MEGA MAN ZERO: SHADOWS OF A HUNTER

A Novelette by Eric "Erico" Lawson

Epilogue: Relics

April 10th, 2220

Neo Arcadia

11:15 A.M.

Copy X considered it a normal day; he reviewed the previous day's statistics, established what inefficiencies in water, food, and power consumption existed in the harmonious world and utopia within the walls of his charge, the heavily defended Neo Arcadia. It was a place he had a certain pride in, as he should. Here, wars were not fought. Here, he commanded an unstoppable force. Here, humanity survived beyond the ruins of the last traumatic century.
All the same, it was not often he slipped out of his martial, militaristic role. Today had been one such rare occurrence, as he had looked at some of the new petitions from the Neo Arcadian citizens for a new park for the younglings. In the peace and quiet of his throne room, as it could only be called, the overseer of Neo Arcadia deliberated long and hard over the qualities of a slide complex or a tire climbing wall.
And then the entry door chimed. The reploid blinked his red eyes a few times, slowly lowering his datapadd and looking towards the door. It chimed again.
"Enter." The overseer barked, putting the petitions away for the time being. The hydraulically motivated doors shifted open, allowing a bright green and white figure to stroll into the room, marching with precision step and a disciplined gait. "Aah, Harpuia." The blue reploid said calmly. "What can I do for you today?"
"I have an update on yesterday's mission." Harpuia began, blinking his stoic, but fiery eyes at the figure from whom he took his orders.
Copy X blinked at him. "Oh, yes." He mused after a long moment. "So then, Ciel is safely returned to Neo Arcadia?"
Harpuia looked slightly uncomfortable, shifting his stance. "Well...not exactly, sir."
Now the blue reploid's otherwise placid demeanor turned cold and hard. "And...perhaps you would be willing to explain to me why not?"
"The 47th Pantheon Division met with substantial resistance. Ciel was able to make it to a hidden Trans-Server in the ruins and escape backup forces." Harpuia explained cautiously.
"Aah, perfect." Copy X growled. "And let me guess what's next...she scrambled the Trans-Server destination codes just before transmission, so we still remain dispossessed as to their current whereabouts."
"We believe that the Resistance lies somewhere outside of Neo Arcadia, in the city ruins." Harpuia said quickly. "However, we do not have a more accurate fix...and so far, their base has escaped the detection of the 29th Pantheon Divison stationed there."
Copy X seemed to fume for a moment, or as close to fuming as the cold and seemingly soulless entity could get. "We were this close to ending this pointless resistance, you know." the blue reploid explained. He lifted a finger and pointed it at Harpuia. "Seeing as it was your troops that were dispatched to capture Ciel in the first place, the failure rests solely on your shoulders."
Harpuia's face burned with anger and disappointment, but mostly anger. He lowered his face, if only to keep himself from staring defiantly into the eyes of his commander. "Very well. So what is to be done?"
"For now, you will continue to search for this resistance base of theirs...other operations will continue as normal. This is a minor setback. An annoyance. We will continue." Copy X replied, picking up his datapadd and waving the Wind Warrior away.
Fuming at the cold audacity of his commander, Harpuia stood and waited a few moments, looking up at the figure which had been built to replace Master X.
The duplicate lowered his datapadd enough so his bright red eyes could glare over the top and look down at his subordinate. "Is there something you wish to say, General Harpuia?" Copy X asked warningly.
Harpuia clicked his heels together and threw a salute. "No, sir." He turned and walked off, glad to be rid of that task. He had better things to do than put up with an aggravating duplicate.
Master X would never have approved of you, Copy...

Once the hydraulic doors had shut behind Harpuia and left Copy X in silence, he put the datapadd down again, then closed his eyes. "All right, Phantom. Come out, I know you're in here."
In a soft hushed blast of wind, and the briefest flicker of darkness, a figure in tight black and gray appeared, a thick mask covering his eyes. A massive four pointed ninja star was attached to his back, and he folded his arms beside Copy X's throne. "You are getting better." Phantom noted darkly. "Two months ago, you would not have noticed me."
"Call it intuition." Copy X said, looking at his fourth, most secretive general. Unlike the other three, Harpuia, Fefnir, and Leviathan, Phantom had never fought under the original Mega Man X in the Cyber Elf Wars. Phantom was a product of Copy X's reign in Neo Arcadia...a defense measure against any machinations those three troublesome Generals might throw at him. Phantom was quick, silent, deadly...
And unquestioningly loyal.
"All right then, Phantom. Perhaps you could tell me a little more about this failed mission yesterday...seeing as Harpuia is obviously trying to hide something." Copy X folded his arms.
"There was a team of golems dispatched with the 27th Pantheon unit as well." Phantom stated.
"Really?" Copy X mused, lifting an eyebrow. "That should have solved any problems in a hurry."
"It would have, but only one golem was actually able to give pursuit inside the ruins."

