A brief, mad-cap, and altogether comical interlude in the Mega Man X universe, presented to you always as by khaki knight.
Disclaimer: Mega Man X and characters, related ideas, etc. are the legal property of Capcom. Characters, etc. are only borrowed for what I hope will be entertainment purposes. Unlike the Mega Man series and its bazillion sequels, this fic is strictly non-profit – honest! This disclaimer applies to the entire work. Insert more legal jargon here if it will keep me from facing a lawsuit. Fight Mega Man! For everlasting peace!
Alia knew it was going to be a bad day from the moment she woke up... ...fifteen minutes past the start of her duty shift.
Her alarm was missing, replaced with a hastily written pen and paper "SORRY—LOVE PALETTE." By all accounts, Alia thought as she nearly ran down the corridors of MHHQ in a vain attempt to make it to her station on time, another 'bout of midnight inspiration had struck the excitable junior navi.
As Alia dashed into Command, tucking the stray locks of her disheveled hair into some semblance of place, she vaguely hoped that whatever Palette was cooking up down in R&D at least wouldn't blow up this time... (They were still trying to paint over the blast damage in the mess hall.)
Layer met Alia there—a dreamy look in her eyes—at the lead navi station. She apparently hadn't even noticed how late Alia had been. It only took Alia a moment to realize why: today was filing day, when unit leaders and S-Class hunters set up camp in Command, alternatively filing reports and reading evaluations... In other words, senior hunters doing all at once all the paperwork the MH brass needed to get in order for the fine gents (that accursed breed!—bureaucrats) in the UEG oversight committee.
And that meant X, Zero, Axl would be in Command for most of the morning (as the three most senior hunters, they were saddled with more than their share of paperwork), though considering this was Layer the important part was that Zero was there, and...
Alia scowled as she took up her station. Her head was starting to hurt, and she rubbed the bridge of her nose in a motion she had subconsciously picked up from the late Dr. Cain. She logged in and began her morning routine... and started to scowl, because her attention was lacking. The cause was obvious: X was there and—Alia hated to admit—she was little better than Layer sometimes; it was taking all her willpower not just to stare all puppy-eyed at X all morning...
On the bright side, she figured, the last of the lower class hunters was filing out. By all accounts X and the others wouldn't be in Command much longer, and then she could get some actual work done and—
And that's when Alia noticed The Glitch. She frowned, immediately running a diagnostic. The Glitch remained stubbornly there. And then Alia said the words that, by the end of the day, she would regret ever uttering.
"It looks like we've got a minor sensor glitch in the communications array," Alia said coolly, only the slightest hint of irritation in her voice.
"What's that?" asked X, putting down the stacks of paperwork he was holding and immediately headed over to Alia's station.
"A glitch," she repeated, frowning as she peered closer at her screen. "Specifically, a runtime error in junction thirteen of driver four of the main communications array."
For a moment, X's eyes seemed mildly glazed over at the techno-babble. It quickly passed, his mind snapping back into the moment. "How bad a glitch are we talking about?" X asked dubiously.
"If we don't take care of it now," she explained tiredly, "there's a good chance that external communications may cut out for a few minutes down the line."
A strange look suddenly came over X's face. "Wait, we'd be cut off from the outside world?" he asked.
Alia closed her eyes and stretched; her back arched, she relaxed with her arms folded behind her head. "Well, yeah, when you put it that way, sure," she answered distractedly, a sort of bemused expression on her face, "for all of about two minutes, until the backups kick in and the main array goes into auto repair."
Suddenly, there was a flurry of clicks and whirrs; when Alia next opened her eyes she saw X, with nearly a crazed glint in his eyes, brandishing his X Buster. "It's Sigma! I know it!" he shouted, his eyes darting rapidly around the room.
Alia stared blankly at X for a long moment. Then... "What on earth are you talking about?" she asked.
"Sigma, the cause of this entire incident!" X shouted emphatically again.
