Yes, the Cataclysm has been Jossed. I continue to include it in my writings because to do otherwise requires everyone in 20XX to be carrying one huge idiot ball.

If they didn't need more reploids, then the intelligent thing to do when the virus started would have been to stop building them. At minimum, they should have stopped building reploids other than those absolutely necessary, and in a non-Cataclysm universe that would have been, at the most, Maverick Hunters. They had robot technology. It had theoretically been adequate for their survival needs up until that point (adequate enough they didn't need robot masters, if the Cataclysm didn't happen). And yet they kept building civilian reploids.

When dealing with a bioweapon, how stupid is it to increase the population of potential carriers when you don't have to? And then there's the principle of herd immunity, which is why as many people as possible need to be vaccinated. When someone is vulnerable to a disease but surrounded by people who aren't, then they're almost as good as immune themselves, since when are they ever going to come in contact with someone who might be an infectious carrier? Ceasing to build reploids until they had stopped the virus or made a vaccine would not only have been for the benefit of humanity, but that of the reploids already alive.

The only reason for continuing to invest resources in building reploids instead of something like more industrial robots or power armor is that the need for reploids outweighed the need to not be shot or infected by mavericks. In other words, civilian/industrial reploids needed to be vitally necessary. Now, as we find out when we try to build robots IRL, humans are actually amazingly resilient and well-designed (with the exception of things like the back), due to millennia of beta-testing, and they had robot drones. There had to be some reason why reploids were necessary despite all this. Until Capcom provides an alternative explanation for this, as well as the absence of robot masters, I'm sticking with the Cataclysm.

Also, apparently at several points during the series writing process, there was discussion of X going Copy-X's route (and a couple stray lines of dialogue foreshadowing it), so it's a good thing he knew his limits, recognized when he was in danger of going off the slippery slope because he was no longer emphasizing with the people he was killing, and found a non-violent means of resisting evil. This fic bunny came about due to the A/Ns in the chapterized version of Innocent Sin. I am trying to fix problems with old projects and resurrect old muses.

Disclaimer: I don't own Rockman/Megaman, X or not, or any other trademarked properties of Capcom or other rightful owners. Nor a certain paraphrased quote.

"There have probably been greater acts of treason in human history. There are none in recorded history." Dr. Cain had been an archeologist, once upon a time.

"We can't lie about this." Not something like this. X closed his eyes, gripping the table, exercising the control necessary to grip it as tight as he could without breaking it. Too much had been broken already.

"No," Dr. Cain knew. If they lied, claimed that Repliforce had only planned to retreat from the war, that General had only met with Sigma in the first place, because of the Maverick Virus, then eventually the lie would be discovered.

General would have tried to wipe something this damning from the computers, if he'd even let the footage be taken in the first place. Dr. Cain would have hoped that the footage was faked if he hadn't known General Sigma understood the same principle. The only military maneuver more doomed than an ambush was an ambushed ambush. A lie had too much potential to backfire in the liar's face when the truth was discovered.

No, the most dangerous weapon in any war, in any propaganda war, was the truth. Sigma knew they had this information, he had ensured they had it. All of the options they had, he would have calculated in advance.

"No," Dr. Cain repeated himself, "We can't lie about this. But we're going to have to. At least by omission."

X didn't understand what he meant. "The Hunters won't like knowing that Repliforce wasn't infected, but they'll understand why the order was given. If they had escaped, Sigma would have followed, and allowing him a base out of sortie range of earth? One with weapons like that? Killing innocent people to protect both them and others from the virus… that's really been the story of this entire war. It won't hurt morale."

"You don't understand why this is different." Dr. Cain chuckled, both fondly and sadly. "Think about what you just said, X. Up until now, all the victims of the Maverick War have been innocent. Innocent reploids being killed or turned into killers, innocent humans being killed. At least, once the virus was discovered. Humanity, aside from a few crackpots, doesn't consider reploids to blame for what's happening. If anything, we're lucky. All we have to worry about is dying. As quickly and efficiently as the mavericks can arrange." No painful, lingering deaths, nothing like cancer or any of the other threats also trying to wipe out humanity. The ones reploids also protected them from, by handling the dangerous mining and cleanup that had eaten men alive, before X was found. "Most would prefer being able to field human soldiers to fight the mavericks, since they wouldn't have to worry about infection, if it weren't for the fact we don't have your resilience."

