This was in my documents folder for ages after I published the rest of the fic. I've decided to go ahead and publish it: I don't know how much it adds to the overall experience, but it was written and I use this account partially as an archive of my writing over time, as I hopefully improve.

Sap and technobabble/infodump ahoy.


"…And that probably sounded crazy, didn't it." Had he sounded like that before? He didn't remember, but he would bet on it. The pattern was still there, the mind was the same, just like how removing the virus from the mavericks wasn't going to do anything, what it had done to their minds would remain. "Like changing the background," from white to black: what had stood out before was gone and things that hadn't been noticed before were all that was left? No, that wasn't a very good metaphor for what happened when the virus invaded.

Reploids got their 'baseline' nanites from X, although they were altered. They contained just… general patterns, ways to be, that served as a foundation, and then the virus replaced that with arrogance, the desire to kill, the belief that they deserved it… Replaced X with the worst of how he had been?

Not that he remembered, and he was horribly glad he didn't. "I need to replace the baseline," that would do it. He swept a hand towards X, reaching out with the virus as well to get a sample that he could copy to restore the original personality framework of the mavericks.

It didn't occur to him that this would obviously be read as attacking him with the virus until X jumped back. He winced. "Sorry, still haven't gotten my head on straight. That was stupid. A baseline. I need a sample of their original configuration to cure the mavericks… actually, since they used edited copies of yours I should copy a normal reploid instead." And, yes, there was one. It was almost automatic to bind them into the web, create a backup to keep them safe – he needed to do that for all of them, he didn't want any more to die – and sort of transfer the data, let them know what was happening and why.

"You're obviously higher quality, though, but that would mess them up. Not as bad as the virus did, but the same way. If they're used to working around certain things and taking others for granted in their own heads, then if that's totally changed around?" A cascade of data, having to adjust the sample he'd gotten for older mavericks, earlier configurations, trying to figure out how to build the pieces they were all missing. "I think I can fix them all, except the first generation, when you were customizing each batch. I don't have any idea what they were built with and it's been long enough a lot of them are used to the virus being there, so if I take those traits away that will unbalance them too."

Straightening out the web, untangling it, binding them all together was only logical, it made this go quicker and he could tell them not to kill, tell them it would be alright as they began to realize what it was they had been doing. "Please don't blame them, well, I know you won't, X. It's not their fault."

He found himself wanting to reach out to X again, wanting to pull him into the web, wanting to pull in every single reploid, and told himself sternly to stop that, it wasn't right to bind people against their will. That made him release some of the ones who were screaming for it…

And as he released even that loose control over their systems he could feel them descend into madness the way he almost had. And, an instant later, felt them die.

He staggered, and knew that he had to pull himself together. He wouldn't have shown a reaction like that if his self-control wasn't fraying at the seams.

It was good that the backups were working properly, but he hadn't wanted them to be tested like that.

Those he let himself pull back in, wrap them in calm and that it wasn't their fault. That was only a temporary solution, it wasn't right to mess with people's feelings. Something had to be done for them.

X would know what to do, he had been there for Zero, for everyone else, but Zero must not just reach out and take him, he had no right, yet he kept thinking that he did.

"Zero." X was trying to keep his voice level, trying not to let that be a question, even though Zero had given himself another name, had suddenly begun acting so differently.

"Yes, but I was someone else, once. I still don't remember being them, but I have to fix this." They needed him, and it was so different from being a hunter. Before, he'd fought for the people he knew, the people he cared about, even though at first it had been for his own sake, to atone. And now he knew all of them, all the mavericks. They were tangled up in him, like, like family? Human family, where they were bound by blood and there was some instinctive connection no matter how much they might hate each other? "Dr. Light left those capsules for you, someone did something like that for me, although why did they wait so long to wake me up? So that I was strong enough," he realized. "I could barely figure out what to do even after being Zero for so long. This is confusing, not like the virus, the virus was one, one personality. A sick one, but just one, and now I'm dealing with all of them and I can't pull out."

