How disaster situations (or refugee camp life) turn out is caused by a lot of factors, but I tend to think that the Elf Wars would have hit the world's morale hard, if they did that to X's. Take a look at some of the refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East, the kind where people have been there for awhile and don't really have options. Yeeeah.
This was the attempt to fulfill the kiriban request that turned into fluff. I have no control over what the characters decide to do lately.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rockman/Mega Man Zero, in any of his forms, or any related trademarked or copyrighted properties. No infringement intended or money made.
X's body had been destroyed.
That lump of lead (poisonous to humans, even if reploids could used it to protect against radiation) had killed X. Gutted him like an animal. Right before Zero's eyes.
The fact that X still existed as a cyber elf didn't even register. Some part of Zero, the ancient part that he reached out to for knowledge, regarded death as immaterial. Humans, like Ciel, were vulnerable to it (would die), but not any reploid that he reached out and touched, just to be able to recognize them, so he could grab hold if need be.
He'd catch them. He'd catch X, if he were to die.
No. What mattered was the insult. X had given everything for fools like this, and this was how this Elpizo treated him? Disrespect to the dead, disrespect to a hero, ripping the child-mother X had tried to shelter from his very body for the sake of power?
A second body of light started to form where the Dark Elf had appeared. Purple, and dark, and powerful.
Zero knew it.
So he reached out a hand, able to push past the force field just by being near it, and beckoned it to him.
"What?" Elpizo stared as the dark elf fled into a corner of the shielded room, growing wings to pull its babies along with it, safely out of range.
"You shouldn't have done that," Zero knew. "You really shouldn't have done that." He began to stalk forward.
"Just a minute, X." It felt just like relearning his beam sabre, to whipcrack a stream of nanites mingled with that energy toward Elpizo.
The idiot traitor howled, falling to the ground. His balance was the second thing Zero disabled, after his weapons, but it was the pain that sent him crashing down. It was too much, kept him too disoriented to control his voice box well enough to get out any intelligible pleas for mercy.
The strangled, distorted noises sounded like sobs. Zero approved. "I'm not doing this to teach you a lesson or anything like that," he told Elpizo, who had to be thinking that Zero was torturing him. "You'd have to live long enough to apply the lesson for that to be worthwhile. I'm not doing this to torture you: that's just a bonus. You'll stop feeling the pain soon enough, because there won't be a you in there to feel it."
"Zero, what are you doing?"
"Making you a new body." Zero reached out again, sweeping the room for exploded fragments of X. Elpizo's body wasn't made up of the right sort of things at all.
Inferior piece of scrap…
The dark elf dared to rush in, trying to tear the Elpizo personality out of the body before his nanites and chips were torn to pieces for raw materials by Zero's. "He was going to enslave you and you're trying to save him?" He caught her easily enough. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you." She still trembled in his grasp, like a small bird about to be crushed. "You feel… Like me," he realized, smiling.
"She was based on your pattern, to have your capabilities," X told him, seeming caught between coming nearer to do what he could and backing away carefully.
"So she's… like my daughter," Zero realized, wrapping his energies around her to try to soothe her. "And those two are… I'm not going to let you save him," he told the dark elf. "He hurt X and was going to enslave you. Like all the other elves." They said he was stupid, sentimental for not using any, but he'd known that X wouldn't approve. And it was wrong anyway: they weren't just electricity anymore than reploids were just metal, or humans just water. "I won't let them hurt you. I won't let any of them hurt you, not anymore."
At his feet, the exterior of the body beneath him slowly began to become blue, the conversion complete except for the outer armor and appearance.
"Zero, it's one thing to kill people, but… I can't accept this body."
"Why not? Once he was dead, he'd just be scrap metal, isn't that how it is nowadays? What's wrong with starting to recycle him before he's dead?"
"It's… it's wrong."
"Isn't killing people wrong too? That's what you always thought." It was easy enough to reach out and snare this one as well. "Even if this were slightly more wrong, that's just slightly. It was wrong for him to do that to you, and I'm just using what's left to fix that."
X felt familiar, but something was wrong. X shouldn't be this dim, this tired. X should be arguing a lot harder instead of leaning against his energies, focusing on them as though he'd been starved of Zero's presence. "Come on, we can get you back to base and you can set Neo Arcadia straight…"
"I don't want to." That was as close as X would ever get to a whine, only possible because he was saying it for only Zero to hear. "I just want to rest, but people are dying." So he couldn't.
