Dust and dirt erupted from the parched ground in clouds with each step they took, the dust picked up and carried away by the warm, dry breeze. The breeze played with long, blonde hair, sweeping through cracks in armor, blowing dust into blue and green eyes. Twisted metal and smoking robotic remains littered the ground behind them, the remains of Tunnel Rhino's lair smoldering underground.
Zero snorted, wiping dust and smoke out of his eyes, "We beat Rhino...why're we still hanging around here?" He scowled disapprovingly at the dirt, mud, and robotic blood coating his once-polished red and white boots. X rolled his eyes at his companion's behavior.
"We're checking to make sure there aren't any other Maverick facilities in this area," the blue-armored Reploid repeated for probably the fifth time in the past ten minutes, sighing, "Since we're already here, we might as well." Zero snorted again and crossed his arms, glancing around the parched wasteland surrounding them. The ground was a dark reddish-brown color, littered with cracks and small crevices from lack of moisture, the cracks littering the ground like the shards of a shattered mirror. The only plants able to live in such an area were xerophytes such as cacti. The sky was dark and cloud-covered, thunder rumbling high in the heavens promising rain soon. A worn, dirt-covered, metal sign stuck out of the ground, attracting Zero's attention. Most of the letters were worn away, but he could barely make out the word 'canyon' on the sign, a thought sparking in the back of his mind.
"Hey, isn't that Wily's Canyon up ahead?" he asked. X blinked.
"'Wily's Canyon'?" X repeated, "Don't you mean the Grand Canyon?" Zero shook his head.
"No, Wily's Canyon. It used to be called the Grand Canyon, but after Wily's final defeat there about forty-five years ago, it was renamed to Wily's Canyon. Don't you remember reading about it during Hunter initiation?"
X blinked again and looked to the darkened sky, the name of the location finally registering in his mind, finally familiar to him. "Yeah...I remember now...but not much..." he admitted, crossing his arms and looking back down at the dry ground, "Just that it was the site of the destruction of Dr. Wily's final Skull Fortress." Zero nodded.
"I've always wanted to see just what it looked like..." X rolled his eyes.
"We're supposed to be on duty..." he pointed out.
"Oh, come on. We can scout out the interior of the canyon while we're there." X gave him an admonishing glance. "Hey, no one's been there since the end of the Reign of Wily. Up until the Maverick Wars started, the canyon was off limits to everyone, even government officials. It'd be the perfect place for a Maverick hideout." X looked up at his companion, sighed, and shook his head.
"Might as well...you're obviously not going to stop bugging me until I let you," X sighed, unable to keep himself from grinning. Zero beamed.
"Alright! There's an elevator over here." Zero was running to the contraption at edge of the canyon before X could stop him. The blue-armored Reploid blinked, let out an exasperated sigh, and ran after his comrade. While Zero attempted to get the rusted elevator working again, X walked over to the edge of the canyon and looked down into its depths. The bottom was obscured by a thick wall of mist halfway down, making it impossible to see exactly where the base of the canyon was. It reminded him of the "bottomless" pits found in the Mavericks' lairs.
The elevator creaked, shook, and rattled unhealthily, but it began its descent downwards without much trouble. X tried three times to convince Zero that the contraption was unsafe, but by the time X tried a fourth time, it was too late to jump out, and he had a feeling the machine would not like being told to return back to the surface. X groaned, leaning against the side of the elevator and rubbing his face.
So much for scouting the rest of the area... he sighed inwardly, We'll have to teleport out of here now. No way is this thing going to get us back up. He glanced at Zero and voiced, "I never did understand why we had to learn all about Wily's robots and the Robot Masters during initiation..." Zero shrugged.
"I don't know, either. I guess just in case the Mavericks ever find them and upgrade them to use against us..."
X leapt out of the elevator when it was near enough to solid ground, not wanting to spend any more time than necessary inside the rusted contraption. Doing so earned a good laugh from Zero, but the smaller Reploid ignored it as he stepped further into the canyon, looking around through the mist. It was much thinner now that he was at the bottom, but the Colorado River was practically steaming from the cool, autumn air contacting the river's warm water, creating a wall of mist between X's side of the river and the other side.
