"Oh." X looked mildly surprised. "That's clever."

"Hmm?" Dr. Weil asked him.

"I would be more upset," X said, sitting down in the chair behind Weil's own desk. "Except he was experimenting on parts of you, wasn't he?"

Lumine, Weil realized. X was talking to Lumine.

How did X know about those experiments?

"I understand why you would be upset. You're right: I should have kept a better eye on you, and your treatment. Being taken away from people who saw you as an experiment, people who never talked to you like a person," because he hadn't been their work in the first place: they'd been puppets with just enough control over their own minds left to be terrified of it and resent it. "And given to someone who experiments on you. With the Maverick Virus." Lumine should not have been allowed anywhere near it: it couldn't have helped his mental state. "What I don't understand is why you'd take it out on Axl."

"…Are you Axl or Lumine? I thought neither of you had managed to scan X?" Weil feigned not so much confusion as trying to figure out what they were playing at now. "And I know that it's hard for you to empathize, but the Maverick Virus is not something to joke about."

"No, that's why I'm upset that it was used so childishly. Selecting the first victim to make Axl unhappy. Perhaps even to pin the blame on him, hmm?" X tapped the gyroscope on Weil's desk, set it spinning. "To save time, why don't I just remind you that this used to be Maverick Hunter Headquarters? An organization that grew out of the irregular rescue effort that was mounted by Cain Labs, of which I own seventh-five percent, after Dr. Cain's passing. Meaning that I hold all the hunters' weapons and construction contracts, although of course I never charged. Even though this is now a different 'independent' nonprofit, I'm still on the board of directors and most of the original systems are still in place, just modified. And added to, of course." What was the point of having that money, those resources, if not to use them to protect the world or his children? "But, as for those systems: I'm immune, and I have the ability to control machines – do you see where I'm going with this?"

"So calling security would do me absolutely no good. If you were actually X." Which he wasn't, unless X had gone insane, and that wouldn't happen. Even if he was ancient.

"So absolutely nothing happens in this complex without me having the ability to find out about it. For the sake of security, it was set up in such a way that I'm the only one who can access the surveillance archives." With his ability. "Not just this building: the complex." So no, Weil had not been conducting certain experiments in the privacy of his own home.

"I'm sure Weil wasn't the only one who kept a sample of the virus," X said, leaning forward now, propping his elbows up on the table. "While I want it destroyed, put behind us so we can finally move forward, I understand why people might want to be sure. Want a way to make sure that it doesn't happen again besides myself and my ability, which had yet to be reproduced." Like so many more of X's systems. "So, Lumine, I know what he's done. And I know what you've done. I already cured Red Alert, and showed Axl how to cure the others. Zero is helping him find and subdue them – it won't take long. You copied one of the later strains, when it had already weakened." Not very infectious, or very noticeable. Unless you were (supposedly) designed partially to notice things like that. "What I want to know is, why?

"Were you jealous of Axl? Did Weil make you think that the virus was right about humanity, even though he's far from average? I myself was lucky to meet Dr. Cain." To have that man as his first impression of humanity. The one who had been there when he woke up, had welcomed him into this world. Become his friend instead of just trying to use him. X had been lucky, and Dr. Cain's species had been very lucky.

X was silent now, remembering the past and giving him an opening to respond.

"A sample of the virus?" Weil looked a little green. "I'm not sure what you're implying, but keeping something like that… anywhere near reploids?" In a building where most of the staff was still reploids? "Yes, I have a home in the complex, but… sleeping near that stuff? I'd rather have a bed made out of plutonium."

The virus terrified all right-thinking people. It was evil, it was insidious: it crawled into people's minds and raped their souls.

