It turns out I still have a couple Notebook fics I never got around to typing up. I got a bit ahead in NaNo today, so why not transcribe a bit? The in-notebook name of this one is LSDverse.
References to: ninjas vs. pirates, the correct way to say Bass (who is not a fish), Bob vs. George (Acapulco ftw), the ending of Rock/Megaman 8 (with the alien saying 'with your help, this planet will survive'), the God of Destruction thing in Zero series, the Cocomo song (I cut out a few other lyric references), etc. Much of the madness in this thing has some sense to it (as in the Gate of Bone fic I did) if you get the reference or can translate from... Yeeeeah.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rock/Megaman, X or not, or any associated properties. Capcom and other rightful owners and distributers do. No infringement intended or money made.
"How do you feel?" Lifesaver asked, trying to pretend this was a normal mid-war checkup and recharge. The virus' readings, how it made him stronger? On the one hand, the world needed Zero out there. On the other, it might need him dead. The puzzle pieces weren't connecting yet, but the fragments all painted a terrible picture.
"Like scrap, how do you think I feel?" Zero was clearly fighting off actual sleep. "But it'll stop when the war's over. Mostly."
That made no sense. "Like scrap? You barely took any damage." The stoic Zero didn't act like this. The virus didn't make him disoriented the way it did X, and it didn't exhaust him, it gave him strength.
Battle damage was shrugged off. "I don't care about that as long as it's worth it. It's the new virus. I'm getting hit with it constantly and it's like five times more…"
"And yet it's making you stronger. Is it starting to.." Lifesaver estimated the distance to the panic signal.
"I know, that's what sucks. Normal people avoid the virus. I know I should, but when it's like this… Don't give me the lecture, I've got Dr. Cain's version memorized. I'll stop absorbing the virus before I get visual hallucinations, I swear. It's just the screaming, not even words." Zero's eyes were blank. "And the sooner the real screaming stops, the sooner that will go away. I'm not a rookie, my tolerance is higher and I won't screw up and absorb enough I can't find the target. One time getting captured and having to blow myself up taught me that lesson, doc."
"…Hallucinations?" Lifesaver had no idea what Zero was talking about.
"Of course hallu… Didn't Dr. Cain tell you about that? It's in my med file. Classified, sure, but you should have access."
"Dr. Cain… thought he had more time than he did. He didn't even get to finish covering X's unique medical issues." Lifesaer mentally tried searching for the data.
Zero's eyes closed, a moment of slience. "He was… I wouldn't ever have been me if not for him. Well." He stood up. "I've got to head out."
"I can't medically clear you until I check this out. This file requires your code to unlock." There was indeed something hidden by Dr. Cain in Zero's files: was this the clue he needed to prove it?
"Nautilis." Zero kept heading to the door.
Oh. So this was the source of Zero's 'mysterious' immunity. No wonder Dr. Cain hadn't made it public.
Lifesaver let him leave.
The more virus Zero absorbed, the more his old programming roused to defend itself. It was better at controlling his body than Cain's patch, hence the increase in strength.
The old Zero, however, had been insane. Had left behind a path of corpses that included two entire Hunter units before it had been brought down by Sigma. The more virus Zero absorbed, the better his body became at fighting off the madness of the mavericks… and the less able Cain's programming was to hold off his own insanity.
Without it, Zero would once again be reduced to a near-animal gleefully slaughtering hordes of demonic foes. And leaving another trail of bodies, innocent no different from maverick.
It started with the feeling that something was wrong. Paranoia. Odd noises on the edge of hearing, the feeling that someone was watching him. Whispers…
And it got much, much worse than screaming. If he started hearing intelligible voiced, it wouldn't be long before the visual hallucinations started. He'd lose the ability to tell what was going on around him, much less friend from foe. That disorientation, not X's dizziness but seeing an enemy where a pit of spikes was was what had allowed Vile to capture him in the first war.