"Well?" Zero spoke as he walked up behind his smaller counterpart, "See anything interesting?"
"No...just a few scraps of metal over there." X pointed several dozen meters away at chunks of twisted metal lying scattered over the ground, small pieces of machinery having lain untouched for decades. "There might be something on the other side of the river. Think we can jump across it?" Zero thought about that for a moment.
"Probably. If we dash-jump, we should definitely be able to clear it," was his response. X nodded and backed up a few paces before activating his boot's thrusters, dashing forward and jumping when he reached the edge of the river. He went through the wall of mist effortlessly, landing on the opposite side of the river with barely a sound. He stood up and walked forward a few paces to clear the dense mist, dusting off his boots. When he straightened up and looked ahead, he froze for a second before all but screaming and scrambling back several paces.
"What? What is it?" he heard Zero ask just after the crimson Hunter reached the ground. Zero hastened his pace to join his comrade's side, blinking and taking a small step back when he saw what had caused X to cry out.
Before them stood a large, wooden cross, a figure -- a robot -- draped on it. The robot was male, wearing a dark red jumpsuit, dull yellow boots, a black chestplate and a black helmet. Emblazoned on the chestplate was a bright yellow lightning bolt, his helmet adorning a yellow mask over his eyes and a similar lightning bolt sticking out of the forehead, eyes closed and head bowed. Large, metal spikes through his hands pinned them up on the arms of the cross, similar spikes also driven through his shoulders and knees. Sharp barbed wire was twined around his arms and waist to further secure him to the cross, specially made so as to make it more difficult to break. Dried, dark red fluid stained his hands, arms, and knees.
X shivered as he looked first to the left, then to the right of the crucified robot, greeted with similar sights in a perfect line, one Robot Master after the other crucified. Most had been crucified traditionally like the first robot -- spikes through the hands, knees, and ankles -- but others were kept upon their crosses in more grotesque ways, the robot just beside the first wrapped in barbed wire from his throat to his feet with the points of two huge, metal spikes sticking out of his chest and stomach, dark red hair the same color as the dried, ancient fluid staining the spikes, alabaster skin cut by the wire, red, sawblade-decorated armor cracked and broken long ago.
X gulped, clutching his stomach and trying not to throw up. Zero stepped closer to the red-armored Robot Master, slowly reaching up and tilting his head up. The robot's head was heavy, limp, eyes closed. Dark red circulatory fluids coated his neck, his throat nothing but a mass of barbed wire, torn mechanical muscle, and circulatory fluids. Zero drew his hand back, glancing down to the bottom of the cross, blinking at three numbers carved into the wood.
"009..." he muttered, glancing back up to the robot, finally noticing the sawblades decorating his shoulders and wrists, "...Metal Man..." X blinked, then looked back to the first robot, noticing the numbers "008" carved upon the base of his cross. After 009 was 010, then 011, and so on down the line. "They're in perfect order...huh..." Zero muttered, thoroughly fascinated with the odd, sacrificial display. X gulped, trying not to throw up and calm his stomach's convulsive churning. Zero placed his hands on his hips and walked a little ways down the line, noting with interest that each Robot Master was missing something, usually helmets like 009, but often other pieces of armor or weapons, the items probably taken prior to the crucification as souvenirs for whoever had punished the Robot Masters so.
X finally took a deep breath and dared himself to step closer to 008 -- Elec Man -- raising a shaking hand up to touch the ancient robot's face.
Gold eyes snapped open, flashing with internal electricity.
X howled and jumped back, jerking his hand away as the Robot Master twitched and shuddered upon his cross, head rolling along his shoulders weakly. X nearly threw up as he stammered, nearly hysterical, "O-Oh, my god...Z-Zero..! This one's still alive..!" Zero stared as Elec Man shuddered, impaled hands sparking with weak, low voltage electricity, back arching as much as the barbed wire would allow, metallic bones whining and grinding together sickeningly. X finally managed to regain control of his senses, scrambling back up a large rock beside the cross to put himself nearly even with the crucified Robot Master. "I-It'll be okay..." X stammered, hands shaking as he reached up and tried to remove the barbed wire around the robot's arms.