"And now hundreds of reploids chose to run away save their own lives. They must have known it wouldn't have worked." X shook his head sadly. "They must have known. General, Colonel, Iris… they weren't fools. They must have known that we would have tested them and they would have been clean. They should have surrendered, pride or not, in order to save the lives of those under their command."

"Unless they thought that running away was the only way to save their lives in the long run. They were intelligent. They knew the statistics. Yet they must have known that fighting was preferable to certain infection. Unless they wanted to believe that there was a way out. It appears that I was right." Not that Dr. Cain was happy about this. "The reploid ability to control their own mind, the counter to the reprogramming that plagued Robot Masters, enables something your logical precursors could never manage. Self-deception."

"It was just an excuse, wasn't it." X had to close his eyes. "The weapon was fired. Everyone assumed that they would never have done something like that in their right minds, so they had to be maverick. It was just an excuse. General met with Sigma. He likely knew, they both likely knew, that Repliforce needed some excuse to retreat. And then the weapon was fired. General must have known that it had happened, that all those people had died, because of the deal he struck with Sigma. And he just went ahead with it. He, he played the outraged innocent when he must have known, he must have, that all of those deaths were his fault."

"For the first time, a reploid in their right mind has committed mass murder, mass manslaughter at the best. No temporary insanity due to the virus. No accident that no one could have foreseen. He dealt with Sigma. A military officer dealt with Sigma in order to commit treason by deserting in the face of the enemy. He knew Sigma. He knew that human deaths would result. If it had been any sort of surprise to him at all, he would have flinched, shown some decency or guilt. No. He knew that people, humans and hunters alike, would die to cover his retreat." Dr. Cain bowed his own head now. "Where did we go wrong?"

"If we reveal the truth, everyone will know that reploids did something like this. Willingly. If we don't, then some of the reploids too young to know any better will believe what General claimed, that if they take one step out of line then they'll be declared maverick and killed. And after that, if they do mess up somehow, then in for a penny, in for a pound. They won't believe that they can just turn themselves in and be tested. They'll resent this." Of course.

Dr. Cain nodded. "And then, if they commit further crimes, are caught, tested, and found out to not be maverick, it will decrease public trust in reploids. Or if they are killed trying to escape," if they didn't surrender to be tested it would have to be assumed they were infected and trying to escape to join Sigma's forces, "and later found to be uninfected, that would cause more young reploids to make the same mistake."

"And if enough reploids start dying because of this, 'because of humans,' then people will start believing Sigma's propaganda. People will begin to believe that he's only one of two evils. Children might even…" X couldn't say it.

"Think that the virus itself is propaganda, or only something that 'shows people the truth?' Surrender themselves to have their minds…" Dr. Cain shuddered.

"If we lie and say that Repliforce was definitely infected, then we will have lied, and Sigma must have a plan to catch us in that lie and destroy our credibility. If we allow the situation to stand, where most people think that Repliforce was infected because Reploids aren't like that but some people either know better or are young enough," so many built every day, "to let their uncertainty be used against them, the situation will slowly deteriorate and, eventually, children who don't know any better will let themselves be…" Mind raped. X had built Sigma. He had known Sigma, and so many of the others. There really was no other term for it. "And the only option besides those is to tell the truth. That reploids have the potential to be just as evil as any human. As evil as the one agreed to be the most evil of humans. And at least one has fulfilled that potential."

"X…" Dr. Cain was aghast.

