15. Aggressive Investigations

Vile had been keeping a close eye on Gaudile's security monitors, making sure they'd seen the last of the Revenants. At least for now, everything seemed clear. The synthetic, wooden walkways had fallen eerily silent. Vile couldn't help but wonder what compelled Gaudile to live in such a secluded location. Giga City was a beehive of activity on any given day. Purposefully locking oneself away on a private 'island' when his research could benefit from the advances being made across the entire metropolis seemed beyond merely a little eccentric. Vile himself wasn't exactly the more socially active of Reploids, but he was certain that living in a fake forest, surrounded by lifeless, humming machines, would drive him insane.

The purple Reploid had taken a seat on one of the broken terminals of the central column in the dome-shaped room. The device had been destroyed in the fighting and, since all the chairs in the room had been crafted for Reploids of Gaudile's tiny stature, the renegade was left with few other options to make himself comfortable.

The first sound to pierce the silence since Gaudile had vanished into the repair bay, was a bleep from the HUD inside Vile's helmet. He had started a complete, thorough system's diagnostic a little while prior and it had completed successfully.

"Incredible..." the former Hunter whispered to himself as he read the report. Every single one of his systems had come up clean and fully functional. His armor was in no way damaged, and all of his weapons were ready for action, with energy reserves topped up. The small girl hadn't looked like much. She was a medical-type, with a few improvised weapons and some experience in dealing with intruders. But it was obvious to him that her true power lay in the Force Metal Generator installed in her chest. That device had probably saved all of their rear ends, as much as it pained Vile to have to admit that to himself.

Once all this was over, he'd have to pay Gaudile a little visit and learn more about it. If he could take it for his own 'recreational' use, nothing would be able to stop him. Access to instant repairs like that on a dime? Nothing would stand between him and his revenge on X, Zero and everyone else that had wronged him over the years. Past defeats caused anger to bubble up from his core. Painful memories had to be kept at bay, and a slow, deep breath was able to stifle rage that would see him smash his fist into the already broken console by his side. The last thing he needed now was to go berserk. Giving into his rage like he had after Dr. Doppler revived his broken body was only going to make matters worse.

After all, there was a group of mercenaries who were due a reckoning...

Another bleep interrupted his thoughts.

"Vile? Nana's awake and asking to see you," the professor's voice was as high pitched and annoying as ever. But, there was no doubt about the eccentric scientist's skills. Vile would never have guessed Nana's injuries could be repair in under two hours, or at least fixed sufficiently for the navigator to awaken.

He didn't bother answering the platypus and instead made his way to a small room down one of the several hallways connected to the primary lab in Gaudile's maze. The repair bay was a small, bland, steel room with two pods and three simple beds. Several lockers, cabinets, shelves and desks furnished the rectangle. They most likely contained tools, supplies and other devices Gaudile required to repair anything from a small drone to a Reploid. Due to its small size, Vile assumed this was but one of many such bays scattered throughout the forest. Some of those could be significantly larger. Gaudile had probably opted for that one due to its proximity with the main lab. Cinnamon's condition had been critical after the fight, and the scientist had not wanted to lose any time on transporting her.

"What took you so long? Never heard of running?" Vile was greeted by annoyed squawks from the scientist the instant he entered the room.

Nana rested on one of the beds while Cinnamon was still out cold, recovering in one of the pods. The pink-haired Reploid looked good as new, but she was still too weak to get up. Instead, she'd been propped up against the head of the bed a little, allowing her to regard her partner with a mere tilt of her head.

"I swear, one more word out of you an-" Vile's threat was cut short by the operator's soft voice.

"We don't have time for this. Professor, please tell us what you were able to determine from analyzing the supra-force metal fragment."

"Yes, of course," the small Reploid waggled over to a datapad that lay atop one of the desks in the room. After pressing a few buttons, he brought up relevant date on the small screen. "I wasn't able to fully complete my analysis. In fact, I only scratched the surface really, before that mercenary woman decided to cheat her way into my lab," the scientist was clearly bitter over what had happened. Still, he walked back over to Nana's bed so she could watch along on the pad. After taking a deep breath to clear away his aggravation over the loss of the precious mineral, Gaudile began to cycle through the collected data.

