"Tron!" Tiesel shouted as we all stepped down from the exit platform, "Thank goodness you're all right!"
"Was there ever a doubt?" She replied winking at him.

I smiled with joy to see the entire Bonne family, Gramps, and even Von Bluecher rush up to meet us. After being stranded on Elysium for so long I had nearly forgotten what they had all looked like. Tiesel looked over at me in surprise. My smile thinned as I caught his gaze.

"This should be interesting," I thought to myself.

"That's not…Megaman is it?"
"Well, as far as we can tell." Tron snickered turning her head to smile at me. "And he even came back with a shiny new suit."

As everyone gathered around us I spotted Gramps gawking at my new appearance. I smiled at his amusing expression and ran over to greet him alongside Roll.

"Megaman, is that really you?" he asked almost tearing up.

"The one and only." I said trying to pose a majestic stance as I spoke.

"Oh, my boy, I can't tell you how overjoyed I am to see you alive." He stammered with choked up words all at once flinging his arms around me. "I had almost given up hope."

"Well I'm just glad that Roll never did." I said smiling at her.

She blushed and looked away in embarrassment.

"Well…" She said coyly, "I can't take all the credit. Tron and the Bonne family were a huge help."

I looked back at Tiesel to see that his eyebrow was still raised as he examined my pristine exterior. I gave him a modest smile and nodded appraisingly.

"Well for that you and your family have my deepest of thanks." I said to Tiesal respectively.

He continued to eye me cautiously for a brief moment and then decided to let down his guard. He returned my gesture with a quick nod, finally acknowledging my presence.

"Yeah uh, well, nice to see you again… blue boy. Anyway! Tron, I'm sure you brought back all of that neat stuff from up there right!?"

"Neat stuff…" Sera said cynically, abhorred by such a gross understatement.

"Oh, and who might you be young lady?" Gramps asked turning his gaze to Sera.

"Careful Barrel" Bluecher said cautiously, walking up from behind Gramps. "She has a strange resemblance to those two we found on Forbidden Island, the ones who had claimed to be ancients."

Bluecher turned to look at Roll.

"Those two caused all of us much grief. Why, may I ask, did you bring one back with you?"

I stepped in to defend Sera as she backed away from all the hostility being thrown at her. While it was true that she did in fact cause a substantial amount of trouble in the past, her actions as of late had professed of unbridled willingness to atone for her earlier wrong-doings.

"Wait, it's all right. She's on our side!" I said hastily.

"Babuuu!" Bon said standing behind Tiesel.

"Yeah, I don't like the look of her either" Tiesel said to Bon under his breath as quietly as he could. Apparently, he didn't know that my ears could now detect sounds that even bats were unable to hear…assuming my vague understanding of bats was accurate.

"Well you can like her or not," I said, matching their caustic voice with mine. "Nevertheless she is a friend."

Sera unveiled a reserved smile at me as I stood up for her. I returned the smile. It was the least I could do for her anyway to repay her kindness.

"Besides Tiesel," Tron cut in, trying to break the enmity in the air. "We did, in fact, bring back an entire cache of advanced technology. She can help us with it, show us how to work it and all that."

Tron really did know her brother better than I did as the words "cache" and "advanced technology" made his eyes light up like a fire works display.

"Well I guess we should cut her some slack" Tiesal immediately reprised. "This is, besides, a happy occasion. No need to vent any unfriendliness or aggression."

All at once as Tiesal spoke, everything slowed as a dark shroud enveloped the atmosphere around me. I felt something…something strange. It was wrong whatever it was, a looming sense of unease, as if a threat of some sort was approaching.

"I agree" Gramps said hollowly, almost like an echo in this darkly dense conception of emotions. "Now that we have Megaman back, as well as Roll and Tron, we can start with the…"

Did no one else feel anything? Everything seemed to be slowing down, as if the moment were bracing itself for a collision with an unknown catastrophe.

"That's right." Roll's slow, distant voice rang out. "Now's the perfect time. We should probably…"

All at once my head shot to the right as I lowered into my defensive stance. My movements were so quick that it took several moments for everyone to realize my body had even shifted. Everything slowly churned back into real time as the threat had been assessed and the gears of my mind began to rotate.

Everyone's eyes were on me. They didn't know what to make of this new behavior apparently. They didn't understand that only five- hundred and thirty-two yards away from us…an entire legion of hostiles was making its way toward our position.

It didn't take long however for everyone to hear the sounds. The grinding treads of tanks, the ghostly cries of banshee-like warships gliding in the air…all of which made my lips curl into a treacherous smile.

Everyone's expressions sank in terror at these bodiless sounds, out of sight due to the arching hills that cloaked their presence.

"What is that sound?" Roll said frightened.

"It doesn't sound friendly that's for sure" Bluecher said in response.

"I think I might know who it is." Tiesal glared turning his head to look at everyone. "And I think I know what they're after."

"He must have found out what we were up to!" Tron said to him. "He must be after the cargo we brought back. I'm sure he's been hiding in wait ever since we left."

Gramps was the first to move, not bothering to ask whom it was Tiesal and Tron were talking about. He trotted alongside us motioning us to follow.

"C'mon, we should get back to the launch shelter before they get here."

"Too late!" I shouted at him, stopping him in his tracks. "They're already too close! We're just going to have to greet them head on."

"Are you crazy!" Tron shouted, "Or are you just deaf! Can't you hear what's coming! If whatever that sound is is looking for a fight there's no way we'll be able to hold it off by ourselves, especially the way we're equipped now!"

"I'm not expecting any of you to do any fighting whatsoever. Everyone get behind me, as far back as you can. I'll take care of this."

"Are you sure you can manage that" Roll said to me apprehensively.

"I'd do what he says," Sera said matter-of-factly. "You really have no idea what he's capable of now. I've seen it myself."

"Enough chit-chat! Everyone behind me NOW!"

Everyone stared at me, shocked by my uncouth abruptness, something so unlike my normal behavior. They then hesitantly began to move back, everyone, that is, except for Roll who simply stood there staring at me in disbelief.

"Roll…" I said pleadingly.

I wanted to say more but for some reason couldn't bring myself to. I was simply trapped by her eyes, staring at me as if I were someone she had never met before.

"Roll, please. I don't want you to get hurt."

She lowered her head in defeat.

"I don't care what happens to me." She said faintly, yet firmly. "After what I went through when you were gone…I can't let anything ever happen to you again. I can't just let you face these things by yourself anymore. I want to be there when it all happens. I want to be by your side."

As unbearably romantic as her words were, making my heart nearly explode, I couldn't do this for her. Right now, being at my side would most likely get her killed, by me if not by the enemy. I couldn't let that happen, but decided to appease her words, finding that they held special meaning for her.

"Roll" I said placing my hands on her shoulders. "I understand what you mean, I know what it is you want."

I smiled at her, which she did in turn.

"But" I continued, "It's something that's going to have to wait. Right now I need you to be safe so that I can do this with a clear mind that you're out of harms way."

I brought my lips to her ear and whispered.

"Don't worry about me getting hurt. If these guys are looking for a fight it'll be over before they even realize one had started."

She continued looking at me in desperation until at last she lowered her defenses.

"Hurry back" she whispered and turned to run and join the others.

I turned to look at the Eclipse…or Yuna I supposed. Looked like we were the only ones left…for the time being that is.

"You still there Yuna!?" I called out.

"Were else would I go!" The ships intercom voiced out.

"Good! I need you to get some distance from here, find a safe place to keep Roll's mother and the cargo safe, while I deal with this little distraction."
"What about you're battle helmet. It's still onboard. Don't you think you might need it?"

"I think I can manage."

"Suit yourself"

With that, Yuna lifted the ship off the ground and took off. I then turned my head to face the enemy that began to creep over the green hill in the distance, all being lead by a large bird-like ship.

"Well well, look what we have here" The sinisterly familiar voice of Glyde called out from the warship. "Looks like the blue punk found his way home."

I simply stared down Glyde's ship, clenching my fists as my eyes narrowed and the fire in my blood churned. Entire regiments of tanks and birdbot soldiers rushed toward me. The sky was swarming with snub fighters similar to the ones I had battled on Nino Island, all of which shrieked around the main gunship Glyde occupied.

"Well as much as I'd love to reminisce about the old days" Glyde began in a boastful nature, "I'm afraid that you and your friends are standing in my way of that little ship of yours that's getting away and I simply can't have that, so if you'd just step aside I'll be obliged to spare your lives."

I looked behind me to make sure the others were far enough back. I knew I would never forgive myself if one of them received even a scratch by my hand. Seeing that they were all well out of harms way I turned my focus back on Glyde's ship.

"I don't want to fight you Glyde," I said unconvincingly. Funny, those words didn't match my thoughts.

"And I'm very sure that you don't want to fight me."

Glyde's proceeding laugh was very boisterous, which was not at all a surprise. As I expected, he was incredibly unaware of he who was truly dealing with.

"I'm tempted to say "you and what army" but then I remember that you once took on my entire base and lived. Quite a feat I can honestly say, but that attack was unexpected and my troops were sloppy when dealing with you. This time you won't be so lucky."