"Sigma!?" Zero chimed in. He had been walking over to X to see what all the fuss was about, but hearing the big S mentioned, he dashed over the last few steps.
"Sigma... Man, that's totally not righteous, man!" Axl added randomly from somewhere.
"X, there's no Sigma!" Alia said, trying to reassure him and honestly a little worried about her favorite hunter.
"There's a problem with our communications array! It could go down, and we'd be isolated!" X 'explained' to Zero.
Zero looked aghast. "But that means—!"
"It's a total sneak attack, man!" Axl exclaimed.
"But there's no Sigma!" Alia said, almost a little hysterical. "It's just a glitch, a minor problem!"
"Sigma's behind this, I can feel it," X said, waving his X Buster around frantically.
"Stop saying that!" Alia said, finally starting to get irritated.
"We have to find him," X continued without missing a beat, "and put a stop to it!"
"Sigma bad!" Zero shouted reflexively, automatically drawing his Z saber and suddenly looking very paranoid.
"He's totally not gnarly, guys!" Axl chimed in.
"No Sigma!" Alia yelled, standing and slamming her palms against her terminal's counter. She turned, spotting Signas crossing over to the crowd. "Signas, please, talk some sense into—"
"Wait, are you saying Sigma's on the base?" rumbled Signas as he crossed the room, managing to completely ignore Alia in the process.
"Yeah," Zero answered, cradling his Z saber still, "X says Sigma's corrupting our computer network to isolate the base, and probably take it over."
Signas slammed one fist into the other hand. "That brilliant bastard! Take us out with one surgical strike, then just roll over the rest of the world!" Signas suddenly held up one hand, pointing ahead like some gallant statue. "Well, we'll stop him cold here!"
"Yeah, radical, let's take that Sigma lamer down!" Axl shouted exuberantly.
"Lock down the base!" Signas shouted.
"There's no Sigma!" Alia shouted again. "Just a glitch! One, damnable stupid little glitch!!"
No one, of course, was listening. Instead, X and Zero were already imputing commands into the main consoles of the room.
"Setting up counter-measure priorities!" Zero reported.
"Emergency defensive commands initiated!" X informed everyone.
As if on cue, Command's bright lighting dimmed, and red emergency lights popped on all across the room.
"Computer," Signas began, "Initiate lockdown procedure 1-C!"
"Do we even have a lockdown plan 1-C!?" Alia exclaimed.
"LOCKDOWN 1-C INITIATED," the computer responded, apparently answering Alia's question. "NO TRAFFIC OR COMMUNICATIONS ON OR OFF BASE UNTIL ALL SYSTEMS CONDITION GREEN!"
"Okay," Zero said, looking impatient as he twirled his Z saber, "now we just need a plan to take down Sigma!"
"Like, only the most totally tubular of plans!" Axl appended.
"Are you all insane!?" Alia demanded angrily, tossing her hands up in the air.
"Strategy meeting!" Signas shouted. Zero, Axl, and Signas all gathered together around Signas' command chair on the highest landing in Command.
X was about to join them, but Alia stopped him. "X, please, just listen to me!" Alia begged, tugging on his non-X Buster'd arm.
"What is it, Alia?" he asked. "We've only got a few minutes before we go after Sigma—we need to stop him before he gets the upper hand!"
"But that's just it, X!" Alia pleaded. She pulled him back towards her console. "See, just look—look!" she said, pointing at her terminal. "All we have to do is go purge the main communications array, and that will clear this all right up." Looking irritated, she thrust a finger at her terminal's screen, as it clearly displayed "PURGE MAIN ARRAY" in bright green (flashing!) letters.
For a moment, Alia hoped that she had gotten through to X—he, after all, looked completely rational, calm, collected as he studied the screen...
And then the X Buster came out again. "It's gotta be a trap!" he shouted. He immediately leapt onto the nearest counter (absurdly 'shading' his eyes with his X Buster) and peering out Command's massive bay windows, as if he were some god damn mariner on the bow of his ship. "He'll be waiting for us there! With his troops! And guns! And more troops!"