"You can't free them from the virus?"

"I can restore their personalities, mostly, but I freed some and they blew themselves up, they couldn't take what they'd done even though it wasn't them." Except no, it had been, just as he was Omega. A twisted them, a wrong them, but them. "I don't want anyone else to die, I promised you. I said there'd be a peaceful world now and no one else would have to die because of this, because of me. I nearly… after the rampage." So he could understand wanting to die. "Someone's going to have to talk them down before I can let go, and it's not like I know how to deal with guilt. There are probably a lot of people who wouldn't do anything drastic, but I'm having to sort through to find them and that's going to take awhile."

"Zero," X said again, and it was a conclusion. "Lifesaver wanted me to bring you back to base, he was getting worried."

"Worried I had gone maverick?" Zero had to laugh, although the sound was anything but happy. "I lost it there, X. I really did. I let it win. I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"You weren't fighting like yourself. I'd started to wonder if you were another clone." Zero had trained X, and there was no one who knew the holes in someone's fighting style then the person who had spent months, no, years, trying to fix them. "So, since it didn't have your personality or memories, either way, I knew that the virus was only controlling your body, at most."

That Zero was either elsewhere or still in there to wake up.

"I was… asleep. And then someone woke me up. He said he was my older brother, but that doesn't make any sense, because he called Sigma… Oh. Sigma's dead. No, not the virus' Sigma, that was a copy. Sigma-Sigma, the one you built. He, well, I guess he died when he captured me. The virus was stronger then," he could see now, how it had gradually adapted, mutated to become weaker to deal with reploid differences from the androids it had been designed for. "There wasn't enough room, for what it needed to do? So it kicked him out of his body. He didn't know what had happened any more than I did, and at first he thought he was the copy, but the fake didn't tell you about the crystal, which was important. And…" No, he shook his head. There was too much to explain it all now, even when he didn't understand it himself.

"Long story?" X sounded sympathetic.

"I don't know what just happened. I'm starting to think that maybe he was lying about being my brother and was a Lightbot, despite the whole Cyclops look."

"…Cyclops? One eye? And you said something about Dr. Light's capsules?"

"Is it making sense to you? Because he made none to me, or rather there was this sense that things should be making sense and I just couldn't make the connection." Like when a word was on the tip of your tongue, Zero would have said, if he'd ever had that problem. Reploids didn't.

"According to one of the legends," X said slowly, then shook his head. "It sounds like this is going to take awhile to sort out, so we should probably get back to base and sort it out there. Given the circumstances, you should probably disarm first."

"Right." Zero started to remove components from his buster with the same practiced economy of motion possessed by a human soldier trained to strip a rifle for cleaning in the shortest time possible. When he was done, he added, "But I don't know if I can do anything about this." He waved his arm and the virus moved with it. "It wasn't a part of me before, but now it is, and I don't know how to separate. When it's like this, it does things when all I do is think about them, like when I thought that it would help cure the mavericks if I had a sample of your nanites and the next thing I know it's reaching for you."

"Ah." X nodded. "I thought that was what you meant. You're using the virus' nanites to think with, and so it's joined to your thought processes?" At Zero's nod, he asked, "Can you partition it off, and confine sentient processes to only the nanites in your body? In the way that humans don't use the neurons in their hands to think with."

"Don't you mean sapient processes?"

"No, sentient. Sapient processes are a sub-set of sentient. There has to be the awareness of an 'I' variable for higher-level cognition to occur." In order for a computer, including the brain, to make plans for what it would do, there had to be a variable for it, and it also had to be aware of the effects external conditions had on said unit. Awareness of the self and making a distinction between it and the rest of the universe, that 'it,' that 'I,' was that variable. "Don't just partition off logical thought, but awareness."

