For over a hundred years, he had lived in seclusion, alone with his dark thoughts. No one knew that he was here- no one knew that he was alive. He had been left for dead once- had died- and as far as they had known, that had been the end. But no… In truth, it had really only been the end of the beginning for him. His cells wouldn't allow him to remain dead. Sometimes, he vaguely wished it had not been so- death would have been, perhaps, a bit less boring than this existence.
The war had been fun. He had been able to kill anyone unfortunate enough to stray near him, and no one questioned more gruesome deaths in an already gruesome war. In general, however, he preferred to remain a nearly forgotten part of history, a name only occasionally whispered in fear like some horrific, mythological monster that was too terrible to have ever been a reality. Only X would have truly remembered, and X was gone now, deserting his failed utopia to the hands of those even less fit to lead it.
He smirked without humor, a sadistic expression that sat on his face with unmistakable familiarity. Foolish X… Foolish Guardians… They all only yearned after what they could never have. There had never been peace. There would never be peace. The only peace was in death, though his had been cut short by the confounded laws of his own personal physiology. Ah, well. It was of little matter. He existed, even if he could not call it much of a life, and to that end, he would go on existing. At least the blundering of the government made for some vague amusement.
And then there was Zero. Once, he had hated him. Once, he would have loved the sound of his screams of pain as he tore him limb from limb… now, he felt a sort of apathy for the ex-Maverick Hunter. Where was the satisfaction in killing him now? He wouldn't even know who he was, wouldn't even be able to utter his name.
His expression turned to a sneer.
That was that, then- he was forgotten. There were days when he wanted to make them all remember, make them cower in fear… But he always changed his mind before he ever got around to acting on it. He liked being left alone. But… he wanted… something. Whatever it was, he couldn't name it, but no amount of bloodshed ever really satisfied him.
He turned his red, slit-pupiled eyes toward the sound of voices and clumsily loud footsteps. There was a group of reploids approaching, though they would most likely pass by the broken down, abandoned outpost he had called home for so many years and continue on, oblivious. But, bored as he was, he slipped from his spot and followed them, silent as a shadow.
He was just outside of Neo Arcadian territory, so it was unlikely to be a patrol group. It was not the first group like this that he had followed, either. There often seemed to be activity through here, though he had never heard them speak of what they were doing and never bothered to actually go find out.
There were only three of them today, and for some reason, their presence was especially irritating to him. When he was irritated, people tended to die.
Like a predator stalking his prey, he followed.
"All units to your stations!" Harpuia barked into the PA, cool green eyes flicking around the war room to take in how many men were still missing. "This is not a drill- Repeat, all units to your stations!"
"What's going on?" Fefnir jogged over to Harpuia's side and paused for a moment to await an answer.
"I'm not entirely sure- yet," was Sage's curt reply.
The dimly lit room was a bustle of near-frantic activity. Computer consoles bathed the area in cyan light, scrolling strings of data too fast for the human eye to follow. Several view screens blinked back and forth between images, the light they cast flickering like a strobe. Technical conversations kept the air abuzz, and the warning alarms threw their wailing into the cacophony as well. Organized chaos, Harpuia thought dryly to himself before stepping into the middle of it. A klaxon suddenly began blaring in his ear. He winced inadvertently and sidestepped away from it.
"Sir, they've just hit the east gun tower!"
"Hit it with what?" he snapped over the alarm. "What are the damages?"
"An RPG, apparently, sir. It was destroyed."
The Guardian hissed between his teeth. This was not good. How had they taken them by surprise this way? He couldn't think over the incessant whining of that confounded alarm... "Someone shut this blasted thing off!" he spat. Yes, yes, by now everyone knew there was a problem. As the siren was finally silenced, he stepped up to one of the viewscreens, which had been set to remain on its current view, and had a look at the damages for himself. Pitch black smoke boiled out from a gaping hole in the side of the turret. The gun itself- one of the automatic ground-to-air defenses- was not much more than melted, smoking slag, another piece of utterly useless scrap metal that the war had created.
"What about the south turret? What's the status on it?" he barked.
"It hasn't come under fire yet, master Harpuia. It's fully functional."
"Make sure it stays that way." He leaned over an unused console and brought up the statuses of the other turrets himself. One was under fire, but had sustained little damaged. "Is the attack from air or ground?"
"Ground, sir. General Fefnir has gone to intercept." Harpuia hadn't even seen the other leave.
"Is General Leviathan present?"
The reploid nodded and pointed toward the door, where Leviathan was speaking with another computer technician. Harpuia quickly made his way over the sapphire-armored woman. She broke off her conversation and turned to him. "The Resistance is getting rather bold, don't you think?"
He nodded slowly, frowning. "What is it they're hoping to accomplish? They don't possess the kind of force it would take to be a viable threat in a head-on attack... So what in the name of all that's sane are they doing?"
"They're retreating, sir!"
"You mean aside from running away?" she said rather dryly, blue eyes holding a sort of battle-ready glee.
"What did their forces number in the first place?" the First Guardian inquired, pacing over the individual who had informed him of the enemy's fleeing.
"A maximum of thirty men, sir..."
"Are they insane?" Leviathan scoffed incredulously. "It's like they want to throw their lives away!"
"Were there any other damages aside from that tower?"
"Nothing substantial, Master Harpuia." The reploid examined a readout from his visor. "The Jin'en forces lost... two men."
"And the Resistance?"
"Twelve dead, four captured- and the RPG launcher that they used to destroy the tower has been confiscated."