"Totally nasty, man!" Axl chipped in.
As Alia's head smacked against the counter, she let loose a groan of such frustration and anger that for a moment X was worried she had been infected by the Sigma Virus.
"Okay," Alia said, a little more composed several minutes later. "All we have to do is go down through the mess hall," she explained, using slow hand motions to get her point across, "out through the back door—"
"While watching out for Sigma's troops which have no doubt invaded all parts of the base already!" X interjected helpfully.
Alia twitched, but after a moment decided to act as if she hadn't heard him. "Then make our way around the side of the base," she continued to an enraptured Zero, Axl, and Signas, "past the barracks, across the green, and into the secondary access junction for the communications array.
"And then we can just purge the array—"
"So we can take down Sigma, the cause of this entire incident," X said seriously. For possibly the first time since she had known him, Alia sent X a murderous glare. X, however, was so consumed by thoughts of kicking epic Sigma ass that he was blissfully ignorant of this fact.
"Great plan, Alia!" Signas said, approvingly.
"Yeah, there's no way Sigma can stop us now!" Zero added.
"Groovy!" declared Axl from somewhere, managing to be both encouraging and incredibly vapid.
"All right hunters, let's move out!" X declared, his fist clenched determinedly before him. "We've got to stop Sigma, the cause of this entire incident!"
Alia cringed. And also desperately hoped that her hastily put together plan—go along with the Sigma delusions of her friends until the array was repaired, proving there was no Sigma anywhere in the process—was going to work. And not, you know, going to drive them even crazier.
The mess hall, much to Alia's relief, seemed to be a bastion of normalcy. Hunters—mostly reploids, but with the occasional human technician here and there—sat along the various rows of tables, talking quietly and enjoying either e-chips or standard lunchroom fare.
Almost immediately, one of the KP duty hunters approached Alia's quintet, smartly offering Signas a sharp salute. "Commander Signas! To what do we owe this pleasure?"
Alia flinched, because on some level she knew exactly what was about to happen.
"This is a priority one alert!" Signas shouted, speaking not only to the KP officer but to the entire mess hall. Almost as one, everyone in the mess slowly craned their heads over to their commander. Several more of the KP officer rushed over.
"Command Signas, what's the crisis, what do you need us to do!?" the lead KP officer immediately asked.
"You," Signas said, pointing to the first of the KP officers in line, "fix me a microwave burrito! You," he said, indicating the next three KP officers, "barricade the doors, except for the one in back! You," and here he indicated the next few KP officers, "I want the kitchen spotless! And you," he said pointing to the very last KP officer, "Get to the weapons locker, and issue secondary weapons for everybody!"
The KP officers exchanged looks. "Well," Signas said impatiently, "Get to it! Chop, chop!" The junior officers again exchanged looks, looked to the KP commanding officer (who shrugged), then all at once broke for their assigned duties.
The commanding KP officer frowned. "But, sir, what is the priority one alert about?"
Signas shifted. "Well, perhaps we should keep that on a need to know basis for the time—"
"It's Sigma! He's attacking the base, and we need to stop him!" X shouted immediately, his voice filled with the sort of earnest sense of justice that he was so well known for.
The gathered hunters in the mess hall—green recruits nearly to the man, woman, or man-bot—reacted in the way that was to be expected: they all immediately began panicking and running around wildly.
...Including, unfortunately, the KP officer that was supposed to be in charge of microwaving Signas' burrito. Signas frowned, his stomach growling. "Where is that burrito?" he asked, apparently more worried with that than the panicked near riot going on all around him in the mess hall.
Conveniently, the microwave containing his burrito was but a handful of steps away. Signas skipped over, blissfully unaware that the microwave had been set for 'extremely high' for far too long (the KP officer assigned to burrito duty had apparently taken Signas' 'right now' order a little too seriously). He popped the door open, extracting the burrito, moving its molten semi-liquid contents ever closer to his mouth...