"All the same, the Resistance's weapons are incapable of dealing any serious damage to the Golem units. They're the strongest frontline Mechaniloids we have in such remote regions."
"Yes." Phantom agreed. "But...not strong enough in this case."
Copy X leaned on an arm, looking to his last general. "Just...What was out there?"
"Ruins." Phantom explained. "Ruins from the last century...And I have a feeling that Ciel was relic hunting. If such is the case...then she apparently found one."
Copy X's eyes darkened. "Sigma? The Maverick Virus?"
Phantom chuckled. "Oh, you do amuse me some days, Master. No. Something...perhaps far worse, I think."
The blue reploid snorted, shaking his head. "Come now. What could be worse than the resurrection of the great evil that my predecessor spent the better part of the 22nd Century fighting to destroy?"
Phantom folded his hands together. "I've taken the liberty of transmitting a video file to your mail account."
Wordlessly, Copy X opened up his mail and found the file. He opened it, blinking as the feed began.
It wasn't a typical kind of footage. "What is this?" Copy X queried.
"Something Harpuia didn't want you to see." Phantom noted quietly. "This is the digital memory image of the golem that made it inside of the ruins." The angle changed, and a flash of pink clothing and a beautiful face strewn with tangled blond hair appeared in the mechaniloid's hand. "As you can see, for a moment, Ciel was obtained. However, while the good scientist had had her entire Resistance scouting contingent obliterated by this point..."
The angle changed, and a flash of red appeared on screen, jumping up the wall like a crazed monkey to avoid the crumbling ceiling blocks created by the golem's destabilization laser.
"...It seems she was able to find a different kind of help."

Copy X stared harder at the image on his main overhead viewscreen, leaning in closer and craning his neck.
It...That figure...
Red armor...long blond hair...There was something familiar in how he held himself, in that basic design.
"Ciel became a relic hunter for the day...and she found herself one Hell of a relic." Phantom explained coldly.

Transfixed, Copy X watched as the strange reploid in red armor bounced about the room, sinking shot after weak shot into the golem's weak point, its head. But no, that's not nearly enough damage to take a golem down...
The warrior was weakening. He was realizing how useless his efforts were.
But then, it all changed.
As Copy X watched with slowly dawning horror, a strange, but familiar silver and white cylinder spun through the air, gushing bright eldritch green fire from its maw as it embedded itself in the ground in front of the weary red warrior.
"The old stories...The really old ones, before the Reconstruction, tell that for a long time, Mega Man X did not fight alone in his struggle for peace." Phantom explained. "They say that another walked beside him...just as deadly, just as devastating, perhaps even more so than our great liberator. This second "Maverick Hunter", as they called themselves back then, had bold red armor the color of fresh blood,long flowing blond hair, and piercing green eyes. But even more than that...The one defining characteristic, the legends say, was the cast of his weapon. Often, it was the only part of him his enemies ever saw. A glowing green beam saber."
Phantom leaned down next to Copy X's ear, his breath tickling the sensors there. "The Z Saber."

In the golem's video footage, the red warrior grasped the newfound green beam saber in his hand, jumped up the wall for a bit, then leapt through the air with a bloodcurdling warcry, his weapon held above his head.
One massive swing later, the video footage suddenly blinked into static and critical error messages before the screen went black.

Copy X, for a moment, felt his cold blood freeze hard in his veins.
"Ciel had a purpose in those ruins. She found the second Hero of the Maverick Wars...The Crimson Hunter."

Zero...

For the first time that day, Copy X rose to his feet. He looked at Phantom, his bright red eyes dancing with something that the fourth general had not ever seen on his commander's face before.
Fear.

"Harpuia's mistakes have complicated everything." Copy X began slowly, looking about.
The walls of Neo Arcadia didn't feel as safe as they had ten minutes before.

END