Glyde's small army continued it's deadly advance, too close now to strike any negotiations. I couldn't allow them to get any closer and risk Roll and the others getting hurt in the crossfire. I had to take care of this right here and now, letting that side of me take absolute control. I thought of Roll who was no doubt watching me and hoped she would understand.

Everything around me slowed as my right foot planted into the ground, launching my body forward at unparalleled speed toward my oblivious prey. The distance to them was now two hundred meters and I could hear the low hollowed cries of a caught of guard "Open fire!" reverberate the air molecules around me. As I rushed toward the line of tanks and infantry, the space between us fractured and exploded with the sounds of cannon fire and spraying bullets. I effortlessly dodged the incoming fire, flinging my body side to side instants before the ground my feet momentarily touched exploded with dirt and debris from wasted shells. My arms shot out to my sides and quickly transformed into the pair of weapons I had experimented with during my training with Sera. Designated as the Tri-pod launcher, I found this weapon particularly effective when facing multiple armored targets. When I first saw it, it looked like nothing more than an elongated, shiny blue egg. I then quickly discovered why it was named Tri-pod, as the egg shape split into three different sections, each containing a missile dock within its interior that would instantly regenerate a new missile when the previous one was discharged. Now would be a perfect time to give a full demonstration of their ferocity.

I launched my body into the air, parallel to the ground in a twirling spiral as bullets whizzed and ricocheted off my armor. I held my arms out in front of me as I spun wildly, turning myself into a human Gatling gun. My arms split open, engaging the missile launchers hidden within, and with a streaming sound of fwooshing wumps, shrieking trails of rockets gushed from my arms, streaking swiftly through the air as they followed the course to the targets I had set for each and every one of them.

I tucked in as I hit the ground, rolling smoothly on to my feet and pushing off the ground with such force that my body literally propelled itself over one hundred feet into the air. I watched below as the entire frontline of their forces lit up in a spectacular display of blossoming explosions as the missiles made contact with the targets. The force of the detonation caused all the ground and sky to tremble. As my body soared over the smoldering wreckage of tanks, I turned my attention on the masses of birdbot infantry that occupied the rear. They were all still dazed from the previous blast that had knocked them off their feet, which made them all helpless to the imminent barrage I was about to unleash.

Simultaneously, my arms shifted and transformed, reconstructing themselves into another useful weapon I had used during my training. This weapon, named the Scatter Shot, was specifically designed for attacking while air born. It worked just like a water sprinkler, except instead of water, this weapon sprayed out a storm of high-velocity green energy projectiles that were razor sharp and incredibly lethal. Used at high enough altitudes, this weapon's spread could blanket an entire battlefield, making it ideal for this situation.

I targeted the unsuspecting mass below and unleashed a storm of fire. Hundreds of birbots began to fall as the piercing needles of energy sliced through the air, slashing and dicing them to ribbons. A vociferous howling of commotion and panic rose from the withering ranks as I continued to rain destruction down on them like a merciless cloud of death. As gravity's pull finally managed to grab a hold of me I decided to move to the next phase of my attack and ceased fire, allowing my arms to transform into the third weapon I would employ.

As I had expected, there was still a number of birdbots that had survived the attack, some by using their comrades' bodies as shields and others simply by sheer luck – not to last much longer. They were now aiming their weapons at me as I continued my descent. I wrapped my body into a series of aerial maneuvers, dodging most of their shots and simply deflecting the others off the resilient surface of my solid, impervious armor. I then pointed my legs toward the ground and smashed into the dirt in a kneeling position, absorbing the shock of impact with the one knee, one flat foot and one hand pose that must have looked so incredibly cool.

Within an instant of hitting the ground, I sprung out of the newly formed crater I had just fashioned and launched myself toward the terrified birdbot ten meters in front of me. Before he could even flinch my arm swung out at him as I activated the glowing yellow shaft of my Zero saber, swiftly slicing off the head off the annoying little pest. I quickly turned heel and threw myself at the next closest birdbot, efficiently dealing the same punishment. My body moved at blinding speed as I continued my work mopping up the rest of the infantry, gliding with fluid movements as I arched and vaulted over their useless attacks against me.

The blood in my veins seared as hot as the sun as I burned with sheer ecstasy. The elation and thrill of the heat of battle washed over me. I was unstoppable, relentless, and it felt so… wonderful! The second blade shot out of the spinning disc on my left hand as I deflected several well-aimed shots targeting my back while severing the two birdbots in front of me with the other. I felt like a freaking Jedi! I was untouchable, pure concentrated power!

I could feel that the fighter-ships were screaming toward me in a cluttering pandemonium. Glyde's ship made sure to keep an intelligent distance away from me as he threw his last remaining forces at me. I smiled wickedly as I overheard his panicky cries.

"What's happening!? W- what is this guy!? D-Do something! Anything! Stop him!"

But there was no stopping me, and soon it would all be over. I pushed off the ground in a spinning lariat over the last remaining birdbot as the fighter ships swarmed around me and prepared to fire. As I landed behind the tiny, squabbling nuisance, I launched myself upward, bisecting the little, armed chicken with my blade as I shot into the sky, into the heart of the swarm. I glanced at my power meter to make sure I'd have enough energy for this last maneuver. Seeing that I had only used up a sliver of the bar's power level, I transformed both my arms into my primary weapon: the Omega Buster.

Using the momentum manipulators located on my back, handy little tools that could spontaneously shift my body's trajectory during mid-flight, I violently spun myself into an erratic whirling vortex. Transcendence glowed within me as I felt my battle functions reach their maximum. Time and space seemed to completely stop as everything around me grew still and quiet. As the ghost in the darkness besieged and consumed my soul… I smiled mysteriously, knowing that this… was the end.

In a heavenly display of the absolute power which I dominated, I stretched out my arms within my spinning whirlpool and fired the unrelenting blasts of exploding blue energy into the blaring midst of ships. The air shattered and quaked with the sounds of airships being enveloped by my bombardment as the torrent of blue streams surged out of me, consuming every last vessel in the rage of my storm.

Finally, the storm ceased and gracefully my body fell to the Earth. As I stood straight, my head kept lowered, the flaming wreckage of one hundred eradicated ships rained down around me.

"Only one left" I said sinisterly, turning my head slowly to gaze at the solitary warship that hung in the air. I glimpsed at my power meter. That last little stunt had drained more than half of my suit's energy. I'd have to utilize this last weapon intelligently, make sure not to use any more than I had to in order to take him down effectively.

I restored my arms to their original state and rushed with fierce speed towards Glyde's ship.

"NO, STAY BACK!!" he cried pathetically.

It didn't help him. I sprinted with vicious momentum until I got close enough to jump up above his ship. I then constructed on my right arm the weapon I had only used for a brief moment on Elysium. The weapon was called the Piercing Beam in the weapons log, but Sera had said the true name of the weapon…"Divine Justice", gave it accurate meaning.

As I hovered above Glyde's mammoth craft, the weapon charged with an intense hum. Fully optimized, I aimed the weapon to the right of Glyde's ship, discharged the beam and sliced the craft in two. Sailing over the ship, I landed on the ground and turned my head to watch the two pieces of Glyde's main vessel plummet to the earth. I double-backed; throwing myself through the air over the wreckage and landing directly in front of the pitiable carbon that struggled out of the debris.

The moment once again grew still as he stared up at me in horror. It was almost amusing. Giving no consent to this weak creature's dread, I switched to the Omega Buster, which I aimed squarely at his forehead. It was overkill to use such a weapon at this close range. The blast would likely annihilate the entire upper-half of his body – messy, but why not?

Glyde's lips began to quiver as he stared down the barrel of my gun. His eyes grew wet.

"Please…" he whimpered. "Please have mercy…"

My eyes narrowed and my jaw tightened. My aim became shaky as he stared up at me with those…eyes. Those teary eyes were somehow distracting me.

No…this wasn't right. Something inside was fighting against me. What I was doing was wrong…but…why? My gun lowered as I remembered something I had realized on Elysium…

I was different now, different from the individual who would show empathy to his enemies rather than finishing them off at a moment of weakness.

"But…does that mean…"

I shook my head in frustration. It made no sense; whatever these feelings were, whatever they meant, it didn't matter. A purifier did not hesitate in combat. I raised my gun and prepared to fire.

"MEGAMAN, NO! STOP!" a voice cried out to me, shooting into my soul like a bolt of lightning and breaking me away from the dark trance of the ghost.

10. Desperation

I turned to look back at Megaman as we all rushed to get behind him. I'd never seen him like this before. He was so concentrated and focused, not to mention incredibly confident from the way his complete steadiness and composure testified. As I continued looking at him, amazed by how well he kept his cool, I stumbled over a slight rise on the ground and toppled over. I should probably have kept an eye on where I was running.

"Roll!" Tron shouted, turning back and running to my side.

She hastily took a hold of my arm and helped lift me up.

"C'mon, we don't have time for your clumsiness right now! We're already dragging behind so let's go!"

We both hurried to catch up to everyone else before Tiesal suddenly raised his hand motioning everybody to stop.