"It wasn't that hard to notice this supra-force metal's primary attribute. It's energy signature is dominated by that of a unique form that has, so far, only been found in a rare few chunks of force metal. These chunks were generally processed to form the core of supra-force metals. This is a fragment of the mineral used in such a way for one of those supra-force metals. Effectively, what we have here is one of the key components that so drastically enhances the potency of force metal, to the point where the prefix 'supra' applies."

Gaudile left the pad on Nana's lap before moving to sit on a small chair by the pod Cinnamon was occupying. "Little is known about this energy. It's barely been studied so far, so beyond producing supra-force metal, there are no known applications of it. We do know it can be used to power something truly massive with very little refinement necessary. Doing so, however, means relying on something even more unstable than supra-force metal. And we all know how using that recklessly turned out for a certain colonel..." Gaudile glanced over at Nana, who nodded along slowly.

"So? How does that help us?" Vile had taken a seat on the other end of the room, leaning back enough to be able to put his boots up on a table next to him.

Nana smiled as she figured out why Gaudile had told her earlier that he had found the perfect tracking device. "If that signature is so unique and so strong then it could be possible to use even long-range sensors to detect it. Giga City has access to some of the world's most advanced telemetrics. It's safe to say that if we were to pick up on its signature and pinpoint its location, we would have found their headquarters. Or wherever they're storing the fragment," the operator say up with a slight grunt. "You've still got access to the sensor suites and satellites, don't you?"

With a broad smile tugging at his beak, Gaudile gave her a solid nod, "of course! I use them quite often in my experiments, it shouldn't be too difficult."

"That won't do us much good if we don't know where we're supposed to look. I doubt you've got the time to do a worldwide sweep," Vile wasn't opposed to breaking their enthusiasm with some healthy negativity.

"That's true. This isn't a guarantee anyway. Even though the signal is too strong and unknown to be suppressed by conventional means, it could still be drowned out by surrounding it with various other signatures. Dumping it in the middle of bustling city will give even the most advanced sensors to much noise to try and filer that it would become much harder to detect, if not impossible. The only way to mitigate that is if we had some kind of basic point of reference. Somewhere to start. Something to focus on," Gaudile had risen again and took the pad from Nana, deactivating it with the tapping of a single button.

Nana giggled softly at that, before raising a single index finger. "Don't worry about that. I think I've got use covered in that department," the smirk on her face was beyond boastful.

"You do?" Gaudile raised his goggles and subsequently an eyebrow.

"What exactly did you mean back when you said I had to trust you? That you'd taken care of everything?" Vile stood up as well and took a few steps in the direction of the bed.

"When you started fighting Morrigan, I figured it was only a matter of time before she decided to make a run for it, whether you beat her or not. Abilities like her make a quick escape trivial, after all. She just didn't seem the type to hang around longer than was safe. So, while you were fighting her, I deactivated the shield protecting the supra-force metal just long enough to plant a small device inside one its cracks. I wasn't sure it would hold up against the radiation within the shard, but before Morrigan left, I was still getting a signal. So... I'm pretty sure it made it," Nana brushed aside a strand of white hair, trying to get a handle on the mess lying in the bed had turned her hairdo into. "Morrigan rushed out of here and she never bothered with checking her 'prize'. They've probably found it by now, after they started analyzing it. But, the device was a transmitter and its GPS records were being constantly uploaded to an online repository," the navigator seemed to be beyond proud of herself.

Gaudile cheered happily, "that's the Nana I know! You're more sly than I thought you were, though!"

Nana chuckled at the praise but quickly grew more stern. There was work to be done. "I need access to one of your terminals, so I can download and analyze the recordings."

Vile had heard enough, and turned around to make his way out of the room. His hands were clenched into fists.

"Where are you going?" Nana noticed her partner leaving and hoped he wasn't going to fly into a rage again.

