Soundtrack: Mega Man 4 'Shades of Blue' OC ReMix by Psychrophyte
Resurrection – Act 2:
Zero arrived at Hunter Base looking tired and covered with dust. He could have used his emergency transport system, but that required a lot of energy—and his was now a finite supply.
As he entered the building, Alia came running down the hallway from the opposite direction. Her blue eyes were clouded with worry, and words spilled from her mouth in an overwhelming flood.
"Zero, you're okay! What happened? Where is X? The readings on the maverick virus disappeared, but we couldn't reach either of you and we—"
Zero's look stopped her in mid-sentence.
"X is gone." He said matter-of-factly. "The Cyber Elf program was too much for him."
Alia's face fell, becoming quiet and hesitant. "We thought—with his armor—if we ran it through the Nova Strike …"
"He wasn't designed to operate with something like that." Zero said, cutting her off again.
And I wasn't designed to operate without it. He thought pensively.
The energy loss was getting worse, intensifying his already abrupt personality. He needed to recharge and get some rest. He didn't have time to play catch-up and answer her innumerable questions—there'd be enough of that later.
Zero started to walk off again, but Alia chased after him.
"Wait, Zero! Where are you going?"
He turned to glare at the operator, causing her to take a step back. She could be so obnoxiously human at times…
"Sigma is dead." He told her, sounding more tired than annoyed. "The maverick virus has been wiped out, and the war is over…" He turned and started walking again.
"…now I need to rest." He called over his shoulder, heading off towards the recharging bays.
ALERT! – Currently running Prototype Configuration, some systems not available!
ALERT! – Z-Buster Disabled! Melee Combat Mode only!
ERROR – Critical Failure in AI System, Unable to Load Personality Data!
Aborting to Mainframe Backup…
ERROR – Backup Not Found, Mainframe Damaged!
ALERT! – Security Breach Detected!
Downloading Automated Defense Protocols…
He could see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. His awareness was a dim light in a sea of darkness. If he had been human, he might have likened it to those moments when one stirs in the middle of the night—not yet awake, but unable to continue dreaming.
He wanted to keep sleeping, but some part of him rebelled—fought for consciousness. Why? Why did he need to wake up? It was so peaceful here…
Distantly, he began to hear sounds—clanging, crashing, laughing. There was another light here, growing stronger. He didn't like it. Was that why he had to wake up?
The light was wrong, very wrong. As it grew he felt himself receding, drifting back into the darkness. It was consuming him. The other light was trying to wake up in his body! He had to get there first—had to wake up before it did…
Zero woke to a rhythmic clanging sound, punctuated by muffled exhalations. The lid of his recharging capsule slid back to reveal a muscular reploid striking a large metal ball, keeping it airborne with punches and kicks.
"Gamma…" Zero said, recognizing the figure, "…why do you do that?"
The veteran hunter caught the ball in mid-air and tucked it under his arm as he turned to face him. "It keeps my targeting system sharp," he replied with a grin. "Even we reploids can benefit from working out now and then."
Gamma was an old reploid, and unlike most he looked his age: Shoulder-length white hair and a short gray beard framed a weathered face that spoke of wisdom gained from a life on the battlefield. His dark eyes sparkled with the odd humor of one who'd stared death in the face and then kicked it in the nuts. Zero smiled at his old friend, the second in command of the #0 hunter unit.
"You here to keep an eye on me?" Zero asked.
It was an old joke between them—going back to when he had first joined the maverick hunters. Gamma had led the first team sent in after Zero's discovery, and was the only member to survive. When Zero was later accepted into the hunters, Gama had demanded a transfer to the same unit so he could 'Keep an eye on the maverick that killed my men.'
"Nah, Zero," Gamma chuckled in reply, "I just wanted to be here when you got up. Signas has orders for you to visit the infirmary for a diagnostic."
Zero scowled. "Tell him it's a waste of time."
"I told him you'd say that," Gama answered, his grin growing wider. "He said to tell you that you're going to the infirmary even if he has to get your whole unit to carry you there. Apparently he wants to make sure there's no trace of the virus lurking in your systems, though of course, he'd never say that."
"No, I guess not." Zero sighed in resignation.
Looking up, he noticed the jagged line running from the tip of Gama's jaw to the top of his ear. "Why is it Gama?" He asked. "You and Sigma, you never removed the scars I gave you in our first fight."
Gama raised a hand and ran his thumb thoughtfully over the line in his face, tracing the path Zero's fist had taken years earlier. "It's 'cause we're warriors Zero, you oughtta' understand that. When you face a worthy opponent, a mark like this is a badge of pride."