"I think we've gone far enough." He said, turning to face everyone. "I don't know what that blue boy is planning, but we better all hope that he knows what he's doing."

"So what's happening then?" I said flustered. "Do you know who's coming? What do they want!?"

Tiesal sneered as he looked back over at Megaman. Bad memories I could only guess.

"I'm almost certain that's Glyde on the other side of that hill. No doubt he's been aware of what we've been doing, and it sounds like he's been preparing for you and Tron's return from Elysium."
"Glyde?" Where had I heard that name before? I traced my memory, searching for this familiar name until I suddenly remembered that incident on Nino Island.

"Wait a minute," I said suddenly snapping to attention. "Isn't he the pirate who attacked Nino Island?"

Tiesal looked at me curiously.

"Yes, I heard he was responsible for that. How did you know that?"

I looked back at Megaman, who still remained like a statue in his position.

"Because we were there when it happened." I said solemnly. "It was Megaman who defended Nino from Glyde's attack."

"Well let's hope his luck hasn't changed since then." Bleucher said.

We all stared down the field where Megaman held his ground, waiting for that ominous noise to creep over the hill. It sounded terrifyingly massive whatever it was.

"Look at him." Gramps said mystified. "He looks so calm and level-headed. He doesn't look worried at all"

"And he has no reason to be." Sera said smiling. "I would say that this should take him no more than sixty seconds once he gets started."

"Sixty seconds!" I thought to myself, bewildered by such an unreasonable estimation by Sera. I looked over at her and saw painted on her face an expression that gave evidence that she was not kidding. But…could that even be possible?

Then, as I turned my head once again to look at Megaman, I saw it. Rolling over the hill, a wave of twisting, churning metal poured toward us. The sky became shrouded by hundreds of small fighter ships; all swarming around a massive aircraft shaped just like the one Megaman and I had faced on Nino. My mouth hung open, my face turning pale at the site of this colossal force. Instinctively, my body moved forward toward Megaman, hoping that somehow I'd reach him before they did. I had to do something. I had to protect him.

I hardly took my first step before Sera's hand reached out and clutched my shoulder. I looked back at her and saw that her expression had not changed. Her eyes were still concentrated on Megaman with utmost confidence. I turned my head back at Megaman and saw that he had not lost an ounce of the composure he demonstrated so proficiently.

"Have faith in him Roll." Sera whispered. "Believe me when I say that he is in no danger at all."

I bit my lower lip in anxiety. I wanted to take reassurance in Sera's words, but how could I when looking at what he was up against?

"Please be alright Megaman," I whispered desperately.

The roiling metal force churned down the base of the hill toward Megaman. The horde of ships halted along with the enormous ship and I heard a voice echo from its hull.

"Well, well, look what we have here." The voice of Glyde called out.

I tuned out his annoyingly arrogant voice as I drowned in suffocating concern for Megaman. I stood frozen, paralyzed with fear that something would happen to him. I supposed that it didn't really matter if I could move or not. Besides, what could I do for him, except get in the way? I lowered my head in shame, acknowledging my weakness, so worthless that all I could do was watch.

But then, as I lifted my head, I saw him turn to look back at me… and trembled at what I beheld. His eyes…I saw a presence in his eyes that filled me with a sudden, terrible horror. Despite the distance between us, I could see it perfectly, almost feel the aura of his mind. My concern for his well being instantly faded away as I discovered that he was, in fact, completely out of harms way. But it was only to be replaced by a new, even more terrifying dread.

He turned to face Glyde's forces once again, paused for a brief moment, and then ruptured forth with unfathomable speed, headlong into the thick of the artillery. Everyone except for Sera withdrew in shock at his incredible swiftness. I stared at this spectacular site with wide-eyes, bringing my hands to my mouth in a gasp as the air suddenly cracked and exploded with the sounds of tank shells being fired. My heart-pounded as I watched his movements blur with astonishing speed and acrobatic skill, flinging himself in spiraling arcs and lightening-quick steps as he gracefully dodged all of their attacks.

"He's incredible!" Tron shouted. "I've never seen him move like that before!"

"Wait a second, look!" Tiesal blared out. "Something's happening to his arms!"

Tiesal was right. Megaman's arms contorted and transformed, shifting unnaturally into a new shape. Before I could get a better look – it was hard to see what was going on so far away – Megaman launched himself into a twirling spiral. White smoke trails began to pour out out of the two newly shaped arms. As countless missiles shrieked through the air, Megaman hit the ground, rolled stylishly, and then launched himself high into the air.

"Whoa!" Tiesal exclaimed. "How'd he do that!?"

"It must be that new armor he's wearing!" Gramps shouted.

As Megaman soared through the air, the grinding metal army that rolled toward us ignited in fiery chain of explosions. Within a few moments the entire armored force of Glydes army was completely annihilated. Then, as I watched Megaman fly above the remaining forces, his arms shifted and changed once again. He aimed downward and unleashed a flurry of small, green spikes that rained down on the confused rabble of birdbot infantry.

I clutched my chest as I watched him, not able to breath. I had never witnessed this kind of unrestrained ferocity coming from Megaman. I could feel my whole body quake as I watched him devastate Glyde's infantry with such unrelenting force. I turned away from the site, sealing my eyes shut and clasping my hands over my ears as I shrank to the ground. I continued to tremble as images of the sweet, gentle Megaman I once knew played through my mind.

His beautiful smile, his sweet laugh, all the things I had come to remember him by so well from our lives together. I thought of our first dig together, how patient he had been with me. Even after I ended up getting him so hopelessly lost, he had never shown a traceable sign of frustration with me. I remembered the way he would always show such endearing support when I screwed up most royally, even when I had accidentally hit him with the support car on Kattalox.

But now he was different. Those eyes…held an unspeakable malice. They burned with a fire of destruction and power unlike anything I had ever seen. I shook my head as I tried to push the memory out of my head, forget everything I had just witnessed. I had to remember who he was, who he use to be…and who he still was. He had not changed entirely; I knew that for sure. He was only trying to protect me.

All of the sudden, everything around me shook violently, nearly knocking us all to our feet as the sounds of unending explosions rocked the earth. I gasped in horror.

"Megaman!" I screamed, turning my head quickly to see if he had been hurt.

I saw him standing solemnly, not a scratch on his body, in the middle of the field. All around him, flaming wreckage of the swarm of fighters crashed and toppled to the earth. My eyes stared wide with unbelief at this scene of total destruction. All that was left was Glyde's ship, which Megaman immediately turned on. Glyde cried out in panic as Megaman rushed toward his ship and then, pushing off the ground, he soared above it. A shining beam of greenish blue energy shot from his arm and moved across the hull of the carrier, ultimately cutting the ship in half.

"He's going to kill him" I said softly, "Megaman is going to kill Glyde…"

"What are you talking about" Tron stammered. "Megaman wouldn't…"

"No!" I screamed, springing forward, running as fast as my legs could carry me. "You can't do this! Please, you have to stop!"

"Roll, what are you doing!" Tron screamed at me.

I kept running, my heart pounding as everyone behind me shouted for me to get back. I couldn't though; I couldn't run back. I had to stop him. I had to do something before it was too late. I saw him jump back into the air toward the crash site where I could see Glyde struggling to remove himself from the wreckage. My feet pushed harder off the ground in a desperate attempt to somehow reach him before he reached Glyde.

I didn't move fast enough, and Megaman planted on the ground in front of Glyde and raised his weapon to fire. I would be too late. I couldn't stop him now. Nevertheless, I kept moving, pushing harder and harder as I screamed at the top of my lungs.


All that I could remember after that was me clumsily tripping over my own feet and collapsing face-first on the ground. Tears began pouring out of my eyes as I waited to hear the blast of Megaman's weapon. I wasn't fast enough and now it was too late. I felt sick to my stomach as I continued waiting. All the beautiful images of him that I treasured so much were all about to be shattered as that horrible sound reverberated through the air, and I cringed at the thought of it. I continued waiting, waited for what felt like an eternity, but heard no sound.

I raised my head cautiously, to see what was taking him so long. Perhaps he had already taken the shot and my mind simply refused to register the awful noise. But as my eyes gazed at the spot where Glyde's death was supposed to take place, I saw that Megaman had not taken the shot at all, but instead, had toppled backward onto the ground. I looked at his face and saw that it was filled with horror. Before he could do anything else, I immediately crawled to his side and threw my arms around him, weeping uncontrollably as I held him as close to me as possible.

"You didn't do it." I whimpered. "You…you didn't do it."

He wrapped one of his hands around my arm as he panted profusely. His whole body was shaking.

"I-I could've…" he said, quivering.

"But you didn't!" I immediately stopped him. "It doesn't matter; everything's fine now"

Tears continued trailing down my face as I spoke.

"Everything is going to be alright."

11. Confessions

Onboard the Flutter, Megaman sat silently on the couch in the living room. He was bent over, his arms resting on his knees as he stared blankly at the green carpet. I sat on the couch next to him, rapping my fingers on the glass of water I held tremulously in my hands as we kept our eyes apart. I wanted to say something to him, break this looming silence that hung in the air like a noxious cloud, but I was unable to speak. Instead, I continued to focus my attention on the water glass, tapping on it mindlessly as I waited for him to say something.