The renegade looked over his shoulder at the female Reploid. "To get ready. As soon as you find out where that witch ran off to, I'm heading after her. I'm through sneaking around and scraping the floor for scraps of evidence and 'leads'," the purple Reploid's voice was coated in anger and frustration at the whole situation. "When I want a problem solving, I face it head on. It's always worked before, and it'll work now!"

"Just like your problem solving got innocent people killed when you were a hunter? Or what about when you turned Maverick?" Gaudile's interruption had Vile glare at the scientist. "Or when you helped Lumine? Need I go on?"

"Calm down, both of you! Now's not the time to be at each other's throats, or to go around firing at anything that moves!" Nana bolted upright as she raised her voice. But, she quickly regretted the sudden motion as dizziness set in. "Just give me some time to prepare everything. Do some recon, and find out exactly where the transmission got cut," she took a deep breath while looking pleadingly at Vile. "Let me do my job. Let me be your navigator."

Gaudile had pushed his chair closer to the bed and, after hopping onto the soft mattress, he placed a hand on Nana's chest. Gently, he pushed her back down so she would lay flat. "You're not doing anything until you're fit and recharged. Hand the location of the repository over to me. I'll get the job done," he then glared at the former hunter for a moment, before turning his attention back to his drained friend. "I refuse to help him in any other way. So he'll be on his own once he transfers out of here."

"I should scrap you right now, you tub of mechanical lard," Vile was not in the mood to be defied.

Nana could only sigh. She knew her old friend was right. In her condition, she'd do more harm than good. But, she wasn't about to let Vile - with his usual berserker strategy - go at this alone. He needed back-up, whether he liked it or not. And, she knew just who to call.

"Alright. I'll leave it in your hands. And Vile..." Nana glanced down at the foot of the bed as she seemed to be doing something in her head. A soft bleep notified Vile of an incoming message from the navigator. It was some sort of contact number.

"Please, take Massimo with you? I know you probably don't like him, or trust him, but you saw he could stand his ground against Dynamo. You know he'll be a great help. Besides, he's all for the 'crush them first, ask questions later' approach too."

Vile proceeded to glare at Nana in total silence for a few seconds. But, when he sighed, Nana knew he was about to give in. Her words had the annoying tendency to make sense. So, once again, he decided to do things her way. "Fine. The platypus can set it up. I want to know what we're hitting in an hour, no later," Vile stressed his words as he looked at Gaudile. The conversation was over as far as the renegade was concerned. So, he left the room, the steel door sliding shut behind him.

"How do you put up with him?" Gaudile hooked Nana back up to a device that would monitor her progress as her auto-repair systems finished their work and she would continue to charge up again.

"I don't know. He-... I don't know," she wasn't able to find the answer. But, when she had seen Morrigan raise her weapon to try and finish him off, she had felt fear. She didn't want to see him die, and not simply out of self-preservation.

Gaudile narrowed his eyes, as if reading her mind, but he let the subject go. "Rest up. You'll need it," the scientist patted her shoulder before dropping down from the bed and walking his way out of the repair bay. A simple verbal command turned off all the lights so she could shut down in comfort.

[-]

Nana's plan had paid off. The tracker she'd placed on the supra-force metal had vanished but not before transmitting several minutes' worth of coordinates to an online data store. It was a simple matter for Gaudile to securely download the data before taking the storage offline. After sifting through the recordings and comparing them with a variety of databases - including a Maverick Hunter archive, the scientist came up with a destination.

The signal had died somewhere in the mountains west of North City. The range was a haven for Mavericks who wanted to drop off the radar, so the hunters had erected a small listening post there to keep tabs on the goings-on in the region. The coordinates Nana's transmitter had forwarded matched that outpost exactly. More than ever, it was abundantly clear there was a traitor within Hunter HQ. Whoever it was, they were supplying the Revenants with all the connections and resources they'd need to get their job done.

Coordinates alone weren't enough to determine exactly who was behind it all, and Vile had been out of the Maverick Hunter loop for so long that he had no idea who the major players were anymore. Or who could even be capable of such treason. Questions remained, but the renegade had a target, and nothing was going to stop him from heading down there and busting some heads.