"The ability to take in data and realize what it means in the context of the self... Right! That was what I was doing wrong. I was treating all of them as 'self' since the virus was there, and of course that wasn't making any sense." He shook his head. "I have no clue what I'm doing, do I. Alright, so if I actually have to send the order for the virus to do something, like sending an order to a limb to move it, then I could cut off the transmitter function? Is that possible? I… don't think it is. That's going to make disarming hard."

"Why don't you let them scan you for now," X waved at the medical units he'd brought along, "and I'll put Alia, Lifesaver and the others on speaker in a minute and see if they have any ideas."

Judging from the way X was looking decidedly not frustrated, they had been yelling at him to do so for the past five minutes. "Were they actually listening to any of the lectures about supporting the judgment of the hunter in the field instead of undermining and distracting them?"

X sighed, opening a panel on one of the medical units as the other scanned Zero. "To be fair, the average spotter has more experience than the average field hunter." Due to the fatality rate. "And they do need to keep an eye on them and how reliable they are." In case they went maverick. "Also, they were disregarding your advice on the subject. For obvious reasons." They'd suspected for awhile, it seemed.

"You knew?" That they suspected Zero was a maverick?

"Yes, of course I knew. I knew after the second war. What happened during the third just confirmed it."

"What?" Zero bet that he wasn't the only one who'd reacted like that.

"Well, not the details, and it's clear that you have a lot to tell me, but Dr. Cain and I decided that the best thing was to make sure your systems weren't spreading the virus and just keep an eye on you. Obviously we couldn't tell anyone else, because the instant they went maverick Sigma would have known we knew, and you know what you were like after you were brought in. If we'd told you then you might have done something drastic, and friendship aside, we needed you. You were always our best chance of finding a way to stop the virus, and what would have happened if I'd died and there were no other immune reploids?" X frowned and removed something from the unit. "I knew that weld was too recent. Lifesaver? Either you needed to do a much better job of checking your staff for mavericks or you and I are going to have words when I get back."

X carefully put the detonator that had been hooked up to the medical unit's power supply down on the ground. "And that is why we were always so opposed to the idea of hunters being accompanied by drones." He returned to the previous subject as casually as though they hadn't both been in danger of being blown up. "To be honest, because of some of Sigma's remarks, it was obvious that you had some equivalent of Dr. Light's capsules present in the virus, which was likely why they were able to start repairing you and we were able to finish."

"You knew?"

X looked up at him. "How long have you known?"

Zero paused. "Since the end of the fourth war," he confessed, "Although I should have put it together earlier."

"You just didn't want to contemplate something like that." X nodded. He understood, really. "Have you really been able to return mavericks to themselves? It would hopefully calm them down if you cured the ones in HQ, at least."

Zero frowned, trying to use the virus to examine the other medical unit without X noticing. Except why should he try to hide it? It would only be more suspicious, really, that he was trying to use the virus in secret. "Hunters… They're the ones that were most likely to try to self-destruct out of guilt. I have to at least… keep in contact to be able to hold a backup in case they try it. I was focusing on the hunters first, of course." X was right that it was the obvious tactical choice. "Most of them are back to normal, but there's still edited virus in their systems. Some of them I'm having to basically sedate so they don't start going insane from guilt, and a few I'm almost certain won't try anything but I nearly lost a few already." There had sometimes been only a split second in which to cancel withdrawing the virus and link them in before it was too late to save them. "I can cure-cure people, though, I just don't think it's a good idea until you or someone figures out a way to do backups that doesn't require the virus."

X didn't want to ask this, but he had to. "Were any of them in the command staff?"

"No, thank goodness."

"That's a relief." X destroyed the detonator with a calculated blast. "I was really beginning to worry about Lifesaver. Of course, the fact that he was worrying me so badly was why I was almost certain he wasn't a maverick. They have the sense to hide that they're trying to undermine the hunters, while Lifesaver was very open and unapologetic about how his measures were damaging our, and especially your, ability to fight. On the other hand, he could have been smart enough to be taking refuge in audacity."