"...p...ple...ase..." The voice was twisted, broken, a mockery of the smooth, calm baritone it had once been. "...ki...ll...m...e..." X's stomach churned at the plea. Elec Man's head flopped forward weakly before he strained to lift it again, empty, lifeless gold eyes staring into sympathetic, horrified green, circulatory fluids leaking from his eyes like bloody tears. "K...ill...me..."
"B-But...w-we can repair you..." X stuttered, shivering as he continued to fuss with the barbed wire, ignoring the pain as the wire sliced open his palms.
"B-But..." X whimpered.
A flash of neon green lashed out, making X jump back, slipping and falling off of the rock. Circulatory fluids gushed onto the ground, electricity sparking brightly for a moment before Elec Man fell still, chest and stomach sliced open, burned, irreparable circuitry smoking, eyes closed to never open again. Zero deactivated his beam sabre.
"Z-Zero...!" X all but shrieked, scrambling back to his feet, "We could have saved him!"
"He didn't want to be saved, X," Zero countered, strongly but without raising his voice, "He wanted to die. He's been living like this for at least forty-five years. He deserves peace." X looked down, then back up at the Robot Master. The now-calm, peaceful expression on Elec Man's face in death was all X needed to see to know that Zero was right.
X shook his head, backing away from the cross and asking the air, "Who...could have done this...?"
"Humans," was the answer, neither from X, nor Zero. Both Maverick Hunters spun around to see a large form walking towards them from down the line of crucified Robot Masters. Violet armor sparsely covering a dark grey jumpsuit was difficult to see through the mist, a violet helmet covering the Reploid's face with only a T-shaped opening in the front for him to see out of. Zero snarled and ignited his beam sabre again, the bright green light partially cutting through the fog-like atmosphere.
"What are you doing here, Vile?" the crimson-armored Reploid demanded as Vile stopped just a few paces away. Though the Maverick commander's face was hidden, the Hunters could almost feel his grin.
"I could ask the same of you," Vile responded, "You are in our territory, after all."
"I asked first," Zero growled.
Vile let loose a short, humorless laugh, but obliged, answering, "Sigma's always been fascinated with anything involving Dr. Wily, and that includes Wily's Canyon. He's wanted to find the Robot Masters and infect them with the Virus for years. He knew what fate befell them, but never could find them...I'm the only one so far that's known that they were right under his nose..."
Zero's eyes narrowed, but curiosity won over caution, and he asked, "Why didn't he ever figure it out...?" Again, Vile laughed, but answered.
"The mist isn't a natural occurrence," Vile explained, placing one hand on his hips, "It was designed by the government some forty-five years ago after Wily's final defeat and the Masters' crucification to keep anyone from tracking down the Robot Masters' signals. The mist is filled with dense layers of electronic pulses -- too low-energy for us to sense, but high enough to scramble the signal of even the best tracker. Sigma's minions have flown over the canyon countless times searching for signals, but the mist prevents their trackers from pinpointing the Masters." Vile shrugged. "It's the perfect cloaking device. It looks natural, but isn't. I'm the only one to actually come down here and look for myself."
"And why didn't you turn them over to Sigma when you found them?" Zero snorted, lowering his beam sabre, but keeping himself ready for an attack.
Vile's tone seemed to soften, voice lower than before as he answered, "For the same reason you put Elec Man out of his misery. They've suffered enough." He glanced down the line of crosses. "This is only the second time I've been here."
"What...d-did you mean..." X finally spoke, swallowing in an attempt to push his heart out of his throat and back into his chest, "...when you said humans did this...?"