True to his word, he contacted Steel Massimo, who agreed to meet him at the designated spot. It wasn't too far from the outpost, but far enough that their transfer in was likely to go undetected. Those traitors weren't fools, or they would not have been able to stay hidden for so long. It was safe to assume that the moment they found the tracking device within the supra-force metal they realized their position was either suspect or entirely compromised. There was no doubt about it, Vile and Massimo were going to be reaching the outpost late. The force metal will have been moved and a trap might be waiting for them. However, this was their only lead and since everything was moving so fast, it was a safe bet that they will have left evidence and further clues behind.

A frontal attack remained the best option.

Vile observed the listening post from the face of a mountain opposite it. The outpost had been constructed into the rock, with nothing but a courtyard and a front gate visible to the outside. It was nearly undetectable unless you knew where to look. He had been reviewing the data Gaudile had pulled from the hunter database. The information was incomplete at best but as far as he could tell, the base didn't have any defenses that he wouldn't be able to deal with.

A blizzard was slowly picking up and the heavy snowfall was limiting his vision. The facility was on high alert, proving Vile right in expecting them to tighten security upon discovering the tracker. He also noticed a few oddities from his secure perch. There was at least one heavy defense turret. Heavy ordnance like that was never installed on listening post out in the middle of nowhere. Some of the hunters also carried heavy busters and sabers, equipment intended for use on dangerous hunts, not when guarding a place like that. He wouldn't be surprised if more of those cloaked mechaniloids were on the prowl too.

He turned away from the structure and pressed hi back to a boulder to stay out of sight while he waited for Nana's old colleague to show up.

The mountains were hazardous, to say the least. Frigid sub-zero temperatures, precarious rock facings that could crumble at any time and drops so deep there'd be nothing left of the Reploid unfortunate enough to take one wrong step. The peaks were jagged and pierced the dark clouds overhead, which blocked out the Sun almost completely. The shower of white fluff was only going to get worse over time. Forecasts predicted the blizzard to blanket the entire region. Maybe it was for the best. It would limit his vision, sure, but it would also impact the effectiveness of the opposition's turrets. In this weather, no one was going to be shooting him out of the sky.

The listening post itself looked like a steel cabin built into the side of a mountain. The color of the pale rock and the way it was carved into a cave-like cavity, with a pronounced overhang, made the entrance nearly impossible to spot from all angles but the front. There were some other pieces of tech littering around, such as a radar dish and other communication devices, but none of those were going to pop out at someone flying by overhead. It had all been designed carefully and competently.

Much of the outpost was built below the surface. The traitorous hunters had most likely done some remodeling in the basement, though Vile still didn't expect too much down there. Most of what they likely added on would be research equipment to accommodate the incoming supra-force metal, which was now going to waste.

The gap between where Vile was and the outpost was relatively small and could easily be jumped or flown. The former hunter was unsure how Massimo would manage, however, but he'd leave that up to the wannabe-hero.

Vile stared into the white blanket that thickened before him, hiding progressively more of his surroundings from his sight. It felt strange not hearing Nana's voice in his ear, telling him what to expect and where to aim. He leaned his head against the boulder and slowly closed his eyes. His right hand clenched and unclenched slowly, flexing the innards of the mechanical limb in an attempt to keep him focused.

"I never thought the infamous Vile would be one to sleep on the job," Massimo's surprisingly friendly voice interrupted the purple Reploid's musings.

"Finally! What took you so damn long?"

"Well, I don't have a fancy professor to transfer me all over the place," the Reploid tapped his thumb to one of the massive armor plates protecting his bulky chest. The giant was more than a few heads taller, and wider, than Vile. He was pumped and ready for action, thrilled at the chance of fighting a proper opponent like the good old days on Giga City. "So, if I get this straight, we're raiding that place?"

Vile walked towards the edge of the cliff they stood on before responding. "Yeah. Keep your eyes peeled for those four-armed mechaniloids Gaudile told you about. They have some sort of cloaking device allowing them to hide as long as they keep their attacks brief. No clue how many might be out there, if any."

