!" she shouted angrily, surprising both Alouette and Dande. She smiled to them apologetically. "Just get your butt over here quickly. I don't want to encounter more Neo Arcadians than I have to."
"Fine, fine, your highness," Milan said. She could picture him rolling his eyes at her, but somehow, it didn't irritate her as usual. She knew it was selfish of her, but she was secretly glad that Milan had been one of the reploids that had escaped. She wasn't supposed to have favorites among the reploids, but if Milan had died in the last attack, she would have felt more devastated than at some random reploid's death.
"I'm assuming that was from the Resistance?" Dande asked, scanning the horizon for any signs of life.
"Milan says that he'll be here in a few moments to pick us up. I think there are other survivors with him," Ciel replied, recalling his use of "we." She immediately felt a surge of guilt as she realized that she had been so busy worrying for herself and her own survival that she hadn't really even thought about how the other reploids had been doing. It hadn't really entered her mind how many of them had survived, or how she was going to meet up with those that did survive the attack. She had been too busy wondering about what she was going to do when she became hungry or thirsty, and about where she was heading and how she was going to survive devoid of resources or communication. She should have thought about the condition of the other reploids first. She should have put their well-being before her own. She was supposed to help the reploids find peace and eke out an existence outside of Neo Arcadia, but she hadn't even cared enough to think about them after her escape. Some leader of the reploids she was.
Dande watched in silence as Ciel seemed to become more and more depressed. He wondered what could have possibly made her so gloomy after the good news of being rescued by their own people, but he didn't presume to interrupt her thoughts. It was best to remain silent in situations that one didn't really understand. He didn't want to be going out on a limb trying to cheer her up when he didn't even know where the problem lay.
As the two adults were both lost in their thoughts, the sand began to whip up some distance in front of them, signaling the arrival of their companions. The hovercraft moved slowly towards them, almost as if its occupants were doing a visual search. Finally, the pilot seemed to spot them and moved quickly towards their position.
When the hovercraft touched down lightly, Milan stuck his head out of the window, beckoning them to come towards the vehicle. It was all the trio could do to keep themselves from running to the craft as if in fear of it disappearing into a dream. When Ciel got close enough for Milan to hear him, she scowled at him, pretending to be angry with him.
"What took you so long to find us?" she asked, huffing a little. "I thought you could pinpoint our position with Cerveau's tracker. And even if Cerveau's tracker didn't work, couldn't you use the hovercraft's computer to scan for heat signatures?"
"We kind of broke the hovercraft's computer to make a makeshift tracker to trace you," Milan grinned, unfazed by her false anger. "Besides, we can't just randomly turn on the craft's computer. You want the Neo Arcadians to find us?"
Ciel suddenly remembered that Neo Arcadia had a program that tracked the position of every vehicle from Neo Arcadia, as long as the computer onboard the vehicle was turned on. It had been another one of her many "improvements" for the enforced safety of the Neo Arcadians, and now it had come back to haunt her. She refused to admit that Milan was right, though, and entered the hovercraft without saying a word, observing those that had escaped in the vehicle. There were very few reploids on board, and of them, she could only recognize Cerveau and Hirondelle. There was an old reploid in the back, and many other models that she could not identify. Her heart sank at the number of reploids she saw, but she did her best to smile encouragingly, not wanting to depress the survivors any more than they already were. They would need what spirit was left in them to restart the Resistance despite their devastating losses.