"Dr. Cain. Prejudice against robot masters was a very real problem that Dr. Light had to struggle with. It was why I was sealed away while I was running tests instead of doing them while going about a normal life. There was a fear when nanites were first theorized that they could go out of control: that wasn't a real issue. I spent that century running simulations as well as having my systems perfected. 'Ethical simulations,' specifically. The ethical thing to do is, ideally, the 'right' thing to do. There are reasons for this: the terms are 'enlightened self interest' and 'game theory.' He also gave me, as you know, a historical database. That went into more depth on relevant topics, obviously. Humanity today doesn't have much of a concept of racism. It was always an artificial construct, race just being an arbitrary form of what was always an us versus them duality. 'Us,' being 'the ones who we get along with, the ones we understand and work together with. Them being the ones we don't understand and thus can have disagreements with, who come, take 'our' food and resources, and need to be driven away before everyone starves. To put it simply, the enemy is not hate. It is fear. And reploids are just as vulnerable to that as humanity.

"In every historical genocide, the perpetrators believed themselves to be acting out of self-defense. Always. There may have been some who manipulated that fear, or incited it, on order to gain power to achieve their own goals. Just as General made those under his command, those he took the responsibility of protecting, afraid of humanity as well as the virus so that he could run away. I can understand why he was afraid. I can hope that part of him really was trying to protect them. I can understand why he used an evil method to do so. I myself harm others in the hope of preventing even worse harm every time I fight." And Dr. Cain knew how it weighed on him. "But I cannot forgive this. I cannot say that what he did was anything other than evil.

"For the first time," X said slowly, and Dr. Cain could hear how difficult this was for him. "I do not regret having killed."

That? Was a very odd thing for X to say.

"Do you know what Iris told Zero, as she was dying? That she considered Elysium a place without humanity. That's not an exact quote, and she may have only said it to make it easier on Zero, but the very idea that she could say something like that is… That she could, would even think it? That the concept would be taken seriously? No." Just no. "This is a war where if we lose, humanity will die and the surviving reploids will be worse than dead." That was the only reason why he could fight, why he could kill even though he so regretted it.

Until now.

"And he wanted to leave them to die. And Iris, who you built to have my psychological profile, even though we discussed that," reploids just didn't work that way, even if Dr. Cain had been hoping against hope that Iris and Colonel would be immune because of it. "Thought, or could say without the concept choking in her throat," too wrong to voice, "that they should die." No, "She didn't even have the decency to admit that this would be murder. Just a place 'without you,' as though… No, she probably didn't have any idea what else that implied." Segregation, separation, bred fear, bred thoughts of superiority, of, "Murder. Just murder." Iris wouldn't have had any knowledge of the alternative means. But she'd known what they all added up to, in the end.

"She wasn't…" Dr. Cain had built her. She was a good girl, as Colonel was a good man, even though they hadn't been able to manage what X did. Even though they'd split apart.

"She was a child. She was afraid. But they all were. Everyone is. Everyone is in this together. Everyone is in danger, human and reploid alike. Everyone is afraid, and too young for this, and no one should be in this situation." Everything had been going so well, and then their first reploid, their first child, went mad. And the madness just wasn't stopping. "I can understand her reasons. I can pity her for them. I can understand General feeling pressured, like he couldn't just retire even though he was afraid." Every Maverick Hunter had to have the option, because the battlefield was no place for those who just couldn't take it anymore, because one soldier breaking down put their whole unit in danger. It was a good thing, to have the judgment to know your own limits. But children didn't have that judgment, and sometimes listened to stupid pride instead of good sense.

"I can also understand a human who was conscripted and given a choice between committing atrocities and being shot making the choice to live despite the cost to others. And yet, Repliforce had to be stopped, and I have to agree with the decision to execute even the Nazi foot soldiers despite the position they were in. The death of a person is a terrible thing. But there are some things that are even more terrible. There are some things that people need to kill, and should be expected to die willingly, in order to prevent." As he had asked Zero to kill him, before letting him the virus have him.

What did you say to that? "Should I stop building Signas?" Dr. Cain asked. He had begun to build him before this way, because it had seemed as though General, Colonel and Iris were successes even though they hasn't been able to fulfill all his hopes, and Dr. Cain was getting old. Someone needed to take over coordinating the hunters, and both X and Zero needed to be out in the field.