A look of seriousness came over his face. "He's really gone this time isn't he?"
Zero nodded slowly. "Yeah."
He started to leave, but turned at the doorway—looking back at Gamma over his shoulder. "Why didn't you go with him, during the first maverick war?"
The old hunter grinned again. "Well, there was this human girl—used to work down at this nightclub…"
"I mean it." Zero said, cutting him off.
Seeing the look in his commander's eyes, Gamma shrugged. "Warriors don't change sides." He answered simply. "I don't know what kind of demon possessed Sigma to make him forget that…"
The insinuation hung between them, unspoken. Zero paused, a distant look coming over his face.
"The same one that possessed me," he replied softly. "He beat it out of me, and then took it into himself. He didn't forget Gama, he died. I never got to meet the Sigma you knew."
"An exorcism eh?" said the old warrior, a trace of a smile returning to his face. "That mean you're pure of heart now?"
"No." Zero shook his head slowly, matching his friend's smile. "I'm a demon all by myself."
With that, he turned and left for the infirmary.
Zero drifted through the corridors of the hunter base lost in thought. A tiny red spark glowed in the back of his mind, the germ of an idea not quite developed enough to put into words. As he contemplated it, he began to grow irritated—something about this growing feeling scared him, and he couldn't figure out why.
…and yet, it also makes me feel…
By the time Zero arrived at the infirmary, he was already in a very bad mood. He hated these scans, and the irritation of being forced to go through one only added to the growing storm inside of him. More than that, he had a personal dislike for hunter base's medical control officer.
Aside from his pretentious name, Lifesaver's design was alien and disturbing—an affront to reploid individuality. Although it looked like a normal humanoid model, his body was mass produced, and the electronic brains were linked together to form a vast communal network. This hive mind had its advantages—allowing him to process information more rapidly and act as a sentient medical database—but it made the doctor's personality flat and inhuman. Whenever he dealt with him, Zero felt as though he were being studied by some malevolent insect.
He felt that way now, sitting on the examination table staring into Lifesaver's flat, unblinking eyes. The white reploid wore a concerned expression on his face, and he spoke with unusual pauses—a sign of his distributed consciousness.
"I'm not detecting any signs of the virus in your systems... or in any other reploids... However... I'm concerned about the readings from your power generation system. It seems as though..."
Zero wasn't in the mood to put up with the doctor's bedside manner. "You're detecting a drop in reactor efficiency." He said impatiently.
Lifesaver gave him an annoyed look, as if he were dealing with a troublesome child. "Well, yes..."
"It's because of the virus." Zero said, cutting him off again. "My systems were designed to constantly be in overdrive. Without the extra energy from the virus my internal reactors can't keep up—and the strain is slowly burning them out."
It was strange watching the flustered look spread over the medical officer's features. Parts of his face seemed to lag behind, while in others the expression twitched into place almost spasmodically. "You... were... designed to incorporate the virus?" he demanded, incredulous. The lag in his speech had worsened, almost becoming a stutter.
"Don't act so shocked." Zero said coldly. "You've suspected as much for some time now—or did you think I didn't know about your reports to Signas, your recommendations that I be removed from active duty during the Space Colony incident?"
Lifesaver looked stricken—Zero's temper was well known among the people who worked at Maverick Hunter HQ.
"Kind of hard for me not to know," Zero continued, "after you and X tried to bring me in for a virus-check in the middle of a mission."
He paused, breaking into a malicious grin. "As I recall, I gave you two quite a beating for that."
Lifesaver's face went rigid. Probably calculating how many bodies he'd need to restrain me. Zero thought. It felt nice to be the one making him uncomfortable for a change.
A part of Zero's mind—the part that was always calculating odds and combat strategies—had determined he could take this copy of Lifesaver apart and flee the base before a sufficient force could be mounted to stop him, but what would be the point? Eventually he'd wind down like an old clock anyway. Throwing himself against a superior force was immensely preferable to spending his last days on the run. The problem was finding a force that could do it.
Lifesaver regarded the red maverick hunter cautiously, watching for signs of violence and copying his onboard memory to other nodes in his network—just in case. Finally satisfied that Zero wasn't going to kill him at that moment, he regained his composure and continued the evaluation.
"Then... what will you do? No one here understands your systems well enough to do much more than... put your parts back together in the correct order... If the problem is systemic... and your reactor is failing..."
"Then I'll die." Zero finished. "It's no big deal—with Sigma destroyed and the maverick wars finally over…" He shrugged. "…I'd die of boredom anyways." With that, Zero got up and walked out of the room, leaving Lifesaver staring after him with a thoughtful expression on his face.
Next: Resurrection – Act 3