The former hunter then looked over to Massimo from the side. "Let's go. We don't have anymore time to waste." In a way, he hoped that Massimo was going to have to take a detour to reach the other side of the cliff. That kind of delay would prevent the axe-wielder from cramping Vile's style.

[-]

A Maverick Hunter, armed with a buster rifle, stood by the front gate of the small facility. He squinted as he tried to look out across the mountains through the thick, white blanket of falling snow. He couldn't see anything anymore, prompting an annoyed sigh from him. Another guard approached him while flexing his right shoulder with a wince.

"Damn joint's still acting up. Gonna give that engineer a piece o' my mind..."

"Weather station dropped the ball too. They said it'd be clear weather today," the Hunter reached out with his hand to allow some flakes of snow to settle on his palm. "Look clear to ya?"

The other Hunter shrugged in response. "Yeah well, I figured it wou-," he cut off his own sentence abruptly as he looked out towards the mountains. "Did you hear that? Could have sworn I heard something out there."

An uncomfortable silence settled and before his comrade could reply, something crashed right into him at high speed. A purple Reploid had flown in out of nowhere and the first Hunter was crushed against the gate's steel walls. His cry of pain was short as a punch to his jaw took him out of the fight. The other didn't fare much better, as he had barely managed to level his rifle before getting pelted by a hailstorm of bullets from Vile's arm-mounted machine guns. The rotating barrels smoked in the bitter cold.

Those hadn't been the only guards stationed outside though. One more stood atop a small lookout tower which raised him only slightly higher than the walls protecting the inner courtyard. The sounds of gunfire echoed through the mountains and were definitely not missed.

"What the?!" the guard slammed his fist into a bright red button to his right, which sounded the emergency alarm that notified the entire base of intruders. He then reached for his intercom system to relay what information he could, but he never got that far. Two missiles had been fired up at him from below, engulfing the room in a blaze and sending debris flying. The explosion lit up the entire base, but the persistent snowfall continued to provide cover for Vile and his yet-to-arrive ally.

Vile couldn't help but grin at the efficiency of his attack. With the alarm blaring, the rest of the garrison stormed out, ready to defend the facility. The main doors of the facility opened and a squad of Hunters poured out into the blizzard, taking cover where they could. Vile, however, had made his way through the gate and out into the courtyard, which prevented the snow from hiding him as it had done before. Immediately, he came under fire from a mix of buster pistols and rifles.

The renegade took to the air, flaring his jet boots a couple of times just to get some extra height as quickly as possible. He now had both the high ground and superior agility while airborne and he took full advantage of that. From his vantage point, his shoulder cannon erupted in deep, blue flashes of light that further broke the serenity in the mountains. The shots took down two Hunters right off the bat, with others re-positioning themselves to take his flight into consideration and taking cover behind concrete walls or steel storage crates.

"Why are the turrets not giving us any fire support yet?!" the Hunter squad leader was shouting at whoever was in charge of the automated security systems. He had barely gotten those words out of his mouth when a steel panel above the entrance into the base opened up, revealing an armored, gatling turret. The machine locked onto Vile and unleashed an unrelenting spray of rounds with deadly precision.

Vile cursed under his breath as he was forced to stay in constant movement or risk getting either shredded or pinned down. He needed to find a way to delay until he could ready an attack powerful enough to get through the turret's frontal plating.

"Outta the way!" the purple reploid immediately recognized that voice as he landed to dodge incoming fire. He knew better than to stand in the way of whatever Massimo had planned, so he quickly dashed to the side. In doing so, he narrowly avoided a large, steel crate that had been casually hurled towards the turret with impressive strength. The machine was pulverized on impact. The resulting explosion even took another Hunter with it as debris collapsed on top of him.

"Are you out of your mind?! You coulda crushed me!" Vile angrily eyed the heroic Reploid who had finally appeared on the scene, having been forced to find a safer spot to jump from since he lacked the flying capabilities of his unlikely ally.