Yet he still went out through that door, not wanting sympathy. X couldn't know. He wouldn't let Zero absorb the virus without comment if he did. Yet, now that Lifesaver knew that it was only Zero's mind on the line, not everyone else's, he was willing to let him go out.
No: no wonder Dr. Cain had let them think it was still a mystery. A slightly different brand if insanity was no improvement, nothing to look forward to.
It wasn't long before he was summoned to yet another briefing, before there was yet another scramble since the first hadn't worked. Somehow, he wasn't surprised that Zero was sacrificing himself. It wasn't the first time. The shuttle was saturated. If he survived, he'd be so far gone a mettaur would be overkill. Sigma had almost lost against Zero even though Zero had been insane in their first battle, true, but now Sigma would be able to recognize what he was up against. He knew Zero's capabilities.
When X located Zero, ready to force him back to base to have his safeguard fixed come hell or high water, it was even stranger than they had expected. They were Maverick Hunters: handling homicidal insanity was what they did.
Finding Zero lying on the ground giggling and looking up at his fingers was even weirder than the glow. "Zero?" X said carefully, not wanting to startle his innocent-seeming veteran combat instructor.
Zero rolled over onto his side to wave at him. "Hello, Blueberry!" He rolled back. "Oh, it's the father this time. It was the son the last… You're too tall to be him, and the ghost is all round and glowy with moons, so you must be the father!"
Huh?" "Zero?" X tried again.
"I'm not Zero." Very fast headshaking. "Though we're a lot alike, being dead and all. Only he's all… Oh, right, you don't know him. That was the son. You're so easy to get mixed up! Anyway, he was Zero. ZeroZeroZero. And he came back. But now he's dead-dead again. Osiris something. So am I Horus?" Blink, blink. "No, I'm not a slut. And he was Zero first, so it's his."
"Well, why don't you go back to base?" Regardless of what Zero thought his name was.
"That's a lie! I never was with him! I would have been killed by the good witch and her broomstick!" The laughter made those words hard to make out. Rolling over again, he pounded on the ground. X had never seen Zero laugh so hard. "I don't poach! And he wasn't mine, he was Zero's." Hee hee. "And the son was his. But the father is mine!" Yay!
He sobered. "Until you're the ghost."
"I'm not planning to die," X assured him.
"You already did," Zero said, as though it was a good thing. "But the alien said you were the savior, so ZeroZeroZero was all… but I think he already knew. Didn't you! You had everything planned out in advance!" Zero waved, then listened, nodding at certain points. "Oh, hello." He pouted. "Stop giving X bunny ears! It's my turn!"
X spun around, but there was nothing there.
"Zero?" X tried again, wondering if Zero would recognize his name or think X was talking to the hallucination.
Zero's euphoria disappeared. "Zero is fine." His head hung down. Had he returned to sanity so quickly. "I can hear you smirk, bastard." Apparently not. "I'll look you up when I die, take care." There was sadness, not violence, in his voice, but when he looked up, his eyes were wild. "Sanity bites." No, that was definitely not sanity there.
"Zero, are you okay?" Such worry in X's voice. This wasn't matching the virus' symptoms, but X remembered Zero's rampage. Had something happened to the safeguards?
"Never better, Ro-Mo-X." He kept correcting himself. Trying to stand, he wobbled, and it was like the world wobbled, not him. "Whoa." More giggling. "Oh, right, that was why I lay down." He reached in X's general direction, lying down again.
X walked forward without hesitation. Kneeling beside his friend, he tried to run a diagnostic scan with one of the med units. Nothing.
"I said I was fine. Except my head hurts. It's too full. All the babies crying out, and it's pointless. Everyone will do their best and the last human will die in under three and a half millennia. I think time is broken." Zero's eyes changed color, but X had never seen them swirl, the colors changing dizzyingly. "It's a good thing you're not a kid still, though. For now. That would be weird. Hey, X? Are we even?" So intent now, this was a serious question.
"Even how?" X carefully slid his right hand under Zero's hand, trying to figure out how to manage carrying him out of the shielded area.