"Commander! Get clear!" Zero shouted. Dashing forward, Zero grabbed the blazing burrito from his startled commander's hands, taking the first bite. He chewed for several seconds, a look of consternation on his face. "Oh God!" he said around the bits of burrito still in his mouth, "It burns!"
"Zero! No!" X shouted in what had to have become some sort of reflex.
Alia had had enough of this absurdity. "That's it!" she shouted over the cacophony of the panicking hunters in the background. "X, Zero, Signas, Axl, get your asses over here!" she called out grumpily as she forcefully shoved (and occasionally Alia Buster'd) her way over to the rear exit of the mess.
About ten minutes later, Alia and the hunters regrouped just outside of the open mess hall door. Alia immediately started to frown. "Wait, wait a minute, where'd Signas go?" Alia asked.
The three S-class hunters around her gave her a collective shrug. She groaned again, rubbing her temples. She briefly considered heading back into the mess hall to retrieve him, but one look at the continuing pandemonium still erupting inside quickly made her forget that idea. "Just forget it," she muttered darkly. "Come on. We just need to get across the greens to fix the array."
"And take out Sigma, the cause of this entire—"
"Yes, X, we know, okay!?' Alia snapped.
For the first few minutes on the base's greens, Alia was hopeful that the madness of the day had finally decided to leave them (well, mostly her) alone. For, aside from several more panicking hunters escaped from the mess hall (running about aimlessly and in all directions), everything seemed comparatively normal and collected.
Her hopes were soon dashed.
Things got off to a bad start when her quartet ran afoul of a few off-duty hunters (who thus far had been spared the 'news' of 'Sigma's return') playing with water balloons. Soon encircled on all sides, X immediately declared the opposing hunters 'infected by the Sigma Virus' and told his 'team' to use low level attacks to knock them unconscious until they could be treated.
Immediately after, those hunters responded by running away (I'd like to see you do any different if the three most senior of the S-class hunters engaged you randomly). But not before one tossed a water balloon over his shoulder back at Axl...
"No, Axl, watch out!" Zero shouted, throwing himself in front of the watery projectile. It exploded against his chassis, and he landed with a thud just to the right of Axl. "So... wet..." Zero groaned from the ground.
"Zero! No!" X shouted reflexively.
Alia hoped that would be the extent of the weirdness. As the quartet crested a low hill near the center of the campus greens... an oddly familiar reploid leaped down in front of them.
"It's you!" X shouted.
"It can't be!" Zero murmured.
"Who is that!?" Axl inquired.
"Oh, come on!" Alia ground out in frustration.
"Oh yeah! It's meeee," the mysterious reploid said, coolly tossing his silvery hair, "the real ultimate deal! DYNAMO!"
"M f!" Alia cursed, loudly. Only Axl seemed to notice Alia's verbal indiscretion, however, and he responded by throwing the horns ("Extreme!" he shouted, thumb, index finger, and pinky extended) and generally looking impressed.
Dynamo continued as if he hadn't heard anything. "That's right, I'm back! And I challenge you, X—my rival!—to the most extreme and crazy duel ever!" Dynamo immediately launched into several more poses, before settling into a stance that reminded Alia of a pro-wrestler flexing.
Then Alia frowned. "Wait, when did X become your 'rival'?" she asked. Her frowned deepened. "Hey, wait, where the hell have you even been Dynamo? You've been missing since at least the Nightmare Crisis."
In response, Dynamo looked uncomfortable for a moment, before dropping his combat visor down. "The time for talk has passed!" he shouted, perhaps a little too eagerly. "Come, X, and meet your fate!!" Dynamo drew his twin-sided beam saber and dashed forward, X immediately dropping into a combat stance with his X Buster ready...
"NOOO! X! Look out!" Zero shouted, immediately jumping in front of his long-time friend, and meeting Dynamo's gaze himself.
And thereafter, Zero and Dynamo engaged in... the most intense staring contest ever.