The green-clad Guardian shook his head without realizing it. So much extra bloodshed, and for what? What did the attack accomplish? One demolished gun turret was hardly worth breaking the extremely frail peace that had been developing. He looked back at one of the monitors, one that showed the rag-tag group of Resistance soldiers in full retreat, and whispered after them, "What are you thinking...?"
"Ridiculous," Harpuia murmured to himself, closing his eyes briefly and pinching the bridge of his nose- a sure sign that he had a headache. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say they had this planned..."
"If they did, then it's the dumbest plan I've ever heard... 'Hey, let's charged the enemy head on, lose half of our already pitifully small force, and have everyone they capture commit suicide! That'll sure stick it to 'em!'"
Harpuia glanced at Leviathan, his mouth expressionless, but his eyes betraying the inward smile. "You most certainly have a way with words, dear Fairy."
She smiled a tight-lipped smile that made her ocean-blue eyes squint cutely. "I do, don't I?"
He blew out a long breath. "I was hoping to learn something in an interrogation..." With a shake of his head, he drummed his fingers lightly on the desk top to his side, and then leaned his hip on it, moving the same hand up to run it through his pale green, pony-tailed hair.
"Hey, none of us foresaw them having some kind of reploid brain-killer ready to inject... The Resistance members have never been suicidal before... And whatever this stuff is, our scientists have never seen it before..."
"It does do a thorough job, doesn't it?" he mused darkly. "Complete, irreversible destruction of the reploid brain..." He grimaced. "That could be a dangerous weapon..."
"Don't think about it too hard right now," Leviathan sighed, flopping into the chair across from Harpuia's office desk. Sage pushed a few printouts aside and sat on the corner of his polished synthe-oak desk. He looked down at the cluttered surface for a moment- more organized chaos, like everything else around here.
"How can I not? We don't all have the luxury of being empty-minded."
The petite platinum-blonde opened her mouth to retort to that, but changed her mind and simply frowned.
"I didn't mean that," Sage said apologetically.
"You did so. I know that's all you and Fefnir think of me."
He had no response for that. The thought had occasionally entered his mind... There was a long, awkward silence.
"I only meant that you're too stressed out," she explained in a less-than-patient tone. "Believe it or not, I'm concerned for you. Fefnir is, too."
He gave a derisive snort. "Right," he said skeptically.
"No, really. Sage, when was the last time you slept? Ate? Forget dying in a war- you're killing yourself from the inside out."
"...I ate breakfast."
"But you didn't sleep."
There was a bit of a pause. "...I was too busy." He frowned. "When did this become about me, anyway? This was about the Resistance and the suicide of the prisoners."
She rolled her eyes until she was looking at the ceiling. "I give up," she muttered under her breath before moving her gaze back to him. He was sitting so that his back was partially to her, though his head was turned in her direction. "...I suppose it was. But I really don't know what more there is to say about it." She shot a glance toward the door. "Where's Fefnir, anyway?"
Harpuia gave a small half-shrug. "It isn't as though this is a formal meeting, so it really doesn't matter." He slid off the desk and paced toward the door.
"Where are you going?"
"...I don't know. Anywhere that's not these same four walls I stare at every day." He paused at the door as it slid open in front of him.
"Sage... get some sleep... You look terrible."
The corners of his mouth twitched upwards in a barely-conceivable smile. "Why thank you, Fairy, so do you." the door slid shut behind him, leaving her to immaturely stick her tongue out at its cold, unresponsive surface.
Blood tickled his cheek as it slowly dipped downward, leaving a crimson trail across his face. He wiped it away slowly with the back of his armored hand, running his tongue over the short claw at the tip of his forefinger. Somehow, tasting the blood seemed to seal the dead to their fate. The corpse of one deceased reploid stared up at him from the ground, blank-eyed fear forever imprinted upon his face.
He didn't really feel the need to justify killing them, but at the same time, he felt the justification was there. He hadn't liked what he'd learned of them, pure and simple. He turned away from the bodies, cold vermilion eyes narrowed in a frown. Perhaps... he should get involved? It would be something to do... But no. What did he care? He had no desire to play hero, and no reason to fight other's battles. He fought for himself and himself only. He did what he wanted... ever since the day he had awakened and realized that he was no longer under his master's thumb. Ever since the day he had escaped the lab to go live his own life.
Still, the reploids lying dead behind him... He did not object to killing their kind by any means. They were scum. Perhaps, by most standards, so was he, but the opinions of others meant nothing to him.
He made up his mind to kill any who came this way. They irritated him, and that was reason enough. And I'm not playing anyone's hero, he scoffed inwardly. Now that only left him with the option of waiting around for more to show up. He hoped they did. He looked forward to having something to do. The others died too easily.
Something was bothering him, though; some obnoxious nagging feeling in the pit of is stomach. He had no idea what it was, so he ignored it.
He ran a blood-soaked hand through his red-fuscia hair, shoving its somewhat wild locks out of his face. He thought about the looks of pain and fear on the reploids' faces, the taste of the blood licked from his fingertip, and the odd feeling left him for the moment. He let out a small, mildly irritable sigh and headed back to the abandoned compound that he had called home for so long. It wasn't long, however, before the annoying feeling returned...
He didn't understand it; he didn't care to understand it, but if there was one thing it was, it was persistent. By now lying on the couch in his living room, he stared up at the ceiling as blankly as the corpses he had left in the woods, having a strange inner battle. He himself was not sure what the issue was, but his mind wouldn't leave him alone about it. His thoughts wandered back to his decision to sit around and wait for more of these reploids to show up like a spider waiting for insects. But should he wait? Or should he hunt them down...? He closed his eyes and pushed it all from his mind again. Taking a long, hot shower to wash the blood off was all he cared to do now. That, and to simply... stop thinking for awhile.