Except for my mother, who still lied unconscious in Gramp's room, it was only the two of us who occupied the Flutters interior. Tron and the others were busy unloading the cargo we had brought back from Elysium. After, of course, they had restrained Glyde and taken him to the island's authorities. This left me in charge of taking care of Megaman as he slowly came to grips with reality. I had never seen him like this before; just like I had never seen him like that before, earlier, when he had faced Glyde's army, and completely lost control. He now seemed to be reeling from that experience, catatonic with shock and terror at what he had done… what he had almost done…

I shuddered at the horrible memory, pushing it away as I remembered the Megaman I used to know, the one who was sitting next to me right now, overcome with silence and dismay. I fought the urge to simply wrap my arms around him once again, tell him everything would be all right, but I knew that it wouldn't do him any good right now. What he needed right now was someone to talk to, a reassuring friend to comfort him. And that's what I was here for, to do exactly that. Comfort him.

I closed my eyes as I drew in a breath to speak. It wouldn't be easy but I had to say something.

"How are you feeling?" I asked. What a stupid question, I thought.

He shifted his head upward to look at me and I could see that a small glow of life had returned to his eyes. Apparently he appreciated the brief break of silence I had offered him.

"How do I feel?" he repeated perplexedly, as if he were searching for the answer himself.

"A bit…confused I guess."

I nodded curtly. I didn't want to drown him with questions and concerns so instead I simply listened to him patiently. I would start of slow; keep things simple.

"Are you sure you don't want anything? A drink, something to eat?"

He shook his head.

"I'm alright" he said warmly but then quickly descended back into his dark trance.

This wasn't helping as much as I had hoped it would. It was better than the silence, no doubt about that, but it wasn't enough. I couldn't simply act as if nothing had happened. If I wanted to help him at all, I would have to face the issue head on.

"Megaman," I started, abandoning my previous plans to start off slowly. "You shouldn't let what happened earlier eat you up like this. You were only trying to protect us right?"

My sudden outburst didn't do much to better the situation, as Megaman's gloom seemed to deepen. I wished that I could immediately take back what I had said.

"…That was my initial motivation." He said obscurely, letting his eyes meld with the floor as he spoke.

He didn't say anything after that. I turned away from him, letting myself drown in my own sense of uselessness. I only wished that I could make him feel better, say what he needed to hear to snap him out of this hypnosis that was holding him captive. But there was nothing that I could say or do that would change what had happened. Megaman had completely and mercilessly eradicated Glyde's forces with such vicious vitality that it had nearly drove him to kill Glyde willingly in the process of his pitiless rampage.

Not only that… but… he enjoyed it…found pleasure in his ruthless invincibility as he efficiently, effortlessly, and effectively eliminated the enemy.

But that was not the Megaman who was sitting next to me now. This was my friend, my deepest and truest of friends, a friend who was so full of care and love that one could almost see the halo of light encircling his head. But now, that person I knew and loved so much had experienced another side of him, a maliciously powerful presence that had shaken him to his very core. It had overwhelmed him, taken absolute control over his mind. But somehow, something had stopped it. Something had squelched that presence in the exact moment that it would have ultimately destroyed his inner light and love.

He was now trying to recover from this mental thrashing and he would need my support now, more than ever before. My feelings for him had not changed. Even after what I had witnessed, my intense love for him remained unscathed and as pure as ever. My desire to help him in anyway possible was instinctual, built in from the powerful bond that had grown between us during our lives together, and I would demonstrate this instinct as well as my frazzled mind could procure.

I scooted closer to him, resting my near-empty glass of water on the oak coffee table in front of us, and gently, I laid my hand atop his, massaging it tenderly as I smiled affectionately at him.

"You don't have to worry Megaman. Everything's going to be fine." I said. "I'm sure of it."

I thought it would be harder to convince myself of what I had just said, thinking of all that had happened, but I was quite surprised at how, strangely, the words seemed to flow naturally from my lips, as if they were truly sincere. I smiled brighter as I discovered that it was because deep in my heart I knew what I had said was true. Everything would be just fine; things would get better. Things would finally be the way they always should have been.

"I know you, know you better than anyone else ever will. I know what a loving person you are, so full of optimism and kindness that I'm surprised it simply hasn't burst out of you."

I laughed lightly as I remembered how this perpetual cheerfulness of his would sometimes irritate me. I was just so unnatural. I was almost jealous of him by how he made it look so easy. As I continued chuckling to myself, I felt the tense muscles in his hands begin to relax. It was working. I continued speaking so as not to lose this ground I had just claimed.

"I know deep in my heart that you're still the same person you've always been. What ever happened on Elysium, whatever caused you to feel these new emotions and powers; it still hasn't changed who you truly are inside."

My hand closed tighter around his as I felt my eyes begin to moisten. I smiled; shaking my head at how unrestrained I had allowed my emotions to become. I had cried so much lately; it was almost embarrassing. It was time to get a grip on myself, control my emotions and show more composure. I held back my tears and continued.

"I don't know what's going to happen from here on out. Things are going to be different, I'm sure about that. But now matter what comes, challenges, hardships or whatever it may be, we'll get through it. I know we will. We'll face it together, just like we always have. You and me, right?"

At last I saw a small smile purse Megaman's lips. It wasn't much, but at least it was something. I smiled back at him, not much more than he did, just a half smile, but it was enough. He nodded slowly and then gently rose from the couch, gracefully letting his hand slip away from mine.

"Thank you Roll." He said tenderly. "Thank you so much for being in my life. I can't tell you what it means to me. You've always been there for me, haven't you?"

"Only because you've always been there for me," I said, smiling brighter.

He nodded again, and then turned to make his way to the door.

"I think I need to rest awhile. That last scuffle with Glyde drained me a bit." He said, opening the door.

I saw a small part of the gloom he had festered before once again cloud his frame as he spoke.

"I really overdid it, didn't I?" he said.

I sighed.

"Probably" I said, shrugging a bit. "But you took care of the problem and managed to keep us all safe, so it doesn't matter."

I couldn't tell if I were fooling myself or not by how sincere my words sounded. Perhaps they held more truth than I thought. Either way, Megaman seemed convinced enough, as he nodded one last time and made his way to his room.

I was alone in the room now, with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. My stupid, annoying thoughts.

"Why did things have to get so complicated?" I silently whispered to myself, leaning over and shaking my head in weary frustration. "Why couldn't everything just be like it was before?"

As I continued deluding my mind, my senses started to pick up on something I had ignored for much too long, something I would never have allowed had I not been faced with all that was going on. My face reddened as I suddenly discovered how incredibly grungy I had become in the past several days. My clothes were ripped and scuffed, still blotched with patches of blood I had donated to them when we had crashed on Elysium, and my nose picked up on the slight odor that had accumulated around my body during my little adventure.

I shrunk in embarrassment as I remembered how close I had sat next to Megaman. I wondered if he had noticed the unpleasant smell, and bit my lower lip as the humiliation of the thought crushed down on me. Without hesitation, I sprung from the sofa and threw myself toward the door Megaman had used earlier and hastily made my way to my room. I just hoped that I wouldn't run into Megaman again, now that I was aware of my grimy visage. As I entered the bedroom hallway, I sighed in relief to see that it was empty, and that Megaman's door was closed shut, assuming that he was already inside.

I entered my room and headed directly to my dresser, pulling open my top drawer and grabbing a pair of extra clothes. I then snatched the towel hanging from my coat rack and with no wasted movement I hurriedly made my way to the bathroom.

All of the tension and stress that had built itself up inside of me for the past few days, nearly to the point of rupturing, seemed to completely melt away as my toes came into contact with the hot, soothing bathwater. I tried to savor every moment of it, slowly letting my feet slip into the steaming water, followed by my legs, gradually letting the wet relaxation soak up all of my apprehensions, until, at last, my whole body was completely submerged. I let out a sigh of relief as the warmth washed over me, alleviating the stiffness in my muscles and the distorting strain on my mind.

It was nice to be able to calm my nerves, even if for only a little bit. I knew, however, that once I eventually got out, everything would all come rushing back to me and plow me over like an angry tsunami. I tried not to think about that. I deserved a break from all of these tenaciously annoying thoughts my mind was consistently throwing down on me, and for what it was worth, I was going to appreciate the little time I had to temporarily forget everything.

After spending an overly long period of time enjoying my tranquility, I went through my normal routine of refreshing my hygienic state, vigorously scrubbing off all the grime and dirt that had practically formed a shell around me. I'd had worse of course, being a mechanic and everything.

I remember once working on the Flutter's engine for practically three days straight without a bath or shower, and by the time I was finally finished, Megaman could hardly recognize me under all of the oil and grease that coated every square inch of my body. It took me nearly the same amount of time working on the engine to clean it all off.

After I had finished restoring my skin to its original sheen and washed my hair several times to get all of the residue out, I emptied the water in the tub, draining all the filth I had provided along with it. I then refilled it with fresh, hot water, so that I could relax for a little while longer. It wasn't long, however, before someone started knocking on the door.