"What's wrong, Vile? Can't take the heat? Ha-Haaa!" Massimo taunted boisterously as his own boots burst to life. Unlike regular dash boots, his did not provide a singular push of speed, but rather caused him to hover just a few inches above the ground. This in turned allowed him to move at a faster, steady pace, though he lacked the sudden acceleration the likes of X and Zero enjoyed.

With snow whipping up all around him, Massimo began to charge ahead, making a beeline for the remaining guards. Their lighter weapons barely seemed to scratch his armor as he simply barreled over them, destroying their cover and scattering them. A swing of his axe then sent two of them flying into the gate of the facility. He had deactivated the beam edge of his axe in favor of using it simply as a blunt weapon. He was always going to try to prevent taking lives and right now, he didn't deem lethal force necessary.

With two more Hunters down, a meager three defenders were left.

Vile couldn't argue with Massimo's results, despite his annoyance at the last-minute warning. The remaining Hunters were now too busy trying to take down the hulking brute to pay him any heed, which was exactly the kind of opening Vile loved to exploit. Once more, he dashed and jumped at the last minute, so that he was overhead of them. His knees opened and two fragmentation grenades were dropped down onto his foes. As soon as Vile landed on the other side of the three, the explosives detonated, killing or incapacitating their intended targets.

With the last of the garrison dealt with, the way into the facility was clear.

Massimo had already made his way up to the gate, which had been closed and sealed.

Vile crossed his arms as he stopped next to the bulky Reploid. "I ain't a hacker. And I'm pretty sure you're not one either."

"Well? How do we get in then?" Massimo turned his head to look down at the former Hunter.

"We smash it open, of course. You can lob a crate halfway across the mountains. A little door shouldn't be a problem, right?"

Massimo raised an eyebrow and rubbed the back of his head. He felt a little stupid for not having come up with that himself. "Right... Right! Alright! Stand back!" Massimo braced himself and got ready to ram his axe into the door, hoping to then use it as leverage to pry it apart. He only hoped his weapon could last until an opening was large enough to either fit his hands in or Vile through.

But, as Massimo got ready, Vile got a bad feeling and turned around, in time to hear the all-too familiar sound of four-armed mechaniloids de-cloaking behind him.

"Shit," Vile tapped the larger Reploid's arm with his fist. "I'll keep 'em busy. You get that door open."

A dozen of the mechaniloids appeared all around them. If nothing else, it confirmed they were at the right place if these Hunters were working together with the cloaked drones.

Massimo nodded in agreement and raised his halberd. With a massive roar, he slammed the energy weapon into the slit separating both halves of the thick gate. The super-heated edge was able to melt enough material away to wedge the solid metal pole of the weapon into the door, after which he turned off the energy blade. He braced himself and pushed the weapon in further, before yanking it to the side to begin prying it open.

Vile, in the meantime, tried to keep the dangerous mechaniloids as preoccupied as he could without taking to the air. While grounded and in their way, he figured they'd see him as their primary target and leave Massimo alone. Their energy sabers would be far more effective at cutting through the big guy's armor than the buster pistols he'd been subjected to before. With his back turned, he was also an easy target. Vile's arms fired burst after burst of vulcan rounds, mostly intended as suppressive fire. His first target was taken by surprise and torn apart by the armor-piercing bullets. After losing several vital systems to the torrent, it collapsed and exploded.

"Hurry up, oversized tin can! I don't mix well with sabers!" Vile had to back away using his dash boots to prevent being slashed in half by a ferocious attack from one of the drones. His shoulder cannon responded by firing several balls of plasma energy, blasting another one of the brainless robots to scrap. For every mechaniloid the renegade was able to keep at bay, though, two more closed in. They were intentionally herding him towards the gate and Massimo, where their superior combat programming knew he would be unable to properly defend himself from multiple sides.

Massimo groaned throatily as his body trembled from the force he was applying to get the doors to move. Slowly, but surely, he was prying the two halves apart. Once the opening was large enough to fit his hands, he removed his halberd and grabbed each side firmly. With a long, persistent roar, he applied every bit of power he had and further pulled the entrance open.