"Exactly what I said," was the simple answer, "Humans did this to the greatest army that ever lived." A violet-gloved hand raised up, holding a slip of paper. "This is from Sigma's collection of material on Dr. Wily if you care to read it." X hesitated, but stepped forward despite Zero's reprimands, shakily taking the offered paper.
It was a newspaper article dating back to December 24, 2099, forty-five years past, accompanied with three photographs interlaced within the article -- two of two Robot Masters being crucified and one of a larger robot being torn apart. The headline read Dr. Wily is dead, his army destroyed.
|The date is Christmas Eve, 2099, and the Grand Canyon is the site of the last battle of Dr. Wily's force of war machines. After his death just two days earlier, thousands upon thousands of people gathered in the Grand Canyon before the Robot Masters could regroup themselves to put an end to the memory of the Reign of Wily once and for all. Dr. Wily's larger creations such as the Yellow Devil and Mecha Dragon have been decimated, their remains scattered across the canyon. The Robot Masters were overcome by the enormous number of humans, unable to fight back despite their strength and obvious advantage in power. All seventy-seven of Dr. Wily's Robot Masters -- from the sixty-four of the eight individual armies, to the three Rock Killers, to the Star Droids -- were taken down by the humans and crucified one-by-one before the crowd. A thunderous roar filled the canyon as the people cheered the demise of the deadliest army ever known.|
X dropped the article, unable to finish reading it, trembling as he stumbled away a few paces and finally threw up. Vile calmly picked the article back up, folding the brittle paper carefully and tucking it in a panel in his chestplate.
"H...How...c-could humans...do that...?" X stammered between retches, clutching his stomach. He straightened and turned back to face the two Reploids, looking past them to the line of Robot Masters. "Th-Three of the armies...weren't even created by Wily...they were stolen...!"
Vile shook his head as he replied, "The humans didn't care. If it had been affiliated with Wily in any way, it was destroyed. Even Blues, Dr. Light's creation, was hunted down by the mobs because of his brief affiliation with Wily during the third war and the Darkman imposter during the fifth. But he was never caught. Forte's body is kept in the International History Museum in Berlin, Germany." X stared.
"I...I thought...th-that was just...a replica..." Vile shook his head.
"It's him. All the way down to the Japan flagpole through his chest." X's stomach churned again.
"So that's actually Gospel's real head in the Museum of Natural History in New York?" Zero asked. Vile nodded. "Where's the rest of him?" Vile shrugged.
"No one knows. Rumor is that he was used for spare parts," the Maverick commander answered. X shook his head.
"How...could they do that...?" he repeated, looking back up at one of the crucified Robot Masters, "It's heartless...it's meaningless...it's..."
"Human," Zero muttered. X cringed, but said nothing. There was no way he could deny it. Not with the evidence right in front of him. He blinked as he suddenly thought of something and glanced back and forth between the other two Reploids.
"What...if there are more still alive...? Like he was...?" X asked, glancing back at Elec Man's body. There was a moment of silence before Vile finally answered.
"Let's relieve them of their pain, too."
Zero and X walked to the beginning of the line by Cut Man, and Vile ran to the end of the line, all three checking every Robot Master as they walked toward each other down the line. X could not bring himself to kill the still-living robots, leaving Zero to do it with a quick, thorough, barely painful slash of his beam sabre. Tears filled X's eyes with Cut Man's demise, but he knew that it was what the small robot wanted. He wanted to die. He wanted to be free of the agony. With that in mind, watching him die was not quite as painful.
Vile released Pluto from the agony by removing the cat-like robot's chestplate, opening an access panel in his chest, and carefully disconnecting a large wire. Pluto's feline eyes dimmed, and he slipped into a peaceful slumber before quietly passing away painlessly.
X almost missed Quick Man as the large, red robot made no sound when he approached, nor did he respond when X touched him. He just watched the blue Reploid with empty, ocean-colored eyes, silent, unmoving, unblinking. The emptiness in his eyes made X's heart ache. There was no pain, unlike in Elec Man's eyes. Only emptiness and sorrow and, deep down, heartbreak. X squeezed back tears. He had been taught during Hunter initiation that the Robot Masters had been just that, regular robots. However, he saw in their dying eyes that they, too, had some capability of feeling emotions just as the famous Rockman had. Maybe not quite as potent, but close enough for X's throat to tighten at their expressions and his heart to soften as they were released from the agony.