"You really have changed," Zero said after a moment, almost sadly. What had happened to his sweet little rookie, who almost refused to learn to be paranoid, about the dirty tricks people could pull, because he was so determined that soon this would be fixed and all that would become utterly irrelevant once again?

"Someone has to think about these things. Dr. Cain used to play devil's advocate, but once he was no longer always thinking clearly he might have let something slip, and Signas… We built him to be as resistant as we could, but he was still not just vulnerable but…" too young. X shrugged apologetically. "And I'm sorry for talking about all of you like you weren't listening. Hopefully reports of mavericks returning to normal should have come in already to corroborate what Zero has said, and he's demonstrated control over the virus. I am sorry for shutting down communications temporarily, and for keeping the receiver jammed even after I started transmitting again, but you might have distracted me and made me miss something important."

Zero could imagine Alia starting to say she might have noticed something he didn't, and then hopefully having the sense to swallow her words. Her trying to spot for X was, well, absolutely nothing but a distraction for him. X put up with her chatter about things he already knew because he could use the distraction, wanted to hear a friendly voice on the battlefield, not because she was useful.

When Zero dressed someone down the way X was now, his voice got low and dangerous. Drill sergeants yelled, trying to make the rookie too terrified to ever mess up that badly again. X sounded understanding, almost like he was making excuses for them and preemptively accepting their apology and promise to try not to do it again. Like he was disappointed, but knew they could do better.

It wasn't a mom voice, reploids didn't have mothers, but it still made people want the earth to swallow them up to hide how ashamed they felt, and it would have made rookies give X puppy dog eyes if they'd known how to (that they were young and didn't know any better and were really sorry).

They'd really prefer he just yelled.

"I'm fine," X continued, "and I'm sorry for worrying you." That was more giving them the benefit of the doubt, that if they'd done something stupid it would have only been because they were worried. "As you can see," hopefully, "Zero isn't going to hurt me, and it would be a grave mistake to try to kill someone who can remove the threat of the virus." So they should know better than to tell X to kill him or to try to manage it themselves. "I hope you've got some plan to make sure that no one tries anything: there were a few attempts to permanently damage him when he was brought in the first time," and X didn't blame them, but he didn't want to have to deal with that again. "Zero, is there anything you want to say before I let them talk?"

"I'm sorry for worrying them too, and I wish I could have done something about this sooner, it just… wasn't even possible," he realized. "Not with the seals there."

"Alright." X switched it on.

"-issleswerelaunchedatyourcurrenlocation," Alia's voice came out in a rush as they heard frantic chatter in the background.

X facepalmed, a gesture he'd picked up from Dr. Cain, who had done it when trying to fight off a headache.

Zero swore, grabbed X, and got them through both the virus' teleport shield and headquarters' to the command center. "Whose bright idea was that?! As though there wasn't already enough atmospheric virus! Wasn't it obvious that Sigma was practically daring you to do it, just like his first body in this war and Eurasia?!"

X shook his head slowly, still holding his hand to it. "It doesn't matter whose fault it was. All of you were responsible for what happened." In order to prevent a single maverick launching missiles, the keys of four out of the six senior command staff were required. "I am very, very disappointed in all of you. You should all know better by now." Well, Lifesaver was new, but the others didn't have that excuse. "Will they do any damage?"

Zero's expression was bleak. "No." Because all the humans that had lived there were already dead, and all the reploids had already gone maverick. "I've gotten them out of there. It's not like there's anything left to destroy." The colony had already dropped, the place was already nothing but a pile of wreckage marking a mass grave.

"That's a relief." X gathered himself, removed his hand, and looked around the room. Under his breath, he remarked to Zero, "You see why I couldn't take a leave of absence to work on a cure."

"Same here," was Zero's quiet reply, as he brushed past X.

