Part 1: Death

The monstrous orbital cannon Ragnarok blew apart, scattering millions of pieces of debris through space. The fragments were quickly caught in the Earth's gravitational pull and dragged into the atmosphere. To those looking up into the sky from below they looked like comets streaking through the heavens as they burned up harmlessly. The smaller fragments disintegrated quickly, while some of the largest pieces managed to survive the descent and crash to Earth, creating massive craters filled with mechanical wreckage. Later generations would investigate these areas and rediscover lost technologies that would alter the course of civilization.

One of the largest pieces of debris was the remains of the Ragnarok Core, the site of the climatic final battle between the mad Dr. Weil and the red reploid Zero. After one final mighty blow shattered Weil's - Ragnarok's - core, there was nothing left of the once-human doctor. The core broke into millions of pieces as the uncontrollable energy of Ragnarok coursed through Weil's broken body, which was by then fully merged with the massive space station.

Although not instantly vaporized as he he'd expected to be, Zero's body sustained an unrecoverable amount damage from the blast. At some point his left arm had been torn off at the shoulder, and although his right was still attached it refused to respond to any of his attempts to move it. Shrapnel from the exploding core had ripped thousands of tiny holes through his entire body, making him resemble a piece of swiss cheese. Internal fluids resembling blood leaked from his body all over the floor, taking what little life was left to him with it. Somehow his legs had remained attached, though they were bent in a number of different locations, none of which were places they were supposed to bend. If he'd had any feeling left in them, he was sure it would have been quite painful.

His chest had been ripped open, sparks flying into the air from his fatally wounded power core. In only a few moments the residual energy left in him would sputter out, taking with it the remaining spark of life left in his battered body.

Indeed, there was a small piece of life left in the ruined form of Zero. However, he made no valiant attempt to cling to life; he knew it was time for his story to end. A new age was about to begin on the Earth below, an age of reploids and humans living together in peace. An age of peace had no need for warriors like him, born and forged in the flames of war. Ever since Ciel had awakened him from his century-long slumber he had done nothing but fight his way from one conflict to the next, trusting in X and Ciel to guide him into doing the right thing. He had believed in Ciel and the world she imagined, and fought with all his strength to make that place become a reality. He wasn't capable of doing anything else. In the end, he had sacrificed everything he had to allow Ciel's dream of a united world to come true. He only hoped that it would be enough.

Ciel...create the world that X and I never could. You are the one who can bridge the gap between human and reploid and bring peace to the world we all love so much. I succeeded because you believed in me. Now you will succeed because I believe in you.

A smile spread across his face as he leaned his head back, waiting numbly for the end. "I guess it's true," he remarked to himself, "life really is more painful than death."

"Death is not the end of life, Zero," a familiar voice said. Zero couldn't move his head to look around, but moments later he saw the glowing form of X float into his field of view. "It is simply the end of one form of it."

If his neck rotors were working, Zero would have shaken his head. "X, I never really understood half of the things you ever said. All I know is, this is the end of the line for me."

"Your body, yes," X replied, "but not your soul, your spirit. It's not that body that defines you, it's your heart and soul that are important. I thought you would have learned that by now, especially after your encounter with Omega."

"I always was a slow learner."

He heard the light-form of X make a sound that resembled a chuckle. "Even when staring death in the face you can still crack a joke. Yes, Zero, this is the end for you. But every end brings the opportunity for a new beginning." The light that enveloped X's light-form extended toward Zero, spreading warmth across his chest; which was odd, since Zero's heat receptors had long since stopped functioning. Then he felt a tug on...something. He couldn't explain what; it was the oddest sensation.

"Come with me and I'll show you," X encouraged his friend. "I'll show you the beginning of your next journey."

"Sounds...exciting..." Zero whispered as life finally left his broken body. As he exhaled his final breath, the warm light emanating from X's light-form filled him, drawing something out from within. Slowly at first, but quickly increasing, a soft light seemed to pour out from the still figure of Zero, coalescing into a small, bright red ball in the air. After a few moments the flow of light stopped, forming a sphere roughly the same size as X. Shortly after the process was over, the red globe of light spoke.

"That was...interesting," Zero's voice said.