X jumped at the reaction he got from Magnet Man, the bright red-haired Robot Master screaming like an alley cat and jerking against his barbed wire restraints, impaled hands somehow closing over the spikes that had driven them into the arms of the cross, distorted voice releasing an animalistic howl into the night. His orange eyes shined brightly with insanity as he thrashed and squirmed upon the cross, making his spike- and wire-inflicted wounds worse. As Zero drove his beam sabre through Magnet Man's chest, he watched the insane robot's eyes flash and begin to dim, felt his body shudder and go limp. X felt sick again. So many decades being stuck to the cross in constant agony had driven the red Robot Master to insanity. The thought that humans -- the very creatures he was fighting so hard to protect -- had done this sickened him. He would have to talk to Dr. Cain about this when he returned to Hunter Headquarters. The old scientist was the only person X really felt he could confide in and talk to, and after tonight, he greatly needed someone to talk to.
Lime green eyes stared down at Vile as the Maverick commander opened up Gyro Man's chestplate and reached into his chest cavity. Vile looked up at the small robot as he pulled loose the cable. His chest tightened at the tear-filled look of gratefulness that shined in those lime green eyes before the closed, two words escaping Gyro Man's mouth with his final breath as those tears trailed down his face and fell to the dry ground.
* * * * *
"...do you suppose robots go anywhere when they die...?" X asked the air as he smoothed down the dirt over the final grave, wiping synthetic sweat from his brow and dusting his hands off.
"I don't know..." Zero answered, making sure the dirt over Ring Man's grave was firmly packed, "That's an interesting question, though..."
"Here's the final touch..." Vile spoke after making sure the crucifixes were finished burning at that the fire had been completely extinguished, "And this is where our temporary truce ends." X and Zero walked over to him, the three forming a small triangle in the center of the diadem of graves they had created throughout the night. Their arms all ached from digging and burying each Robot Master, but they ignored the discomfort, glancing down at the final touch which rested in Vile's hands. It was sloppily made, but it was better than nothing. "Do you want the honors, X?" X nodded, taking it from Vile.
X stared down at it for a moment before whispering, "I'm sorry you had to die like this...all of you...if I could avenge you somehow, I would, but the people who did this to you are unknown and likely all dead by now...so all I can do is promise you that you'll never be forgotten. Even if it's only known to the three of us, this canyon isn't Wily's Canyon anymore...but the Masters' Canyon. Your canyon. And if there is an afterlife for robots, I hope you all make it to the fields of paradise where you can enjoy your afterlife in peace with each other."
He raised his arms over his head and drove the final item into the ground, marking the center of the diadem of graves, the center of the circles of Robot Masters.
Silence fell over the trio. Vile turned his back to the Hunters and teleported away without a word, but X was almost positive Vile made a cross over his heart before leaving. The azure Hunter looked up at his blonde companion, who nodded, and both disappeared from the canyon, teleporting back to Hunter Headquarters.
Silence filled the canyon and, for the first time, sunlight broke through the manmade mist, creating a small hole through the cloud and shining upon the slender, white cross which marked the center of the diadem, the center of the circles.
The center of the final resting place of the greatest army which ever lived.
"Heroes get remembered,
But legends never die.
Follow your heart,
And you'll never go wrong."
Dear lord, this was utter SHIT. What the HELL was I thinking when I wrote this piece of pigeon poo? ;; And no, this is not NK's lame-brained excuse to NOT work on Electrical Communication. Nope. It's not. No sirrah. Oh, who am I kidding? xX; It's not MY fault chapter 7 is being an absolute nightmare to write. @@; That and school's not helping at all. My hair's falling out again. --;
Note to self: find a stress management program before you lose most your hair again.