"Roll, are you in there?" I heard Megaman say from the other side of the door; the door I suddenly realized I had forgotten to lock.

I gasped in surprise. Without even thinking, I hastily ripped the towel from the rack next to the tub and quickly draped it over me, completely soaking it with water. It was then, after I had ruined my only method of getting dry, that I looked over at the door, only to realize that it hadn't been opened. I shrank in irritation at my sudden reaction to hearing his voice. I supposed it was only natural to respond like that though, especially after those last two incidents.

"Yeah, I'm here." I answered him timorously.

"Oh, are you taking a bath?" He quickly replied embarrassedly.

"Oh…um…yeah. I was"

"Sorry. I'll come back later."

"No, wait, it's fine. Stay there" I said, stepping out of the tub and wrapping the wet towel around me.

I walked to the door and turned the handle. It would be awkward – okay, maybe awkward was a wildly conservative understatement – but if he had something to say, I wasn't going to give him the chance to change his mind later on. He would tell me right here and now, face to face, even if all I was wearing was…

My face reddened. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea. Nevertheless, I gritted my teeth and opened the door.

His reaction to my current state was nothing like I'd expected. Rather than blushing in embarresment, as my face was now drenched in, he simply raised an eyebrow.

"You know," he said, curling his lips into an awkward smile, "The towel normally works best when applied after you've exited the bath."

I couldn't help but release a small burst of laughter at his uncanny ability to keep his cool. I shook my head and smiled at him in hopelessness.

"Yeah, I think I'll remember that next time."

His proceeding laugh was enough to make my heart melt. I felt all the awkwardness of the situation start to dissolve as he continued smiling at me, making me feel so comfortable in his presence that I almost forgot that all I was wearing was a drenched bath towel.

"Wait here," he said turning away, "I'll go get you another one that's a little less saturated."

"Wait!" I burst out, grabbing his arm with my one hand while the other held tight to the only thing shielding my state of undress. "Was there something you wanted to tell me?"

"Yes," he said calmly, "But it'd probably be better if you were a bit more clothed while we talked, wouldn't you agree?"

I shrank back and blushed, laughing hesitantly as I thought about how that would probably be a wise choice.

"Heh, I guess you're probably right. But I can just head back to my room and dry off with another towel. It's not like this is my only one. Just wait outside while I change, alright."

He shrugged

"No problem."

I felt slightly embarrassed to be wearing only my undergarments with Megaman standing just outside of my room. I had remembered to lock the door this time so I wasn't feeling too nervous that he'd "accidentally" burst in on me. Still, I didn't waste any time as I quickly slipped into a loose fitting, red t-shirt and a pair of athletic shorts – not exactly formal, but comfy at least.

"Ok, I'm modest." I called out. "You can come in if you like."

He opened the door and shifted idly into my room. His appearance immediately caught me off guard as I noticed he was no longer clad in his formidably fearsome armor, but a simple white collared shirt and a pair of his casual blue jeans, clothing he would normally wear whenever we weren't currently on a dig.

"W-when did you…"

"While you were changing," He cut in, "I thought that I should probably do the same. You know, just so we could both be a little more comfortable."

"Yeah but… how did you…I mean how could you… so fast. I couldn't have been in here for more than five minutes."

He smiled at me as I stared at him with wide eyes.

"You'd be surprised just how fast I can put on and take off my armor." He said with a flicker in his eye and a cunning grin flashing across his face.

"I'll say." I replied with a small burst of astounded laughter.

He laughed along with me, both of us enjoying the lighthearted mood in the room that had been vacant of it for far too long. I just hoped it would last.

"Well then…" I began, jumping backward onto my bed and pulling my legs up into my casual girly pose. "You said you wanted to tell me something?"

"That's correct."

"Alright, let's have it then."

I scooted over to one side of the bed, patting the empty space next to me with my hand in a welcoming gesture. He gracefully walked over to where I had invited him to sit down and with no hesitation in his movements, seated himself only inches away from me. He looked over and smiled at me, stunning me with his captivating gaze. He leaned backward on the mattress, bracing himself with his hands gently and relaxed as he drew in a calm breath of air and shrugged.

"Well, here goes nothing" he said, looking up at the ceiling with a silent laugh exhaling from his nose.

"Roll…I wanted to talk about what you said to me earlier, when we were on the Eclipse. Do you remember what it was you said?"

Oh yeah, I thought to myself, shrinking slightly at the memory. I had actually said that hadn't I, how I truly felt about him? It seemed so perfectly logical when I had told him, not to mention incredibly natural in the way it simply flowed out of me with no wavering emotion or regret. But now I was beginning to feel a bit self-conscious about the whole thing. I had no idea what his reaction to my confession would be, and I never really found out thanks to Tron's little interruption. Now it was all blowing up in my face. I had absolutely nothing to say to somehow distract him from this off-guard topic and I wasn't totally sure I was ready to hear what it was he had to say.

"Yeah," I said timidly, "I remember."

I tried to keep my eyes from his, focusing them on my non-judgmental toes as I waited to hear the verdict.

"I just wanted to know…what exactly did you mean by it?"

"I-I meant exactly what I said." I answered honestly. "That's just the way I feel about you Megaman. I can't hide that, and…and I just wanted you to know is all."

Silence filled the room. There was nothing more for me to say to him. All I could do was wait for his response.
"You…you really feel that way?" he spoke softly.

There was such tenderness in his purely innocent words. The unrestrained emotion pouring from his soul caused my chest to fill with an indescribably feeling of love and care for him.

"Even after what I did. Even after what you saw…you still feel those same feeling for me?"

I slowly nodded.

"And nothing will ever change that." I whispered.

I finally decided to look up at him. I was no longer afraid that I'd see feelings of uncertainty or even contentment to the things I was telling him. His calm and gentle voice testified to that. My face turned upward towards his, which he did in turn. As our eyes met, connected more closely than they had ever been before, I felt my body being lifted up into a paradisiacal utopia, flooded with an overpowering feeling of…

Could I even describe it? The incredible force of this sensation overshadowed any and every emotion of sadness, joy, frustration, or fear that had ever manifested itself within me. Our eyes continued melding together, glowing intensely with the truest meaning of utmost peace and harmony. Gently, he placed his hand on mine and smoothly moved his other towards the side of my face. I felt a burning sensation against my skin as he slowly took my cheek in his palm.

With my one free hand, I instantly grasped the hand cupping my face and held it tightly, not for a moment letting my gaze escape his sparkling eyes.

"You're telling the truth," he said, squeezing my hand tighter. "I can tell by your pulse; it's very calm."

So that's why he was holding my hand so tightly, I thought disenchanted. Oh well. It was good enough for now.

"So then," he abruptly asked, letting his hand gently slide away from my cheek, a motion that made my heart ache. "When exactly did this happen?"

I looked at him curiously.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, when did you begin to feel this way about me?"

"Does that matter?"

"Probably not" he shrugged. "But I'd like to know if that's alright with you."

My lips pressed together as I thought of how I would answer him. It was difficult to just pinpoint the exact moment of when it all clicked together. It would have been nicer if he simply told me what his true feelings for me were. In fact…

"Before I do, you have to tell me something." I challenged.

"Oh? And what would that be?"
My face suddenly flushed as I thought of the question I was about to ask him. It wouldn't be easy, that was for sure, but I had to know, once and for all. I gulped. It was now or never.

"I need you to tell me-" I eeked out, barely audible over the trembling cracks in my voice. "I need you to tell me, honestly, how you really feel about me."

His eyes lowered, breaking the supernatural spell he had enchanted me with. My heart sank into a black abyss as I heard a small sigh escape his lungs; unsure of whether it was of regret or some other unknown expression he was hiding from me. Without looking back at me, he slowly answered.

"Roll…I…I feel…"

Suddenly, a boisterous commotion burst through Flutter's intercom, snatching away the perfect opportunity I'd been given.

"Roll! Megaman! Are you there?! Come in!" Gramps voice cried out in panic.

"What's going on?!" Megaman said, focusing his attention directly to the outburst.

"Quick, the news!" Gramps replied, not wasting a second on pleasantries, "Turn it on now! It's Kattolox. It's under assault!"

12. Uprising

My eyes flickered open groggily as the blaring alarm clock at the side of my bed repeatedly screamed "7:00!" into my ears. I groaned at the awful sound, stifling the strong urge to simply whip my hand out at the irritating device and fling it across the room – just punishment for disturbing my unfulfilled sleep. Unfortunately, as satisfying as that completely irrational act would have been, I instead forced myself to simply tap the snooze button.

I stretched out across the plain of my bed, yawning deeply as several loosening pops resonated throughout the stiff joints in my body. I then toppled back onto my side and tried not to think about the fact that sooner or later I'd eventually have to get up.

"Thursday…" I moaned stoically, lengthening my mouth into a long grimace. As with every Tuesday and Saturday, Thursday was one of the days in which I would drag myself to the hospital for my routine rehabilitation session. Not really the most exciting thing in the world, but important, nonetheless, if I wanted my legs to get stronger.

"Ira." My mother's voice echoed up the stairway. "Are you up?"

"I'm awake if that's what you mean." I called back.