"Do you want me to put you all back in there? You can just go back to sleep, and I'll wake you when it's over."
"It will never be over." That stray thought, not meant for Zero to hear, escaped X's control over this form's energies.
"Sure it will," Zero said, not knowing why he said that. Wasn't it what someone had always said?
Wasn't it what X had always said?
"I'll let everyone know that was a fake Ciel created," because X's reputation was more important than Ciel not getting lynched, "let Harpuia know that he'd better put things back to the way you had them set up, or else and you can just go back to sleep until you feel better." He touched X with his hands for a moment, feeling the crackle of energy when a cyber elf met solid matter, before pushing him into his body and beginning to configure it around him. "I can make these three bodies too, so no one has to know what they are and how much power they have." His daughter, that X had looked after for him all these years, and the two littler ones. "Ciel has that new energy source of hers, and I'll make sure no one makes any trouble."
"Zero." X's eyes opened. "Do you know what this is, that you're using?"
"My power. You kept it for me, just like my beam sabre, didn't you?" He felt X trying to stand, so he used it to help him up.
"I… suppose that's true, in a sense. You aren't suddenly hating humanity, are you? Any maniacal tendencies?"
Zero wondered, really. "Well, I'm not liking them much, but it's not sudden. They just sat back and watched in Neo Arcadia, didn't they? They're not doing anything to help, are they? While reploids are murdered in droves and you sacrifice yourself for them. Ciel made an imposter to take your place, since they were just that useless and helpless without you, and she let people think that those were your crimes. And I like Ciel." Well enough to follow her directions, at least.
"Maybe I should ask if you want to kill humans any more than you want to kill reploids." There was the ghost of a smile in those weary green eyes.
"Humans can't survive without you, and they sit back and let this happen to you and your reputation. Reploids commit genocide against their own species and blame you for it. Everyone fights over the dark elves like dogs over a bone, so that they can use them to kill each other: regular elves, too. People are scum, with a few exceptions." Like you. "I bet I felt the same way back then."
"You did. You didn't fight for the world, you fought for us." X was a little relieved. "I didn't think that you'd finished your hibernation when Ciel woke you out of it."
Zero wondered why X had the air of someone trying to tell someone else to put down the knife, just calm down, no one had to get hurt…
"Why don't we both go back into hibernation? I can finish purifying the dark elf of what Dr. Weil did to her-"
"…I'm sure you'll remember eventually." But X didn't want to talk about it. "We can deal with him after you've got the remnants of the virus out of your systems. If Ciel has a new energy source, I'm sure she can take it from here."
"The virus? Oh. That's what this is." That was why X was very clearly trying not to panic. "Wait… there." The dark elf's color changed from purple to white as he removed his power and the malicious program that had put it there. "Weil's the one who did this to her?" The name had been in the program's annotations.
"Yes. There was… we had peace, for a few years. While he was planning. I couldn't wait for you to wake up so that you could see it. Everyone was working together to build a future, even the crater of Eurasia was beginning to show signs of recovery, and then he struck." Then he broke the world's spirit, because everyone had finally started to share X's faith that the wars would end, everyone finally had hope, and then it was taken away. "I had to wake you up to fight Omega, but aside from that I tried to manage on my own, so that you could change yourself into a form that didn't need the virus. I…"
"It must have been hard."
"Can you control it?" Because someone really did need to keep fighting, to make sure that Neo Arcadia changed, that Ciel's new power source was used wisely, that… so many things that just couldn't be done without fighting, and he couldn't trust himself to do it anymore, not when he no longer really cared if he killed them all.
"I can. It's not even trying to infect you." Just hold him, not change him, as much as Zero wanted to try to cheer X up.
"The dark elf: that wasn't her name, before. She was given a great power, your power, to save the world." X reached out to touch her, finally smiling to see her pristine, the way she had been when she was activated. "I couldn't protect her, I could barely protect anyone. Weil targeted reploids, because once he had us humanity was doomed. Nine out of ten dead, and six out of ten humans. Just during the war, do you know how many were lost to the food shortages, and… Afterwards, afterwards was worse. Everyone had come together before, and afterwards… Most of the humans left were either the elderly or children, the adults went on short rations and there was disease, most of the reploids who were left were either newbuilts or the ones who had hidden away to save their own skins. He wiped out entire generations, he targeted anyone who showed any leadership potential, just like Sigma had."
Zero nodded, knowing those tactics somehow.
