Disclaimer: I don't own anything Rockman, Capcom does. Please don't sue your loyal customer.
…I was wondering about typing up 'PhoenixWrightverse' and then I looked at the page count in the handwritten notebook version. This's no oneshot. I was thinking about doing the next bit of Feralverse to try to get that one done, but I just updated it so meh.
The staff meeting was a trap, really. Lifesaver presented all the evidence of Zero's true nature to the Commanders and Signas asked for Zero to turn himself over to be 'examined.'
X, of course protested. That was why they had not informed him or anyone close to him but Alia, who had been involved from the beginning, in advance. X would have been told and he would have told Zero. "So what if he's built oddly? Dr. Cain discovered that years ago! That's no reason to assume he's the source of the virus and force him to let himself be dissected!"
"You're right, X, that is really ridiculous circumstantial evidence. A good lawyer, and I'm a hero so I could get prettymuch anyone for free, could get it tossed out of court in three shakes." Zero was still leaning back in his chair as he had been since Lifesaver started speaking, utterly at ease despite the busters pointed at him from a legion of directions. "He's still right, even if it's mostly by luck."
"Zero, this is no time to make jokes like that!"
"You are admitting Lifesaver is correct?" was Signas' careful response. This was not how they had expected Zero to react. Innocent or guilty and faking it, Zero should be denying it furiously, easily provoked further into giving them an excuse to restrain him for testing by doing something semi-violent.
"Oh, X is right, I am joking." Zero frowned, eyes going cold as when Sigma was about to die. He was aware of the attempted entrapment, they realized, and disgusted that they would not only think he was a maverick but do something so underhanded. If he'd cared enough about their good opinion to want to restore it, he would have been furious. They'd just put themselves on the same level as mavericks, beings worthy of nothing but contempt.
"Zero," Alia started in, "I am sorry, but…" At this point, they couldn't ignore a lead like this. "So many lives are at stake."
"Cain wiped your memory, so it's very possible that even though you aren't aware of it you still are the source of the virus," Lifesaver added.
"No, I'm quite aware of it." Zero's eyebrow rose and he smiled slightly.
X rolled his eyes. "Zero, you already admitted that you're joking."
"Oh, I am." And now he grinned. "It's just that the joke's on you."
At that point, weapons that had started to relax when so long passed without anything happening snapped back into place.
"How long have you known you were the source?" Signas' eyes informed Zero that it would be a good idea to be forthcoming, or else buster shots would be incoming.
"Oh, I'm not the source."
"Zero, will you please stop taunting the heavily armed hunters?" X was thoroughly fed up now.
"I will when they stop asking stupid questions." Zero shook his head, sighing theatrically. "The people they allow to be in charge of protecting the world these days. You really should have let them give you the post, X."
"Zero, stop being deliberately confusing. Everyone else, please be quiet and let Zero explain." Normally, X acted so pure-hearted he cane across as an innocent child despite being the oldest person in this room, several times the age of anyone but Zero even leaving hibernation out of it. Sometimes, however, you were reminded that he was the father of all reploids. His tone wasn't forceful, but disobeying it was almost unthinkable.
"Explain what?" Zero somehow managed it, though. It seemed that having taught someone how not to shoot their foot off with a buster conveyed immunity to their voice of maturity.
"Zero." X gave him a look. It managed to convey several pages worth of information more than the typical thousand words. To those outside their partnership, it still clearly conveyed several points despite lack of study of the nuances. To sum up, X had worked with Zero for years. He knew him. He knew his attitude. He was pleased Zero was taking the stupidity of everyone else so well. Talking is better than violence, and I am glad my efforts to beat this into you have been so helpful. Good Zero.
However, X was just as irritated by the apparent lobotomies of their co-workers as Zero. He wanted them to stop being stupid as soon as possible. Zero's dragging things out was not helping with this. It had been okay at first, and X was grateful Zero had managed to bring some levity to such a horrible situation.
X was confident that Zero could sort this all out, and if he did not hurry up and do so X would become seriously disappointed in him. Lecturing would certainly be involved.
"Okay, okay. Sheesh. Go ahead and ruin my fun, why don't you." God, not the lectures!