Alia was rendered speechless. This soon passed. "A staring contest?" she asked aloud. "That's what Dynamo considers the 'most extreme and crazy duel ever'!?" Alia shouted in disbelief.
"Zero! No!" X shouted again.
When neither Dynamo nor Zero (both sweating from the sheer intensity of their duel) responded, Alia started to scowl. "You've got to be f kidding me..." Alia muttered, as she led X (who kept looking back worried at Zero and his 'most epic battle' with Dynamo) and Axl (still throwing the horns and shouting "radical!" at odd intervals) onwards across the greens.
The remaining three marched across the rest of the greens without incident, arriving at a large door with the words 'COMMUNICATIONS ARRAY, ACCESS POINT 2' in red painted across it. Alia keyed in the proper code into the keypad next to the door, and it slid open.
Then she stepped aside as the two remaining S-class hunters needlessly acted carefully as they 'tactically' entered the room, sweeping their weapons all across open fields of vision. After a moment... "All clear, Alia!" X called.
The heavy door led into a large industrial looking room—in other words, lots of heavy looking machinery, several large fans (who's purpose was anybody's guess) and pipes (pipes everywhere!). Alia folded her arms. It certainly looked straight-forward enough—a single metal catwalk cut a path through the metal jungle.
"Okay, let's go," Alia said automatically, waving X and Axl ahead.
The three had made it only about half-way down the catwalk when Alia noticed something ahead of them. It was a small mouse. Organic even, not a mouse-bot. It was brown, and stared at the three newcomers with some interest.
"It's gotta be one of Sigma's spies!" X shouted immediately.
This scared the mouse. The mouse bolted for the nearest mouse hole. X was unfazed. "Quick, Axl, after it!"
"I'm on it!" Axl shouted, dashing forward from... somewhere and earnestly throwing himself at the hole where the mouse had vanished through. Axl, naturally, slammed into the wall. "Ow..." he said, rubbing his forehead.
"Axl! Use the cat-bot DNA core!" X shouted, with such intensity.
"Right X!" Axl responded. Suddenly, a glowing sphere appeared around him. When it vanished, there was a cat (blue and red and gray and orange, with a few more of Axl's features thrown in) sitting in Axl's place. The cat looked to the left, then to the right, getting his bearings. Then he turned his attention back to the hole the mouse had vanished down...
...And then there went cat-bot Axl right after the mouse, just managing to squeeze through the hole.
Alia normally would have been irritated at both: 1. Losing another member of their 'Sigma hunting party' and 2. Another delay before she could purge the array and hopefully put a stop to the madness, but instead... "Wait, I didn't know Axl could change into a cat," Alia stated, honestly mystified.
"Oh, yeah," X said, "Do you remember that maverick call over in Monsteropolis like, three weeks back?" he asked. Alia nodded. "Well, we ended up battling that guy partway through a mall at one point, and Axl got knocked into a pet store, and... well..."
Alia was speechless. Or she no longer cared. It was really hard to tell. What could be said for sure was that she stalked off down the rest of the catwalk.
The last two standing made their way down the rest of the catwalk, coming to a stop just before a gleaming silver door.
X took several steps forward, opening the door with a swipe of his PID. The door slid open, though the interior of the room remained pitch black. "Alia stay back!" X shouted, just on the verge of crossing the door. "Sigma's unscrupulous and dangerous, and I have no doubt he'd try to use you to get to me!"
Alia normally would have been flattered (and a little wistful, she would have to admit). Instead, there was a flurry of clicks and whirrs, and then Alia neatly shoved X out of the way as she marched into the room, her Alia Buster ready. "Just stay out of my way, blue boy," she muttered darkly.
Lights slowly popped on all across the room, as the two hunters walked into the array's control center. All told, the room looked an awful lot like Command, just with fewer windows and less furniture. Also, sitting in the center of the room was a medium sized podium with a large red button on top. Painted along the side of the podium was "ARRAY REBOOT/PURGE CONTROL."