"Why was I surprised that there was no one to take charge once I was gone? Dr. Weil was trying to take over the world, he actively tried to make sure that there was no one capable of organizing a resistance. Of course there was no one to organize Neo Arcadia! My copy didn't know the first thing about what humans needed to grow up properly, and he took away most of the resources and food priority I'd given the orphanages and schools." What he'd found in the databases had horrified him. There were many who would have qualified as seriously retarded in the days when people knew how to identify those things not from any genetic flaw but just because of poor nutrition and not getting enough human, or even reploid, contact as small children.
Things that parents would have taken of care instinctively, but, "I had to leave, I had to leave or else I would have ended up worse than the copy, but what was I thinking, I should have known that… He was trying to break this world so that he could rebuild it in his image, and there was no one left to rebuild it that knew what they were doing. Infrastructure, everything, gone. Just like the Cataclysm, except his goal was to rule, not destroy. He meant to leave people alive, but with no one to turn to but him."
And so they'd turned to X, one thing after another, killing stress even without the constant killing. "Child abuse, people using hoarded food to extort… Mavericks left over from what the Dark Elf did, reploids who thought that reploids should keep all the resources we produced to ourselves and just let the humans die if they couldn't take care of themselves, people murdering each other for food, people snapping and just starting to blast everything in sight, people losing all hope and self-destructing in the streets, humans just lying there starving, too devastated to even believe that getting up to eat was worth it, so many just… dying. No one could stop it, no one could save them, and…"
And they'd turned to him, the father of one race and savior of another. They'd thought answers that he'd read in books years ago were miraculous insights, they'd seen him as a savior, practically worshipped him, and that had cut him to the bone when so many were dying.
Couldn't they solve their own problems? Couldn't they just stop killing people?
No, they couldn't. Not when they were ignorant, or mad, or delirious, or someone had installed the wrong part or given them the wrong medication.
One day he'd taken down someone who had started shooting in the middle of a reploid-making factory and realized that he had no idea who this person was, besides a green-armored centaur model, or why they had done this, and didn't care. He'd just wanted to get it over with so he could get the paperwork done in time for the meeting, and then he had to go over more paperwork, and he had to use the search function to figure out when he'd last recharged.
He'd just gone in and shot to kill, and that wasn't bothering him.
He'd changed. The virus hadn't been able to make him change, and this was.
Zero didn't like seeing X like this. It was wrong, in the way so many things about this world he'd woken up to just weren't right, but so many times worse. It was as though the ground beneath him was starting to crack open, and he could see the spikes below. "Go back to sleep. I'll just tell them he killed you and I killed him, and nobody has to know that you're here. No one'll wake you up but me."
"I'll keep an eye on you. I have to." Both because of the virus and because, because Zero. Because trying to deal with this without him had been like having the chair pulled out from under him.
"Sure, but… you need to rest, ok? You seriously need to rest. You protected the world while I was out of it, so…" So Zero would do the same for him. He scattered the nanites he'd surrounded himself with to hold X upright and keep ahold of the other three, and X was fine with leaning against him.
It didn't feel familiar, maybe he was the one who had leaned on X, but it felt more right than anything had in awhile. "You need to rest," Zero repeated, "and you really shouldn't have put the idea of killing everybody into my head, because it's starting to look really tempting."
X laughed. "I can't believe I missed your sense of humor."
"Seriously. If you let them keep doing this to you, I'm going to start shooting people. More people."
Another weary chuckle. "I can't believe I missed the way you threatened the secretarial staff."
"I missed you," Zero said, "when I didn't even remember that there was a you to miss." The way Ciel had been trying was what had made him decide to go along with what she wanted him to do, but it had felt like duty. His proper duty, but duty. Work.
Having X back felt like coming home. The knowledge that yes, here was where he belonged, where things were sane, where there was someone who would always watch his back.
The sense of disconnection that had plagued him when he woke up was gone. The sense of uncertainty and the knowledge that this wasn't his place. This wasn't what he had known, and neither what he had known nor that knowledge itself existed anymore. A vague feeling of constant disorientation.
He knew this. He knew this place, the place where X was, and he could feel his universe reorient itself around this one thing that he knew for certain.
"I should… at least visit them. Phantom became a cyber elf, but Sage Harpuia, I can't believe Harpuia…" X shook his head. "He let all this happen."
"He didn't want you to be gone." Zero knew he'd feel the same way, be willing to go just as far.
This was an attempt to write horror for the kiriban winner's prompt, except it ended up turning into h/c and Zeromuse said no: even though X had given him the idea, he wasn't going to go kill them all while X was asleep.