"Well hurry up and get dressed. You don't want to keep Nurse McKay waiting again do you?"

Submissively, I rolled out of bed and made my way to the dresser, a dresser so conveniently placed at the farthest place possible from my bed. Opening the certain drawer that held the typical ensemble I would adorn for physical therapy, I quickly changed into my pink sweatpants and matching sweatshirt. No reason to dress fancy for this occasion.

I had been doing this for over a year now, ever since the hospital finally received the medical equipment needed to repair my legs, equipment that was somehow paid for by that mysterious boy in the blue armor. I often wondered where he had gone to, what he was doing. Neither me, nor anyone on the island had heard word of him since he had left. I barely even knew who he really was, nothing personal at least, other than what I'd heard on the news during the time he spent here.

He was supposedly just a digger who had simply crash-landed on the island. I remember the news channel dubbing him as "Megaman", a name, I assumed, that was given to him by the zealous citizens as an appropriate way to glamorize him for his tremendous deeds. I knew, of course, that it couldn't possibly be his real name since no one could ever have such a ridiculous name as that. Though, regardless to whatever his name was, he was my hero. Not just my hero, but also an idol to the entire island.

Not surprising, in the least, as single-handedly defending an entire city from a ruthless group of pirates, donating huge amounts of money to repair damaged buildings and structures, and even escorting an expecting mother to the hospital is most likely to gain you at least a small bit of praise.

"I wonder what he's up to now?" I silently whispered, with a small smile traced across my mouth.

Fully dressed, I took my leave from my room and headed for the kitchen. The smell of eggs and bacon sizzling on the stove swirled around me as I descended the stairs, snapping my mind into focus as I took in a heavy draft of the sweet aroma. I could always count on mom to know exactly what I needed to get a good jumpstart on the day.

I slipped into the kitchen and hopped onto a stool next to the counter. With perfect timing, as always, she slid the already prepared plate of steamy deliciousness and a full glass of orange juice toward me. My mouth watered as the savory scent of the food danced and twirled inside my head. I smiled warmly up at my mother, whose only answer was an expression on her face that said, "It's my pleasure."

"So…" she said, with a bright smile shining on her face. "Sleep good?"

"More or less." I replied, taking a sip of the orange juice. "My legs still cramp up a bit during the night but it's really not that bad, at least not as bad as it used to be."

"Well, just give it time. I'm sure it'll go away eventually if you just keep working hard, right?"

I nodded complacently, scooping a fork-full of eggs into my mouth and thinking to myself just how much more work that would be. Nurse McKay told me that I'd been making great progress since I first started my physical therapy over a year ago. I remember when first starting out, it was a challenge to simply stand on my own two feet, and even then, I could only do it for moments at a time. It was a slow and incredibly frustrating process to learn even the most basic skills of walking, ascending stairs, or even bending over. I was certain that if it weren't for Nurse McKay's constant pushing and un-ending support, I would never have made it this far.

Now, I was able to walk extended distances with relative ease, bound up and down stairs without draining all of my energy in the process, and most exciting was the fact that I could even run… if for only a short period of time that is. But still, it was supposed to be a big step and I was eager to go even farther until the day when my legs would be, at last, fully restored. Then…I would be able to do what I've always dreamed of. Explore the world. Be an adventurer just like him. But until then, I would just have to bide my time and continue on with my sessions.

I quickly scraped up the last bits of food on my plate and gulped down the rest of my orange juice. I then snatched up my empty dishes and carried them over to the sink to wash them off.

"My, aren't we in a hurry!" my mother laughed. "You're session doesn't begin for another hour. Why the rush?"

"I just thought I'd walk over today." I said while washing off my plate. "It's such a beautiful day, and besides, Nurse McKay did say that I should start walking to the hospital more often to warm-up my legs. Would that be alright?"

"Well of course, if Nurse McKay said so then by all means."

"Thanks mom!" I smiled, reaching for the wash towel at the side of the sink.

I thoroughly dried my glass and plate and walked over to the cabinet to put them away. It was so great to be able to do this on my own, as simple as such a task may have been. Before, I would have to watch my mom do it all for me and I would always feel so useless. It was nice to be able to help her out in some ways now. I flickered a smile of appreciation to her as I opened up the cabinet.

Suddenly, the ground began to shake and heave violently, thrashing the kitchen viciously. I screamed as dishes from the cabinet drawer toppled over and shattered on the ground around my feet.

"IRA!" my mother shouted.

But there was nothing she could do. The quaking of the room was far too intense to allow free movement. My hands abandoned the dishes, letting them crash to the floor as I quickly gripped the side of the counter to brace myself. I tried to cling to the counter, clung as tightly as my body would allow. But I knew that couldn't hold on for much longer. It was just too much for my weakened state to handle. I was going to fall, and there was nowhere but a floor covered in broken glass to land.

Miraculously, the shaking finally stopped, rescuing me in the knick of time before my arms gave out. I breathed deeply, overtaken by the shock of what had just happened. Before I could even react to the situation, my mother reached out and lifted me away from the glass-covered floor. She hugged me like there was no tomorrow, which I responded to with a muffled "Oomph!" She then held me out to check if I had been injured.

"Are you alright honey!? You're not hurt are you!?"

I took a gasp of air and shook my head, unable to give a verbal response since all the oxygen in my lungs had just been hugged out of me.

"Oh thank goodness!"

She hugged me again, less intensely as before, thankfully, and then scanned the room, apparently to see what damage had been done.

"Looks like there was no harm, except for a couple of dishes."

She sighed in relief.

"I can't believe this. I don't remember having an earthquake like that since…well more than a year ago I think it was."

"It certainly was unexpected." I said, letting my eyes gaze back at the pile of broken glass I was nearly hurled onto. I shivered at the thought of what could have happened had I lost my grip, and suddenly I felt the need to be somewhere a bit less confined.

"So… if it's over," I said shrugging my shoulders, "and there's nothing to worry about now, I'd really like to get going, if that's okay."

My mother looked at me skeptically.

"Are you really sure that's a good idea?" she said anxiously. "We don't know whether or not it might happen again."
"Well, I don't know about you, but if it does happen again, I would prefer to be outside, you know, away from all the sharp, pointy things."

She curled her lips in hesitation for a moment, then, with slight uncertainty, she nodded.

"O-okay, if that's what you want. Just… be careful, alright?"

"I will, promise."

I kissed her on the cheek and turned around to make my way out the front door. I figured there would be no real danger outside, I mean, if the damage inside was so insignificant.

I opened the door and walked out into the flooding sunlight of the brisk, spring morning. My lips stretched into a wide, blissful grin as I took a deep breath of the fresh air, closing my eyes as the rays washed over me, trickling down my face like the waters of a gentle stream. I opened my eyes and took in all of the stunning beauty around me. Everything looked so positively green and cheery under the bright sun. A gentle, lukewarm breeze licked at the tip of my fingers, perking up the mood of the already invigorating scene, and songbirds could be heard performing their chirpy melodies more vigorously than my ears had ever perceived before.

This was, to put it simply, an absolutely perfect day. With the energizing ambiance of this perfect day providing me with a positive leap in my step, I skipped off the front porch and, with a smile on my face, began my trek to the medical center at the East Gate. I chuckled to myself as I thought of the irony of the situation. Good moods weren't normally associated with trips to the hospital.

As I walked, I looked around the town, realizing just how much it had grown since that Megaman had left. I remembered how small it used to be, barely able to support things as simple as a library or burger shack. Now, thanks to Mayor Amelia, the town, or "city" as it was more appropriate called now, had grown exponentially. It was funny to think that the pirates who attacked Kattolox were actually partly responsible for the rapid growth of the city.

After the final pirate attack had left the Old City in ruins, Mayor Amelia made the choice to rebuild that portion of town into a once again hustling, bustling part of Kattolox. It helped immensely in the fact that the pirates were so kind as to help tear down all of the space consuming buildings that would have otherwise cost a fortune to remove. And thanks to the ridiculous amount of revenue Kattolox had made, after the extraordinary rare and priceless donations made to the East-Gate Museum sent tourism through the roof, the city was able to expand even further after the re-construction of the West-Gate.

I was thankful, however, that the East-Gate had not changed. I had spent most of my life their, living in the hospital as my legs continually received medical treatment. It was strange, but somehow, I simply felt at home whenever I was there. Peaceful.

I shook my head and smiled as I thought of how absurd that must have sounded. But still, it was nice to go somewhere that would always be familiar.

As I crossed the street next the library, I suddenly paused as my eyes caught glance of a strange site. There was a group of people gathering around a certain area at the end of the street.

"What's going on over there?" I whispered to myself.

As usual, I let my curiosity get the best of me, and I found myself walking toward the site to find out for myself. I heard an entanglement of voices laced with confusion fill my ears as I drew closer. I looked around and saw that other citizens of the town were also making their way to the site.

"How did this happen?" I heard someone say.

"I don't think that earthquake just know could'a done this. Had to be sumthin' else"

"What were they all talking about?" I wondered, shuffling closer to the crowd as I tried to get a peek at what they were all staring at. I was finally able to maneuver myself into a position were I could get a clear look at the area of interest without actually merging with the growing mass of spectators.