There were other reasons why Zero wasn't an option. Not someone with a very bloody history of insanity. Cain's OS might allow him to function, but normal reploids were aware of all their mental processes, they had been designed that way as a defense against being reprogrammed. The virus might be able to hijack them despite this, but Zero had nightmares. The fact that he had a subconscious, let alone that clearly, some of his faulty pre-wipe programming had remained (reploids were designed to be hard to be reprogrammed, so that was understandable), showed that he still was far from the reploid version of mentally stable.

"No. Someone is going to have to take that position when you retire. Better someone with a larger than normal processor and all the defenses in depth we can think of." Immunity, no: several things that might increase resistance, yes. "But we're going to have to both make it clear to him that if he doesn't think he's suited to it, then he should retire while you're still in condition to build a new one instead of toughing it out." Lest he find that he wasn't tough enough, like so many just had. "I think I'm angry," X said, sounding almost puzzled.

What puzzled Cain was that X seemed to think that was unusual. Reploids had emotions. Cain had seen X get angry before, at the sloppy manufacturing that had caused the malfunctions in early Irregulars, before the virus, at Sigma before X had realized that something was very, very wrong there, and with the virus now.

"Anger," X said, as though he was paraphrasing a definition from a book, or perhaps from his database, "is an emotion that humans have when there is a problem, a sub-optimal state, a 'wrongness.' The 'fight or flight' instinct releases metabolic energy to deal with that problem, either by causing change to the negative factor or escaping out of range of the threat. Anger is fundmentally the desire to cause change: to cause an attacking predator to realize that this is a bad idea, to cause an attacking person to realize that they are hurting you and there is no need to do so… As long as anger is felt, then the belief that change is possible still exists. A person that we believe is good doing something harmful causes more anger than the same action from someone that we believe is 'bad,' because when a good person does a bad thing, that is more wrong, is more out of sync with our understanding of the universe, and our desire to get them to go back to normal and belief that this is possible is strong. Anger, in the end, is a manifestation of love. The opposite of anger is not happiness with someone, it is contempt for them. It is giving up on them."

X let go of the table, and Dr. Cain could tell that it was meant to be symbolic. "I am not angry at Iris, Colonel, or General. I am disappointed in them, but I really don't think I'm angry with them." He closed his eyes again. "Dr. Cain, you're going to have to decide how to handle this, what the world ends up believing about them. I can't."

"You can't be impartial?"

"No. That's not it at all. I can't care about them, even though this is important." X almost laughed. "Really, we're both scientists. We know that impartiality is impossible for anyone, human or reploid." That was the reason the scientific method was necessary in the first place.

What X was saying, Dr. Cain realized, was that he couldn't handle this.

It was a terrifying thought. No, he chastised himself for thinking that. X hadn't asked for this any more than any of them had: Dr. Light's creation or not, he was just another person, and everyone had their limits, human, reploid, and even android.

What was scary was how reliant he had become on X not having limits. How reliant everyone had become on him never giving up, never losing to the virus, or to far superior opponents (he'd barely finished training when the first war started, if that), or to anything. Of being some example that they could look at and see that yes, it was possible for someone to endure all these things, and begin to believe that maybe they could, too.

And if even he couldn't, then who could?

X is a poster boy for 'beware the nice ones' in general, but while he's a nice person who will destroy people because he is a nice person, I've always thought that there was another level to it. He's always fighting either to get through to someone or to save them, in the end. If he were ever to give up on someone… Cold fury wouldn't even be the right term for it: he wouldn't even be furious. There's a Terry Pratchett quote about how it's better to be at the mercy of an evil man who has decided to kill you than a good man, because the good man will just kill you where you stand.

Given the story of the Elf Wars, with the virus being stopped and… everything, and then what starts the killing up again, I really can very much see that being the point where X got fed up with this. Whether or not he ever did jump off the slippery slope depends on who was behind Dr. Weil getting that specific sentence, I think. It was very stupid to give him that sentence, but it was still based around him hopefully coming to understand what he had done. That's kind of the opposite to X's approach while he's sane (well, as sane as anyone could be under the circumstances). A good man would have just put him up against the wall.

And it's good to see some of my older muses up and about. I'm trying to get a DMC oneshot done, to warm up to Angel Saga, as well as betaing this one old fic more and chapterizing a second one.