"I died to save your life. Does that make up for killing you?"
"You won't kill me. You refused, and it was wrong of me to ask." For Zero to kill him if he ever went maverick. You don't have to. So I owe you."
"No no no, I already did." Zero shook his head.
Humoring him, X told him reassuringly that, "I don't remember anything like that, but we can be even if you like."
"I love!" Joy!
"I like you too, Zero."
"You said then that you wouldn't forgive me. Was that just that you? I like this you best." Bliiink. "I can see you there! Pirates are way better!" …and now Zero was talking to the air again. "Yeah, you'd better vanish!" He waved his fist in the air, then took X's other hand and told him that. "We are oil and water, and that means I get to be on top!"
The confused X was pounced, and did indeed end up under Zero. "Zero… What about Sigma?" He'd seen him back then, maybe that might trigger something?
"He's bald. I don't go for baldies. I like brunet pacifists that are shorter than me but can still kick ass. Ooh, I want to see you beat Sigma. You're so cute like that! All heroic. But he's retired."
"You already destroyed him? This time?" X doubted it, in this condition. Normally, being pinned like this would be an 'oh crap' moment, since Zero was the master at unarmed combat, but given Zero's demonstrated strength and coordination, and the training he'd given X, he wasn't worried.
"Yeah, let's put it that way. Oh, let's hit Acapulco! That way…" Zero rolled over again, off X this time. "Or Cocomo. Do those places still exist?"
"As resorts, no." And X didn't think there ever had been a place called Cocomo, outside the song.
"I'll make them exist. We gods can do that, you know."
Okaaaay. "Zero, I'll help you up. Let's head back to headquarters."
"You don't believe me, do you? I don't want to believe me either. Ragnarok," he half-sang with a terrible smile, before rolling on top of X again, pushing him down from the crouch he'd gotten into. "They're right when they say ignorance is bliss, by the way. No wonder he was all gloomy and stuff. Knowing sucks. Oh, Alia? Dr. Gate's gone maverick."
They heard a gasp over the com. "He feels much better now," Zero told her, as if to reassure. "Misery loves company!" Burying his face against X's neck, Zero told him, "I don't want you to die."
"I don't want to either." X stroked Zero's hair carefully, just incidentally getting it out of the way if X needed to grab Zero's beam saber.
"If you die, humanity's doomed. Or if you give up."
Zero pulled back and, seeing X's resolution, smiled. "Good."
Then he struck like a cobra, and X emitted a scream that was bitten off almost before it had begun.
"Zero," X murmured dreamily, "What have you done?"
"Go to sleep, X." Zero pushed X's eyelids closed. "Everything will be alright in the morning."
"Zero, what…" X shivered. "I feel strange." His voice only grew more abstract.
"You asked me once to kill you. Thank you for taking that back." A kiss was pressed to his forehead.
"Ze-" There was alarm in his voice now, or at least there was trying to be.
"Don't worry. Sleep, X. it's over." Smiling, Zero stroked his hair. "Everyone's safe. Go to sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."
"If you say so…" Such trust in that soft murmur, and yet Zero kept smiling that fond, mad smile.
He watched as X stilled. Once he was sure he was under, he closed his own eyes.
The virus burned, swarmed, darkness enveloping the world.
Fire in the sky.
The 'theory' of this AU is that actually, yeah, Zero is naturally kinda nuts. He's Dr. Wily's greatest creation/heir, what would you expect? Of course, being nuts didn't prevent Dr. Wily from organizing wars, building Zero… In my mind, actually, the reason his robot masters never won was that they, as a species, were too naturally logical and hence sane. War, on the other hand, is madness. Dr. Wily might have finally put two and two together regarding that. The visions/screams of his victims etc. are somewhere in between hallucinations and flashbacks, like the one in X4. The confusion in that one when he actually… started paying attention to Sigma may have been of the 'wait a minute, you're not who I thought I was fighting, too tall…' variety.