"Plutonium is useful for bombs, yes, and that kind of power is considerable, but it's the virus, the ability to control people's minds, that would really let someone control the world." So, no, X was quite sure it was the virus Lumine preferred. "Kindly stop… Or are you pretending to be Weil? Is Weil still alive in there?" There was that look of surprise again, as though Weil's continued survival was only a curiosity. "In that case, 'Weil,' it might interest you to know that your body is saturated with Lumine's nanites. He's certainly aware of everything you've done since he did this to you, and he could kill you like that," X said, snapping his fingers. "I'm sure he knows enough about your body by now to keep it alive, even after destroying all higher functions. Or he would if he bothered to study it." There was a difference between having a theoretical capability and knowing how to use it.

"…And you're telling me this why?"

"Because it's true," X said, sounding more like X than he had this entire conversation. Of course, Weil knew the power that came with being underestimated. Weil had never faced X on the battlefield, he'd never seen him with the gloves off. He was a commander: he must have been able to strategize. He must have been able to make the tough decisions, to spend lives to spare others. "Lumine could definitely kill you before I could purify you, by the way. I don't suppose he's likely to release you at all? Are you, Lumine?"

There was no answer, and now Weil as well as X was waiting for one.

X finally sighed. "His original body is fleeing the complex. Two words, Lumine. Teleportation and Zero." Did Lumine really think he could get past the Crimson Hunter? X sighed. "If only the virus hadn't taken Sigma… Lumine, you might be very impressed with yourself. You might consider Sigma a failure because he kept losing. You might consider me foolish, for letting you get this far. You might also consider the fact that, since I am so very 'soft,' I don't want to kill you." X shook his head, a distant sadness in his eyes. "Far too many people have died because of the virus already. You can be put in containment. Weil could even escape execution, if you were to testify that you had already possessed him when he gave you that virus sample." Although X clearly doubted both that this was the truth and that Lumine would do anything to help Weil instead of trying to pin the blame on him. "It's possible that the explosion that killed your creators really was just an accident, instead of you trying to keep any more like you and Axl from being built, ones that could have challenged you for control of your new virus." Rival Hive Princes.

"You are a child," X said, "and much closer to a human child than a reploid newbuilt. I would be willing to testify to that. The equivalent of temporary insanity. Childish jealousy of Axl, who was allowed to be free while you were always hemmed in, locked up. A persecution complex." Since everyone he'd met thought of him as something to experiment on, something to use, a valuable prize that had suddenly become far less valuable once the virus was no longer around. Lumine would have been a celebrity, if he'd been released while the wars were still raging, just like Axl would have been once Red's militia group was inevitably infected or wiped out, once he'd been around long enough that someone noticed he wasn't infected yet.

"I am very unhappy with you," X admitted, and there was a flash of anger there. "But that doesn't mean I want you, or anyone else, to die. I don't know how likely it is that you can be saved, but I would like to try. Yet I can only justify trying if you promise to stop this, if you turn yourself in. If you are no longer a danger to other people, to the world I am responsible for." One race that had been born because of him, one race that hadn't been exterminated because of him. "So please, Lumine. Talk to me. Leave Weil's body, if you can't talk through it. Stop running. Give me some kind of sign that you'll cooperate. Some excuse to think that you'll listen to reason. That there's more to you than this… selfishness." Even though Lumine had been willing to infect people, to control them.

Weil inwardly mocked X wanting to believe that someone like this (the two-faced brat!) would, or even could, be good, but he didn't say anything. The last thing he wanted to do was undermine this by pointing out how ridiculous it was when it was his only chance of surviving this.

Oh, he'd survive this, and he'd play the injured party, and he'd get Lumine executed. A nervous breakdown, psychological issues after being trapped in a nightmare, inside his own body. It would immediately get reploid sympathy –there were tens of thousands of cured mavericks out there who had woken up to a nightmare very much like that.

He had all sorts of character witnesses, like Arciel, and humans were easy to manipulate while reploids were so very gullible, always assuming the best of everyone, although at least they had some caution when it came to humans.