"Oh yeah." I whispered to myself in recollection. It was that big, black cube; the doorway that was called the Sub-Gate, identical to the two others that had risen from the ground over a year ago during the last…

During…the last…earthquake.

It was happening again, just like before. Something strange was going on. The Sub-Gates…I remembered after Megaman had left, almost immediately after in fact, impenetrable steel doors suddenly sealed off the entranceways to whatever ruins lied beneath the black obelisks. But now the doors were gone, and the Sub-gate was, once again, open.

The police had already arrived at the scene and were busy erecting crowd barriers to keep the bustling accumulation of citizens from getting too close to the gateway.

"What's goin' on down there!" I heard people from the group shout.

"Does the Mayor know bout this? Should we be concerned?"

The commotion continued on and the crowd seemed to be getting restless.

"Please, people!" Inspector Hubbard, police chief of Kattolox, hollered, waving his hands at the impatient build-up and gesturing them all to back-up.

"Let's have some room here! There's nothing to be worried about! No need for panic!"

"No need for panic?" I whispered softly to myself. "Why would there be no need for panic?"

A strange sensation suddenly came over me. There was something not right about all of this. Something was wrong. Deep within my heart, I knew that something was terribly wrong. The commotion of the crowd seemed to dampen as a horrible feeling suddenly overwhelmed me, compressing my body near to the point of collapse.

Something bad…something very bad was about to happen. I couldn't describe it, didn't understand why or how this feeling manifested itself so strongly, but…I knew.

My lips began to tremble and my breath quivered as I slowly started to back up. I had to move. I had to get away from here before…before…

But I couldn't move fast enough. I could barely move at all. The magnitude of the horrible sensation was weighing me down, clasping my feet with some kind of emotional ball and chain. But now it seemed to be of little consequence whether I could move or not, as it now already seemed to be too late.

The mass of people continued their pandering, completely oblivious to the situation until, like thunder, an enormous, bellowing sound reverberated out of the Sub-Gate, causing the crowd to immediately fall silent. I froze in place, paralyzed by the deep, blaring resonance until, at last, it was abruptly cut off by the dull sound of a large, metallic "THUD!"

Then, to everyone's complete shock, the Sub-Gate entrance began to grow bigger, longer. I couldn't describe, exactly, the process of what had happened, but somehow the gate had transformed itself from an elevator shaft…to something else, like a structural tunnel or something, sloping down into the black abyss of whatever lurked inside.

The entrance gate had also expanded to the size where one could easily drive a truck straight through. The enveloping darkness within the tunnel was so thick that I could only see a few inches of revealing light enter the shaft.

Everyone stared motionless. Dead silence hung in the air like a noxious fume, squelching my oxygen as I tried vainly to breath. I looked over at the five police officers standing at bay in front of this new form of the dark gate. The sound and sudden transformation had caused them all to back up a step or two and they had all un-holstered their firearms, aiming squarely into the blackness of the descending tunnel.

Inspector Hubbard looked over at the officer standing to his left and gave him a gesturing nod toward the entrance.

"Check it out Collins" he said anxiously; "We'll cover you from the rear."

The officer nodded in turn and slowly began to advance.

"No…" I whispered, "Don't go in there…don't get close."

The other officers kept their weapons raised, maneuvering themselves into positions where they could get a clear shot as the at-point officer drew closer to the entrance. My heart skipped a beat at every footstep he took. My breathing became stiff and broken, almost as if I were standing in the middle of a sub-zero snowstorm.

The officer finally stopped, standing directly in front of the entrance and looking down into the pitch-black tunnel with his pistol squarely raised. I could see from the way his chest convulsed that his breathing had become irregular.

Slowly, he removed his left hand from underneath his gun and reached for the small flashlight attached to his belt. Unclipping it from its holster, he gripped the device tightly within his hand and hesitantly he raised it upward, pointing it directly at the lightless passageway.

His finger hovered above the switch tentatively, cautiously, almost as if undecided to whether or not he actually wanted to cast a beam of light into the dark unknown. My breathing ceased and choked in my lungs as the prolonged suspense took hold of me. The distant crowd stood completely frozen as they watched, like a small bird looking into the eyes of a snake.

The officer licked his upper lip and breathed deep. He stood up, straight as possible with what was left of his composure. The scene grew still, the pressure mounted, and then, with a flick of his finger, the flashlight switched on.

Several seconds passed. Nothing happened, nothing at all. No cry of panic or sudden outburst. Nothing. Several more seconds passed. Finally, the officer switched off the light and turned around. He shrugged.

"Nothing?" I thought to myself curiously. "Not a thing?"

I raised my brow in puzzlement.

"It doesn't make any sense. Why did all of this happen then?"

I closed my eyes, shaking my head and gritting my teeth as the feeling of dread strangely, but consistently continued to churn within me. Was I just playing tricks on myself? Making myself worry needlessly. Why couldn't I just be relieved that nothing happened? Why couldn't I…

"SHWUUUNK!" a suddenly gruesome sound splintered the air.

The entire crowd gasped in fright and my eyes flew open to see what had happened. As my gaze caught the scene I felt the blood wash from my face and my eyes grow wide with horror.

The facial features of the officer standing with his back to the entrance had grown pale, accenting the small specks of red that now dotted his face. His arms and legs quivered. His lips were trembling. Slowly, he looked down at his chest and saw the three cavernous holes that were now flowing blood from the torn seams of the wounds' outer edges.

Several screams shrieked from the audience of spectators – sounding dull and hollow in my ears – as I sustained my terrified view, unable to tear my eyes away from the grisly display, and then saw as three metal claws materialized from within the holes – right out of thin air, protruding through the officer's upper body. The mechanized arm attached to the claws projected out of the dark tunnel, followed by the massive metal body of a dauntingly imposing red reaverbot.

Complete pandemonium broke out as the brute creature flicked out its arm and sent the officer's limp, lifeless body crumpling to the ground. While the mass of people dispersed in all directions, Inspector Hubbard and the other officers stood their ground and fired on the metal beast.

"Open fire! Open fire!" the Inspector screamed, but the small arms fire did nothing more than simply deflect of the monstrosity's impenetrable frame. All the while I simply stood there, shaking uncontrollably, utterly lost and frozen in my paralyzed fear, and watched as the reaverbot effortlessly leaped through the air toward the group of policemen.

They immediately turned their backs and ran, trying desperately to get out of the way of its attack. Most of them got far enough to escape the assault. All that is, except for the two who were directly in its way, who were both impaled through the back and into the ground.

At last, as these macabre images seared themselves into my eyes, my mind finally clicked. I had to get away, had to run as fast as I could. The fear could no longer hold me down. My determination to move, to survive was far stronger than any fear that would try and stop me.

With all of my will and spirit, I broke the shackles that held fast to my legs and ran from the gate as fast as my legs could carry me. I only hoped that that monster hadn't noticed me. I was sure that if it wanted me dead it would have no trouble at all fulfilling that desire. I just had to keep running. That was my only hope right now. I had to somehow get home. I had to warn my mother of what was happening.

I didn't get too far before I heard explosions and gunfire rock the ground. I turned my head foolishly to see what had happened. What I saw was pure destruction. Dozens of enormous reaverbots, some with four legs and tank-like bodies, and even more of the fearsome clawed figures were pouring out of the Sub-Gate and unleashing havoc on the defenseless city, picking off helplessly scattered citizens, and demolishing nearby structures.

Many people were now running past me as they tried to escape the barrage of attacks. I tried to push myself harder to keep up with them, but my weakened legs, unable to endure such strain, were quickly drained of their energy and I was knocked to the ground by the panicking stampede.

I lied feebly on the ground, covering my head and curling into a ball in an attempt to keep the feet from crushing my soft spots. I felt random kicks and smashes crush into my body, sending torrents of bruising pain rocketing through me. No one cared to look down at me, only saw me as an obstacle in the way as they battered into me like a tidal wave of flesh and bone.

Just when I thought that I could take no more of this beating was when I heard the hissing cracks of gunfire whizzing past me, right above my ears.

The sounds of gut-wrenching screams surging with anguish and agony pierced my ears as I watched men and women, some children even…people I knew personally, topple over in crumpled masses only mere inches from where I lay.

I wanted to scream, scream at the top of my lungs until they burst open, exploded within my traumatized body, yet no air escaped from my lips. There were only tears, endless tears gushing from my eyes as I wept uncontrollably.

"Why…why is this happening!!" I sobbed, alone on the ground as the explosions and screams echoed evocatively in my ears.

I looked over at the completely impassive reavorbot who had so mercilessly mowed down and killed so many of my close friends. It now seemed disinterested in the torn, ragged mass of bodies it had just fashioned and turned carelessly away from us as it become more concerned with decimating a nearby building.

My eyes had become blurry with all of the moisture that was continually pooling into them. I lifted up my hand to wipe away the stream of tears, only to discover in a horrified grimace that… it was not only tears… that were splashed across my face.