"Now! Get in!" His strained shout showed just how much effort this was demanding of him.

He didn't need to tell Vile twice. The instant he heard that voice call out, Vile fired two more, wild and barely aimed, shots in the general direction of the mechaniloids to get them to scatter a bit. Then, he turned around and dashed through the opening as fast as he could. The smaller Reploid easily slipped by Massimo and once he was through, Massimo pulled himself in after. Immediately, the gate crashed shut behind him, crushing an overly enthusiastic drone that had given chase in the process.

The giant, green Reploid panted as he removed his halberd from his back, ready to defend himself once again. "You alright, Vile?"

Vile had already stood up and dusted himself off. "Of course I am! Now let's go. We don't have any time to spare."

He began making his way down the hallway and into the corridors of the small, compact facility. He knew the layout of this kind of standardized, Hunter outpost well enough to know his way to the command room. Decades upon decades of time hadn't really changed Hunter design much. Those outposts usually consisted of two floors, one containing the gate they'd just stormed through, as well as connected corridors leading to dormitories, maintenance bays and the occasional lookout tower. The other floor - usually below the first - tended to be little more than a generator room, armory and the commander center. But, that last room contained the terminals that had access to all of the outpost's systems. The most logical place to start looking for any information was there. However, it would also be the easiest to defend if there were any Hunters remaining.

"How many more do you think we gotta fight through?" Massimo inquired as he slowly walked behind the faster Reploid. He knew that the Hunters they had dispatched outside were traitors and would've killed them both without a second thought. But, even then, the few Massimo had likely lethally injured still looked very different from your average, insane Maverick. This whole ordeal was starting to wreak havoc on the giant's conscience. Where were the days of fighting giant mechaniloids threatening innocent people? Simpler times.

"Not many. Unless they've got more of those mechaniloids in here, there should only be the command staff left. No more than half a dozen."

The overhead lighting had been turned off due to the red alert that was still sounding throughout the building. Each corridor bathed in pulsing shades of crimson due to the spinning alert lights. The duo turned a corner in the back of the main hallway but halted as their way was blocked by emergency shutters.

"Back," Vile barked an order before grabbing his shoulder cannon and angling it at the shutter. A bright, blue flash illuminated the corridor briefly and a smoldering hole was all that remained of the shutter. Behind a thin veil of smoke was a narrow stairway that led down to the floor below. Once more, Vile didn't wait for his partner before heading down the stairs. They reached a T-junction in the hallway before long, but color-coded signs indicated which way led to the armory, and which to the command center. Not thinking twice about the choice, Vile took a right turn, only to have to dive for cover back around the corner as several energy busters opened fire the instant he came into view.

"Dammit!" Vile activated his machine guns as he kept his back pressed to a wall. Projectiles chipped away at the metal and concrete, causing the renegade to flinch. He couldn't use his missiles or grenades in such a confined space or risk blowing himself up.

Just outside the room, four Hunters had set up a small barricade, using crates and boxes as makeshift cover. Fortunately for Vile, none of them had had the idea to stock up in the armory and they were left with their standard busters to defend themselves with. Taking out their commander outside had probably removed what little brains these obvious rookies had.

Vile grinned, pleased with his chances for storming the line. He activated his boots and flew out of cover. The corridor was narrow but three Reploids could still walk side-by-side without having to be too intimate. This gave the renegade all the space he needed to dodge the incoming fire through some erratic movement. He barely had to take aim at this range to open fire and down the nearest Hunter with a spray of bullets; one of which pierced his helmet and head. Two more were just as easily dispatched by the veteran with well-placed shots from his cannon.

By the time the third Hunter hit the ground, he was upon the last one. It was a young Reploid who had already dropped his weapon and had his back to the door of the command center. Vile cackled as he wrapped his fingers around the Reploid's face and slammed his head into the door to keep the terrified boy pinned. The renegade landed with soft thuds of his boots hitting the floor and he raised the squirming Hunter up off the floor.

"Any last words? Make 'em quick."