Nobody in the room had actually spent much time around any old married couples, but the cliché still sprung to mind.
"Thank you." Now hurry up and fix this.
"The problem is, X, that Lifesaver is, like I said at the beginning, actually correct." Before anyone could respond, Zero continued. "I was built from parts made in 20XX. Dr. Cain explained that to me when I joined the hunters, since the lack of compatible modern parts would make repairing my injuries a bitch and so combat would be much more dangerous for me than a normal reploid, or even you since modern repairs are based on what works on you."
Zero addressed this to X, ignoring the rest of the room. "Since he was hoping I was a long-lost sibling of yours or something, though, he checked. From the amount of wear on the parts and the ways they were put together, I was clearly three months old. There were none of the distinctive signs of hibernation. So, he was forced to conclude that my builder had thought using parts from your time would make me as cool as you, found some in an attic or bought them from a collector, and then proceeded to mess up my programming so I ended up a homicidal nutcase."
"Why isn't that in the databanks?" Lifesaver countered.
"Because even before the wars I was big news. Oh, Irregular attacks weren't rare, but this was back when Sigma was a hero. I racked up more civilian casualties than anyone before me, and no one had ever managed to take out two hunters, let alone over two units, before being brought in alive by Sigma himself. If it had gotten out how weird I was, it would never have blown over, and Dr. Cain didn't want me to constantly be reminded of all the people I murdered." Old pain showed for a moment, and then Zero continued. "So, he kept it a secret and tried to figure out who built me to press charges. He set up contacts with collectors, which is where he got the parts to repair me after I blew myself up that time. Even with that, though, he never managed to ID the guy." And Zero had been forced to atone for his maker's sins.
"So the reason we're both immune might be that we have old parts and whoever designed the virus had it take advantage of the lower quality of modern ones?" X's tilted head changed the subject gracefully.
"Yeah, that was Cain's theory, especially after he found out what Sigma had done." Zero nodded. "The problem is, there were four intact chips out there that could possibly be used in reploids, and Sigma took Dr. Cain's data on me when he left. All of them are in maverick hands now, as nice as more immune backup would be."
"Can we recover them?" Unit 06's commander was on the edge of his seat.
"Well, I'm betting three of them blew up with that clone of me X killed in the second war. We're not talking about chips like X's. These were from generics, used for high-level non-sentient robots. X's was probably custom-built by Dr. Light. Cain thought it would take two in tandem at minimum to deal with the nanites, but I've got three hooked in and we all know how I turned out."
"Do you have any proof that Dr. Cain indeed found all this?" Signas asked, metaphorical heart metaphorically lifting. He hadn't wanted Zero to be the one. He should hope that he was, because there were no other clues and they needed answers, but this was Zero.
"There were all sorts of stuff that he wrote. I've got copies since it's my body and my life in danger if someone installs something incompatible. That's why all the don't do thises in my med file, Lifesaver." Zero nodded to indicate him, amazingly politely under the circumstances. "Of course, if you don't want to trust my copies, there should be them and the raw data on Cain's TS database. He gave me the code word in case I needed to print more copies out. It's conch, like the shell, only with a capital C and a zero instead of an oh. It's the second c that's capitalized, not the first."
Sigma made a careful note of that. Mistyping TS code words locked the files for a week. "I will look at that, thank you." Once Signas checked the database, they would be able to disprove the theory that Zero had been built back in the days of the legendary scientists who would have been capable of programming something like the virus. They still had no clue to its origins, but Zero was not the clue they were looking for.
Zero nodded. "While we're on the subject of me possibly being connected to the Mavericks, there's another damning bit of circumstantial evidence that Lifesaver failed to bring up, probably because it sounds a bit like an urban legend. Actually, there are several about it."
X would have chided Zero for drawing this out, but it seemed he wanted to clear his name all in one go. X really couldn't object to that: he didn't want to go through this again, the fear that their own side would destroy his best friend when he had done so much to try to atone for something that was not his fault already. So he listened calmly as Douglass played straight man, glancing at Lifesaver and asking what Zero was talking about.