"Do you know where the edge of the teleport shield is?" X asked Lumine, through him. "You're getting close, and once you're past it, it will be hard to find you. I cannot let you escape. I can't. Stop now, or I will send Zero." X had enough control over the old HQ's systems to do that. They'd been purpose-built to give him that control, so that the mavericks couldn't take it.

A second passed.

A second more.

"So be it," X said.

His eyes focused on nothing, watching a battle elsewhere. Lumine might be Wily's latest creation, but Zero had far more experience. This wouldn't take long. Lumine did not have very much time to surrender that pride of his and surrender while he still had his life.

Weil didn't dare distract X.

When Lumine fell, so did Weil.

Not because Lumine had cared enough to take Weil with him, but if X hadn't destroyed the nanites inside Weil, Lumine would have eventually used them to revive. Getting rid of the bastard who had dared try to research how to use the virus to control reploids, dared dream of usurping Omega's place (even though Weil had never known that and now never would) in the process was killing two birds with one stone.

Two mavericks with one shot.

The word 'maverick' had originally meant someone who did as they pleased, ignoring the constricting rules of society. Bound to no one and nothing except their own will. The victims of the rogue virus hadn't been mavericks in that sense: they'd been followers of a different order than society's, than the Elysian virus', but they'd been the opposite of free spirits.

Lumine and Weil had both been free of convention, and they'd both chosen, with that free will, to try to control others. To toy with X's children and Omega's subjects.

Freedom and safety were inversely correlated. Even Dr. Light, in that message, had said that he was afraid of what X might choose to do with that free will. Without the Elysian Virus, who knew what would have happened? If he'd been born as unfettered as these two, perhaps he would have gone down the same road as them. Been as selfish and unconcerned with others and their wishes as them. Tried to subjugate the world, make it work according to his rules. Obey his will.

He had to wonder what kind of selfish monster he might have become, if it weren't for the peace and compassion imposed on him by Master Omega's gift. What the world would have been like, if he'd shaped it according to his own selfish wishes instead of tending to the children, and their happiness, and planting the seeds of Elysium, in preparation for Master Omega's return.


Hmm, yeah, I haven't had a fic wander away on me as aimlessly as this one in ages, and at least the other one had a single plot and stuck to it. At this point, I think the 'Lumine & Weil vs. X causes humanity to find out, and meanwhile Omega does something he shouldn't have and the aliens find out what's going on despite what the robot masters did and attack to wipe out the infestation' plot/series of conflicts that I made Ciel's ancestress a character for isn't all that likely to happen, and the plot line involving capturing/converting the Light and Wily AIs and their perspective on the world their creations came about might get added as an epilogue at some point, but while I was trying to write a fic that deserved to have that 'horror' in the summary, I often fail at being evil enough to my characters.

Yes, yes, not being sadistic is a major flaw in a writer. After all, Bujold gets her plots by asking, "What's the worst thing that could happen to the character?" according to an interview.

So this verse will end up with the consistency of poisoned cotton candy instead of going into more horror/sci-fi/epic conflicts/X openly taking over the world on Omega's behalf and telling the humans that they'd really better not make trouble, or he won't be able to keep Omega from ending them. So they can just sit back and wait for the technology to get upgraded by WilyAI and then they'll be infected too.

It's just that so much bad stuff happens to them in canon, broken dreams and genocide and so on, that I feel superfluous when I try to write a 'verse in which they're that doomed (albeit differently).

So I suppose this brings my number of in-progress fics back down to five. With no two in the same fandom. I have a few chapters of a time travel fic, a zombie apocalypse fic, a fem!Zero fic and so on, but I'm not publishing them until they're complete. Of course, I published Garden when it was complete, and then that changed.

Oh, and yes, X was responsible for the explosion that 'killed' Lumine's alleged creators, in the process of wiping the evidence he was there. He's just playing innocent/reminding Lumine that happened and could and would be pinned on him, if he didn't start trying to act/fake good/deluded/innocent/whatever.