My hand began to tremble as I gazed at the crimson blotches smeared all over my palm. It was blood…blood…everywhere… all around me…all over me. But…I hadn't been cut anywhere… it was not my blood, not a drop of it. No… it was so much worse than that. It…it was "their" blood, blood from the hole-ridden bodies of my friends and neighbors.

I felt my whole frame collapse in around me. I couldn't go on any longer. I was going to die. I was going to die…die, just like everyone else was dying. It didn't seem a terrible concept anymore, not after all of this, not after what I'd seen.

My arms wrapped around my chest, almost as if I were trying to hold my body together as it ripped and tore at the seams, collapsing to the ground.

It was hopeless. Why try and run? All I could do now was wait for my turn, and drown in my unclenching sobs until it finally happened. I laid sniffling on the ground, my whole body shaking from the quaking tears and splitting sobs so heavy that it felt as if my chest were being torn open.

I continued lying there helplessly and hopelessly for what felt like hours, lied…just like the lifeless bodies strewn around me as the sounds of gunfire and explosions filled the city. It could be heard from everywhere now, spreading across all parts of town, cries of panic, pain, and death. I thought it would have happened to me by now, but as time continued to pass, I failed to be consumed and carried away by death's sweet embrace.

"Why not," I wondered. Why was I still alive? Why did I have to remain here? Why couldn't I just die like everyone else?

"Unless…" the thought suddenly occurred to me, "Unless… I'm already dead.

Was that it? Had I simply not noticed? And if so, did that mean that this…was hell? It certainly was fitting. I only wondered what evil it was I had done to deserve this.

But then, all of the sudden, I felt my body being lifted off the ground. My surprise was overwhelming as I felt myself being flung over and onto someone's back. The person who held me tight then took off with unrelenting speed.

"Ira!! Are you alright!!" the familiar voice cried out.

I knew who this was. It was Mr. Bronte, the grocer who worked at the vegetable stand in the Apple Market. My mother and I were close friends with his family, which made me feel incredibly relieved to see him alive. But…where was the rest of his family…


It was hopeless. I was choking on my own tears and my voice was too full of weeping sobs to give him a clear reply.

"Don't worry! I'll get you somewhere that I think will be safe!"

"S-safe?" I was able to blubber out coherently enough for him to understand. "W-where?"

"The North Gate, up at City Hall! If these things are coming out of the Sub-Gates then it has to be the only place that hasn't been attacked yet!"

My mind then suddenly snapped into focus.

"No! Wait!" I cried. "My mother! We have to go back for my mother!"

"There's no time!" He shouted. "We have to get to City Hall before this place is completely overrun!"

I stared at him blankly, not believing what I was hearing.

"NO!" I screamed. "Please, you have to stop! I can't leave her there! Let me go!"

I screamed at him, struggled and fought against him as I tried to get him to put me down, but was completely powerless in his iron grip.

"Please!" I sobbed, "Please…just let me go!"

"I can't do that Ira!" he cried with the same wrenching agony wringing his voice. "I…I couldn't save them…I can't save her. If you're the only one left I can help, then I'll give my life to keep you safe!"

He continued his furious sprint, somehow remaining unspotted. I could feel my body go cold as we rushed past all of the carnage and destruction. So many people…there were so many people on the ground. People with names I knew, faces I recognized…many with cold, motionless eyes staring back at me, looking into my soul, and cursing me for still being alive. I sealed my eyes shut as I felt my whole life being viciously torn out of me. There was nothing left, nothing except for the aching numbness, cold and lifeless...

I felt the running finally stop, assuming that we had made it to the North-Gate unharmed. Mr. Bronte hastily swiped his I.D. card through the magnetic strip and the door slid open. I opened my eyes and turned my head to glance at the city one last time as Mr. Bronte rushed through the gate. It was burning, crumbling to dust in the devastating flames of destruction…just like my spirit.

"I'm so sorry mom!" I wept bitterly, and disappeared into the void of life.

13. Innocence

Everyone inside the Flutter's living room stood motionlessly petrified. No one made a sound, only listened as the television blared the penetrating blast of the news report. For a brief a moment, I broke away from the hollow sounds and ghastly images the T.V. screen twisted into my mind and scanned the room, viewing the horrified expressions painted upon its occupants.

Tron stood at the opposite side of the room. Her eyes were fixed on the set in an unbreakable trance and her arms were folded tightly across her chest, one arm extending upward, placing a fist over her mouth in a vain attempt to mask the quivering of her lips. Her composure, however, was devastatingly more controlled than Roll's, who sat completely withdrawn on the edge of the sofa. Her legs were shaking and her eyes were wide with shock, cascading faint tear trails flowing down her hand-cupped face.

I turned away from these gut-wrenching visages and forced myself to look back at the T.V. screen and continued watching the even more gut-wrenching news report.

"The current number of casualties is still unknown at this point" the female news anchor tried to formally address, but was unable to hide the distress in her voice. "The inner city seems to have received the most significant damage in this unprecedented attack on Kattolox. I'm told were receiving new live video footage from our aerial news ship now. We now go live to our sky reporter, Marina Barnes, for the latest."

The screen switched from the news anchor to an image of a young female reporter standing next to an open sided air ship. She held a mic in one hand and a safety rope above her with the other. Beneath her, the view of the crumbling city of Kattolox, drenched in flame and smoke, made my blood stir in pure malice. The reporter began to speak with relentless hastiness and panic in her voice.

"What you're seeing now are no phony images! The city of Kattolox is under heavy siege with the attackers being confirmed as surfaced reavorbots! "We've already lost one of our news ships to some kind of anti-air and have been forced to pull back to a higher altitude, but you can still get a clear image of the city! As you can see, the inner city has almost been completely destroyed, with the east and west districts still under heavy fire! Military dispatch teams from nearby islands have already been deployed and have joined with what's left of Kattolox police in trying to suppress reavorbot advances on what appears to be the only unscathed portion of the island's north city! We are also being told that evacuation teams are also trying to get trapped citizens out of the east and west districts. But we're not sure they'll be able to hold out much longer if the reavorbot density continues to grow at its current pace!

"We still have no idea how this all happened, and have obviously never seen anything like this before! The destruction is unfathomable, the death toll catastrophic! It's only a matter of time before the entire island is completely overr-"

The T.V. screen flicked off, the remote clenched firmly in my hand. Everyone turned and looked at me. I kept my eyes focused on the empty screen of the television, keeping my head from turning and meeting any of their gazes. It was only for a moment in the dead silence of the room that I turned and made my way to the door.

"Where're you going?" Roll asked.

I stopped, letting her words sink in as I held my grip on the door handle.

Did she really have to ask, I thought to myself.

"I'm going to get my armor." I said impassively, "and after that…I'm going to Kattolox…to stop all of this."

My hand twisted the knob and pushed open the door, unrestrained vigor tracing my steps as I walked briskly into the hallway.

"Are you nuts!" I heard Tiesal shout. "Did you not see the news report!? Didn't you see the island!? It's up to its neck in reavorbots! They're wiping out everyone and everything! Do you seriously think you can actually do anything to stop them!?"

Once again my feet planted. I kept my head turned away as I gave my short, honest reply.

"…Yes…yes I do."

I chose not to listen to anything else they had to say. Empty words. They wouldn't change my decision. I quickly ascended the ladder to main floor and threw open the door into my room. There, floating in the corner was my suit of pure and total destruction. I walked over to it and let my hand brush its surface, causing the armor to fragment and materialize around my body – so much easier than it used to be. I then picked up my helmet. I held it in my hands, staring at it contemplatively as I thought of what it signified, what this armor as a whole, myself included, symbolized. The words Sera spoke to me streamed through my head, the words spoken to me in the Vault when I first laid eyes on this sacred creation.

"The embodiment of hope, of sacrifice, and of our sheer determination to rise triumphant from the darkest of circumstances."

This is what it all meant. This is who I was. I was a defender of light, an instrument that was capable of cutting through the shrouds of darkness and death, and a bringer of hope to those who had all but lost their own.

And this armor… was my blade. This was my destiny. My true mission, the entire reason I was created, and I would complete this final mission, no matter what the cost.

"So you're really going then huh?" I heard a soft voice emanate from the doorway.

I turned and saw Roll standing at the entrance, bracing herself against the doorframe. She wasn't looking at me.

"I have to Roll. What other choice do I have?"

"I know. I would be surprised if you chose not to. That's just who you are anyway, isn't it… It's…It's just…"

"What?" I asked, walking closer to her.

She breathed a deep sigh of concern and then lifted her head to look into my eyes.

"I want to help you; I need to. If there's anything I can do at all, I have to do it."

Her words caused a tidal wave of rebuttal to suddenly gush through my mind. I thought of Roll's presence on that island – That place of death, and contemplated hundreds of reasons why she should absolutely not go.

But her eyes pierced through me, unrelentingly. I knew I couldn't do anything to stop her, just like nothing would stop me. I had my extreme doubts about this whole idea, but I knew Roll was competent, and I had no right to decide for her.

"You really want to do this?" I asked, hoping that somehow I could change her mind. "You saw the report, you know what it's like over there right now."

"Yes. I know. But that doesn't matter. I have to go."

"Then you can count me in too!" I heard Tron suddenly burst out.