X took a deliberate breath, then tugged on Zero's arm for him to stay put and let X handle this. In the same instant Zero felt him destroy the nanites he didn't even remember putting in X's systems (but he would have had to, in order to teleport him). It wasn't so much the destruction as the realization of what he had done that made him freeze.

"That didn't hurt, did it?" X asked, seeing his reaction.

Zero shook his head, frowning. Sure, it had been necessary at the time, and he couldn't fault his reflex to save X, but why this nebulous feeling of discontent? He hadn't even been really sensing the nanites in X, between the partition and how distracted he'd been. It was as though he hadn't tried to do it before to get a sample, or done it this time to save him, but like he wanted to infect X.

Then he realized that yes, that pretty much summed it up. He did want to infect X. It was somehow annoying that he couldn't just reach out and take him in, fold him up, safe and warm and strong, in the peace that X had always wanted. He'd given him Elysium, or would as soon as this annoying stuff was sorted out, so why couldn't he have him now?

He wanted to, he really wanted to, just push X down on one of the consoles, hold him and flood him until he stopped protesting because people would get the wrong idea and just let Zero have him. It wasn't like he couldn't make them all see.

Yeah, he had to admit again that 'Jacob' was right. If he hadn't already admitted that he was Omega thoughts like that would be scaring him, since he'd be trying to claim they weren't like him, weren't him, and the next thing he knew they wouldn't be him. There wasn't really anything wrong with wanting to protect X, he just had to not to anything against his, or anyone else's, wishes. Provided they were in their right mind. "Sorry about that," he apologized, frowning. "It was… reflex. I had to grab you to pull you out of there, and even with the division, it was still like using my hands."

"I'm not complaining," X murmured, looking at the tracking screen. "Did I miss anything?"

"No." Very much not. "You got all of them. How was the old virus even able to make you dizzy? I wasn't getting anything from them, other than the fact you were standing there, which I knew anyway so I didn't notice anything odd, and then they're obliterated."

"Saturation," X explained. "When I was only exposed to small doses, I didn't even notice infection – they were just treated like faulty nanites. However, when virus was shielded by the debris from more virus, then it took a few seconds to break it all apart."

"Hmm. I don't like technical stuff." Zero examined his hands. "Well, I supposed I'm interested in beam saber design and other practical things, but I want to know how you did that." To pick it apart and figure out how to copy it.

"Well, it's not as though everyone else doesn't wish we could copy my design better. And my immunity." X's eyes scanned the room, counting the empty consoles. "Were they secured or destroyed?"

"Secured," Zero and Signas answered at the same time.

"That's good." No more deaths, even if Zero had said he had, "Backup technology? The same kind robot masters had? I thought that was impossible, since we're nanite hybrids. Just transmitting the programs wouldn't accomplish anything."

"Teleportation," Zero reminded him. "Optimally, the whole central processor is teleported out before it gets seriously damaged, but a sample is enough. If they're custom built, though, it's already inaccessible and can't be hit with normal weaponry." In that other dimension, Zero suddenly knew. He was, and the fake Sigma had been just piloting bodies, they hadn't been in them. No wonder blowing up the fake Sigma hadn't accomplished anything.

But death and degradation were two different things. "I can't cure several of the first generation unless you have copies of the nanite samples you used for them. It's been too long, they won't be able to reconfigure themselves unless they have something familiar to work with."

"That depends." X frowned. "The lab has been moved so many times… Can you destroy the missiles before they hit?" They would make it hard to salvage anything from the ruin.

Zero shook his head. "I got rid of the atmospheric virus already. I have teleport capability, but I don't have any way to figure out the coordinates in order to put virus there, and… Oh boy." He was just not used to this at all. "I had the nanites self-destruct. There's going to be metal dust falling everywhere. I should have had them gather somewhere first."