The Hunter could do little but beg for his life, though those words were barely audible due to the violent Maverick's hand covering his mouth.

"Vile! Stop it! Can't you see he can no longer fight! He'll surrender if given a chance. Enough is enough!" Massimo shouted as he rounded the corner to see his unwilling partner tormenting the last remaining Hunter.

"Too late! They were all in my way. What'll it take for these idiots to learn that anyone who gets in my way doesn't have long to live?" Vile cast the Reploid aside and fired a bolt of plasma from his cannon at him. The point-blank range was more than enough to kill the Hunter with a direct hit, adding another body to the pile.

Massimo clenched his hands into fists, his teeth gritting in anger at the sight of the ruthless mercenary's actions. "Y-You... You're nothing but an executioner. A monster!"

Vile looked back at the bulky Reploid, his eyes flashing bright red as they often did when adrenaline and lust for destruction began to overwhelm him. "This also serves as a warning to you, ya got that? Bleeding heart fool."

Massimo forced himself to relax. He knew that someday, Vile's misdeeds would catch up to him. He only hoped he'd be there to help rid the world of another insane. Maverick. But, in that moment, he knew he had to help the berserker. A far greater danger threatened the world. Nana seemed to think there was some good inside of Vile and she needed his help. He couldn't refuse the operator, so he would just have to trust her judgement.

Vile had already turned his attention to the door, confident Massimo would stand down without a fight. As he looked at the door, he would find the bright, red sign displaying 'locked' overhead switch to green. The sound of a heavy lock releasing echoed through the battle-scarred corridor and the door opened automatically to reveal a rectangular room.

While he was suspicious, they had no choice but to proceed, so Vile led the way inside, followed closely by Massimo. The lights in the room were dimmed but were not the alarming crimson they had been outside. In fact, no sooner did they step inside and the alert seemed to be deactivated. The room was open, with computers, seats and worktops lining the walls. A single desk with a small computer and comfortable chair built-in stood in the center, facing two massive monitors in the back that covered the wall from top to bottom.

"Vile. Vile. Vile. You've got no idea what kind of pain in the ass you are," a high-pitched, raspy voice filled the room from the chair in the center of the chamber. The chair rotated slowly as the figure sitting in it lowered his boots onto the floor. Once facing them, both Reploids could see the smug, tiny Revenant sitting in the chair. His silver frame was far too small for the piece of furniture but that didn't seem to deter the arrogant Reploid from giving off an air of superiority. He laced his fingers in his lap and shook his head mockingly, almost like a disapproving father.

"Frostbite... What's the matter? Daycare didn't have any room left?" despite Vile's tough attitude, he still primed his shoulder cannon and prepared a few missiles. Frostbite was physically weak, but those ice attacks had been more than a little tricky before. At least, as far as he could tell, he didn't have to be worried about Onslaught being there too.

The smallest Revenant huffed at the insult and jumped off the chair, his hands finding a home in his sides. The silver helmet that protected the pale-skinned Reploid's head gleamed - particularly the gem over his forehead - despite the dim lighting in the room.

"Yet again, you prove to the world that you're nothing but a crazed, mindless beast. You shoot and kill and murder for no other reason than pleasure," Frostbite's hand reached out for the keyboard on the desk behind him.

"Enlighten me how that's any different from the mercenary work you do."

Frostbite grinned viciously, his purple eyes shining ominously and his fangs bared. "It ain't. I'm just smart about it," a mischievous laugh escaped the mercenary's lips as he press of a single button caused the blast door behind them to shut and lock.

One by one, energy sabers began activating all over the room. Icy fumes burst from the round holes in Frostbite's cylindrical pauldrons as more mechaniloids revealed themselves all around Vile and Massimo. the temperature in the room began to drop instantly, quickly reaching levels colder than even those outside the base. Long, icy spikes appeared from the back, front and side of Frostbite's shoulder armor, his abilities activating in full.

Frostbite spread his arms invitingly, his smirk persisting. "Gentlemen! Welcome to your last day on Earth!" a little bow followed, though Frostbite never broke eye contact with Vile. "I hope you like it cold!"