"You just died and became a cyber-elf, Zero," X responded dryly. "'Interesting' is hardly how I'd describe the process. Now, come with me." The blue sphere that was X's soul floated off, heading for the world below.

"Where are we going?" Zero inquired of his friend as he followed after.

"Someplace you've been before...sort of," X replied. "A place where all reploid souls go after their bodies crumble to dust. You met Phantom last time you were there."

"Cyberspace?" Zero said incredulously. "You're telling me that is Reploid heaven?"

"Heh," X chuckled again. "'Cyberspace' is just the name given to the limited experience you had with 'it'. Physical bodies simply can't comprehend everything that 'it' is."

"Well then, does 'it' have a name?"

"It has no real need of one," X responded. "All who enter 'it' know what 'it' is." His friend's voice became thoughtful. "However, when the need for things such as names arises, I prefer to think of it as 'Eden'. Like I said, it is the place from which all reploid souls are born, as well the place they all return to when they die."

"And this is where we're going now?" X nodded. Zero sighed, which puzzled him: how did he sigh without lungs? Not wanted to think about the details, he quickly dismissed the matter from his mind. Being a cyber-elf would take some getting used to.

His gaze fell to the earth below, saved from the wrath of the mad Dr. Weil by his sacrifice. "I just wish I could have said goodbye," he said, a tinge of regret in his voice. He knew Ciel was down there, waiting for him to return from the mission as he always had. He owed her so much for all the things she'd taught him since his reawakening, yet he'd never told her how much she meant to him.

"You don't have to say goodbye," X said, suddenly pensive, "because you'll never leave her. Even after you pass on from this world, part of you will remain with Ciel for as long as she lives. You believed in her and her dream for a world of peace and coexistence. You gave her the confidence to pursue that dream of a united world, free from discrimination and war, and to accomplish what no other person in the history of mankind has been able to do. It's because you were with her that she can now do these things, and it's because you will never leave her that she will succeed; because she believes in you too, in the future you fought to create.

"So don't say goodbye, Zero," he finished gently. "There's no reason to."

Zero took a moment to absorb what his friend was saying, then smiled. "You always were right about these things," he said.

X's light body glowed good-naturedly. "You know, there's someone waiting for you in Eden," he said.

Zero was puzzled. "Waiting?" Who would be waiting for him?

Seeing his friend's confusion, X's orb of light blinked in amusement. "Something you're going to learn about being in Eden is that time has very little meaning," he explained. "Time is simply another form of data that is, once you're no longer alive, irrelevant. Still," his tone turned mischievous, "you've been gone for so long that she's getting a little impatient."

"She?" Zero was still confused - he still hadn't regained most of his memories from the time before Ciel woke him from his slumber in the underground lab, so he had no idea what his friend could be talking about. "I don't remember..."

"You will," X assured his friend. "Once we reach Eden, you'll understand everything."

Zero shrugged. "If you say so," he said to his friend, following him ever downward toward the Earth. Behind them the remains of his Ragnarok continued to burn, taking the remains of Zero's body with it, leaving no trace of the legend behind.

Though he had no idea where they were going, Zero placed his trust in his friend to show him the way, as he always had.

Author's Note

Don't you love stories that start with the death of the main character? Don't worry, like X said, all endings are simply new beginnings in disguise.

With this fic I'm hoping to write my own conclusion to the ZX storyline while keeping as close to canon as possible (because let's face it, some things in the game(s) just don't make any sense whatsoever -_-). However, I'll still be injecting a healthy dose of my own creativity to make things more fun and interesting, for both you *and* me. Hope you enjoy!

I know it's kind of short for a first part. Sorry! The first few parts are all this short, but then they suddenly get very large. It's just the way the story flow worked out. I might post some of them two at a time in order to make up for the brevity.

In case it isn't obvious, since this is my way of concluding the series, there are obviously numerous plot spoilers generously strewn about. I'm assuming that if you read this, you've played at least ZX and ZXA - it doesn't really matter which characters, though Vent/Ashe would be the most relevant combination...I think. Heh. You'll see ;).

I'd like to point out now that I *am* going to spoil the events of the hidden ending after you beat ZXA on Expert mode in later parts. If you've never seen the ending, don't worry - that actually makes this story even better, since you're less likely to figure out what's going on before I want you to :). You have been forewarned!

'Til next time!