That wasn't good, but X just sighed. "It's alright, at this point we have a lot of practice at cleaning up environmental damage." This wasn't that serious next to what Eurasia had already done, not to mention the Cataclysm. "I'm sure everyone's happier that you destroyed it as soon as you could, really. Now that it's gone, hopefully humans will be able to go outside safely sooner."

"They should." Zero tried not to twitch, or act twitchy. If he started to move towards combat readiness people might get itchy buster arms. "I don't have memories of how this works, just sort of general documentation."

"Were there memories?" Zero had said that he was 'someone else once.' X knew that reploids and androids didn't work like that. Although perhaps Zero wasn't an android, in the same way reploids weren't robot masters?

"They're still sealed. My weaponry, defense capabilities, and virus control were all sealed. I couldn't access them until now."

"Why not?" Alia finally dared to speak up.

Lifesaver was having the grace to stay out of the way and be quiet. What X had said appeared to have hit home.

"They were being sealed. Sigma… He died. When he rescued me. The virus killed him, and he went to backup. The virus didn't infect him when it killed him because it was using his systems to configure, meaning it didn't have the ability to actually change people's personalities yet, and the backup system assumed that since he was being sent to it, he must already have been altered. He didn't have any idea what the hell had just happened. At first he thought he was a copy, trapped looking out through someone else's eyes, and then he realized that there was someone else walking around in his body. Someone who was lying to X: he wondered if he was the fake, and… God, that must have been terrifying." He gripped the railing, shoulders hunching in, determinedly not shuddering. "My weapons and defense systems were just damaged, and I couldn't unlock them. I wonder if he was the one who damaged them, actually? That would explain why they had to be unlocked by someone that wasn't me."

"To keep you from infecting everyone else?" Alia would have looked pale, if she were a human.

X thought of all the times Zero's self-destruct had nearly triggered while they were trying to repair him, but remained silent. He'd known some of them were sabotage, but been unable to find the culprit.

"I wonder if he saw my memories, and that was how he found out about… But 'Jacob' was sealing my memories, and if he was awake all along then why did he let that happen? Unless he couldn't do anything about the virus. Maybe, it is nanites after all. So he had to wait until either I was strong enough to resist the virus and take control, or the worst happened and there wasn't any more time. I suppose." That made sense, that was fair, but… He threw up an arm and started to pace, boots clicking on the floor, hair swishing, so that his body had something to do to match the frantic pace of his mind and the virus.

"Jacob?" Alia asked.

"Zero's equivalent of the AI in Dr. Light's capsules. Possibly. Why are you calling him Jacob?"

"Jacob Marley. 'You will be visited by three spirits.' Sigma was one of them. He died, again, they all did. Sigma had turned himself into the seal on the virus, and even if it had been possible to break that seal without breaking him, he didn't want that. He was brave, X. He was the man I thought he was. You should be proud, but he couldn't stand the thought of that door opening while he was alive. Not again." He knew that X's eyes had closed even though he wasn't looking at him, and at first he worried that he'd infected him again, but it was just sort-of-sonar.

He couldn't look at X. "Jacob said that I'd been trying to save the people who died near me even when they weren't maverick, send them to backup, so there has to be a way to create backups without infecting people, unless a virus has to be nearby. I only met three, and I think there were only four, counting Jacob. Four left. The others had already… faded away. All this time, and I didn't know. They were burning themselves out so I could stay sane, and I didn't know." He had to make peace, for their sakes. He had to make it worth it.

"It's possible that your brother was Protoman. Or based on him, at least. That would explain why he called Sigma 'nephew.'" X and Zero both knew that X had said that now in order to distract Zero from his guilt.

"Zero's… but why would Dr. Light create anything like the virus?"

There was Alia, saying the obvious-yet-useless yet again. "Zero wasn't created by Dr. Light," X told her. "That was obvious from the beginning. Engineers and programmers have distinct styles. Zero's systems have very little resemblance to mine beyond the superficial." He was based on X's plans, roughly, but interpreted and altered by someone completely different who had seen them only as guidelines. "Frankly, I'm not certain if Zero would technically be considered a reploid." Not that X was technically a reploid: he was the android that the reploids were replications of. "In some ways, he's as distinct from us as a robot master would theoretically be. The relationship to the virus seems to confirm that."