"Finally!" Alia said in relief, marching determinedly towards the podium and reaching for the button to—
"Righteous! Xtreme! Tubular!" Axl started shouting compulsively. He tumbled into the room from an air vent—An air vent...? Alia thought in confusion—arms akimbo, and his pistols rapid firing at all corners of the room. Also, he no longer looked like a cat.
Alia and X stared at Axl for a long moment, before Alia finally just shook off Axl's dramatic entrance, and again moved to hit the button—
"I shall personally lead this battle!" Signas bellowed, kicking open another of the room's inexplicably many doors. Both of his hands were taken up by surprisingly huge handheld auto-cannons, bandoliers of extra ammo strapped across his chest. Also, there was another burrito clenched in his teeth, so his dramatic entrance sounded a bit more like "Mm shmm mmmersonally mead miss mattle!"
Alia blinked a few times, at the half-imposing, half-ridiculous image Signas presented, before again reaching towards the button and sweet, sweet release from the madness and—
"Am I too late?!" Zero shouted as he charged into the room through one of the room's upper access points, Z saber at the ready. "'Cause Sigma's gonna pay!"
"Zero!" X shouted happily. Reallyhappily. No, like really happily.
Alia folded her arms (made a little awkward by her still drawn Alia buster), waiting for something else to interrupt her. The four other hunters stared blankly at her. "Okay," Alia said finally, again going for the button—
"Okay, Sigma!" X shouted at the empty room's reaches, bolstered by the arrival of the rest of his companions. "Come out and show yourself and let's end this whole—"
"ALL RIGHT, THAT'S ENOUGH!" Alia hollered at the top of her artificial lungs. The four other occupants of the room all stopped in their places. "That enough!" Alia repeated, heatedly, savagely slamming the 'PURGE ARRAY' button. "Everybody just sit the hell down and shut the f—"
And then Palette, Layer in tow, burst into the room. "Hey guys!" she shouted, "Look what I invented!" She held up a gray box, parts of which were clearly cannibalized from Alia's alarm clock. "It can—"
It can explode. That's not actually what Palette was going to say, but that apparently didn't stop the box from exploding.
Several hours later, in MHHQ's medical/repair bay, Alia, X, Axl, Signas, Zero, and maybe Layer and Palette all sat around in repair beds. (In the background, Douglas and Lifesavor exchanged Significant Looks and both shook their heads. The only good news about being mostly forgotten about was that they weren't subject to getting dragged into such madness.)
"So...?" X asked from his repair bed, conveniently located right next to Alia's, "Do we know what exactly happened...?" he finished, sounding confused.
"It was the paperwork," Alia explained authoritatively. "At least, partially. It seems a weakened fragment of a descendant of an offshoot of the Sigma Virus combined both with the recursive algorithms created by the amount of paperwork you were processing and the full moon last night to cause you all to go a little..." and here her expression turned inscrutable, "loopy."
"Wait..." X started slowly. "That means Sigma really was behind it all!" he shouted. "We should—"
Alia smacked him soundly. "No, you idiot!" she scolded with surprising harshness (in her defense, it had been that sort of day). "I made that up! Stop doing so much paperwork at once! You all go a little crazy afterward!"
A half a world away, deep in the bowels of UEG headquarters in the former UN building in New York, a computer terminal flickered to life. It was a weak sort of life, the white static screen providing only the weakest of glows in the abandoned back room where it rested... But it was definitely on when it wasn't supposed to be.
The static suddenly snapped into sharp focus: Sigma! (Or more specifically, Sigma's face, on the screen).
A wicked grin spread across his face. "Yes! Battle through my legions of paperwork! Suffer through my endless waves of forms! That will show you, my Maverick Hunters! MWA HA HA HA HA! MWA HA HAAACK!" Sigma's image descended into a fit of coughing. Weakly, he held up one of his clenched fists. "This isn't over, Maverick Hunters! Just you wait... until tax season!!"
Set to the sound of Sigma coughing, the screen abruptly went black.