"He is the virus?" Signas would be shuddering if he weren't designed to be able to hide his emotions: a necessary skill in a commander.

"No, the electrical patterns and programs in his chips are involved in his thought process: he's not a nanite-only intelligence in the way robot masters were chip-only. In order to explain, I'd have to get technical, but if a backup for a reploid, or Zero, consists of nanites and an electrical pattern he's optimized for it. Perhaps nanite-energy hybrid might be a good way to put it."

"A walking ghost?" That was almost funny, and right now almost was good enough.

"Theoretically, nanite-only intelligences are possible. Energy-only might be as well. But Zero is Zero." X was sure of it, and of him, and that was what mattered.

"Zero Omega."

"Zero." Not now. X's voice was even, but that was a warning. This was not the time to bring this up.

"Did you know that too?" All along? "Sigma was afraid that the instant I woke up I was going to kill you. He was trying to influence me, since that was the only way he could affect the outside world. Try to keep me under control and make sure that you were well trained."

"I wondered, sometimes, if you had copied some of his traits the way the virus did." It had ached, sometimes, to see his first child's traits in his best friend. Especially after every war, every time seeing the mockery the virus had made of them. To see the hero Sigma had once been reminded him of the general's bravery and compassion, reminded him that all the mavericks were innocent people, innocent children. "You helped keep me from falling into hatred."

"You're not surprised that I was supposed to kill you. You knew, almost all along, about the virus and about… Did you know? Were you lying to me when you said you trusted me?" How could X trust Dr. Wily's creation?

"I wasn't lying to you." It had been necessary to skirt around the truth sometimes, but trust was an important thing.

"Why not? I was lying to you, when I said… and I didn't even know it. Why not?" He shook his head slowly, long blond hair swishing, back still turned to all of them. "Because you're you. And that's why I have to give you your Elysium. Not Iris'. Definitely not his."

"It's difficult. To be the eldest, the first of a new race. To be responsible for all your children, however warped they may become. You want to believe it's because you failed somewhere, that it's your fault, when something terrible happens, because if the problem was with you, then you could fix it. There are so many things that are out of our control, that we could have, can and will be able to do nothing about. Should I blame myself for every crime of every maverick? After all, if I'd been able to figure out immunity… You can't blame yourself for the Mavericks, either."

"I don't remember, but I'm absolutely certain that the Mavericks aren't the worst of it." Sigma had punched him in the head when he had been busted in the head, insane and on autopilot. "Jacob said that he was there because I'd killed him. Just like Sigma, Colonel, and Iris."

"Iris?"

"Dead and gone, now. She sacrificed herself, just like the other two. I have to make it worth it."

"Then promise me that you won't do anything drastic."

"Not until I know what will happen when I die. The virus might even just find a new host, create one from some template."

"So I was right that there was a copy of your plans in there." That would be how the mavericks had been able to get so far in his repairs before X got there.

"Thinking of making more like me? Are you serious?"

"Zero, do you really want the virus to run wild again? What if something happens to you? Not to mention that you aren't evil, and why shouldn't we be able to coexist?" Like reploids and humans should. Would, in the world X had worked to build and protect all this time.

"I'm not even sure I can die. I am a walking ghost, after all." It made him clench his fists. "You say things like that, and I want to believe in them. I want to protect you, to let you show me that world, because you're the only one who could possibly make it possible. I'll make it real, for you, for everyone, but it's because of you that I can believe that it's possible. A world where reploids and humans, where everyone lives in peace. That's why." That had been all of why, in the end. What did he know about right and wrong? He could only trust in the judgment of the people he believed in. Fight for them. "That's all of why."