Splash Woman sat on her boulder, contentedly overlooking her harbor. She'd been very busy in the past few weeks with all the shipments coming in, but the plus side to the business was that the steady stream of cargo carriers made everyone sure to be extra careful. Splash Woman's primary job was to check on the fishermen and make sure they stayed out of the temporarily widened shipping lanes and that the sea creatures were aware of the boating situation. It wouldn't do if a poor dolphin or shark crashed into one of the boats.
But for now those tasks were done. A few of Splash Woman's dolphin mechaniloids were underwater, patroling about just in case of emergencies. Splash couldn't imagine that there would be one. The boats that passed by her right in the distance were too many to be careless. People would be watching, and when people watched, criminals stayed away.
Splash Woman peacefully swirled the water about with her tail, and she peered out into the distance. She loved watching the waters. She did it so often that it constantly surprised her how little the repeat experieneces dimmed their potency. It was wonderful to stare out into the blue horizon, watching where the water met the far away sky. She squinted her eyes hard, as if doing so would blend the two together and create a magnificent, blue ocean sky, with angelfish and jellies swimming in the clouds. The mer-bot's voice rose into the air as she sang of this imaginary world. The tune stained the air the same way tea stains hot water, only the song was cool and refreshing, a blessed flavor to all ears.
Two of those ears belonged to Dive Man. The Cossack-bot walked down the beach behind her, listening in a trance as he made his way to the woman-bot. He smiled at her, getting nearer but not daring to interrupt her. Sadly, all things end, and after a few minutes the merrow ended her haunting melody.
"I know you're back there, Dive Man." she said with only the slightest turning of the head, so that Dive Man couldn't see her smile.
"I know." Dive Man stepped into the water. "I wasn't sneaking up. I was just listening."
Splash Woman just sat there, moving her trident away so that it didn't point at Dive Man. The Cossack-bot didn't dare sit on the same boulder as Splash, but he overcame his shyness enough to sit on the next rock over where he could look up at her.
"So how did the fight with Zero go?"
"You have to ask?" Dive Man winced. "Um...it went. The good news is Pirate Man didn't do much better."
Splash Man's laugh sounded like the rush of waves on the shore. Dive Man fidgeted uncomfortably, and though amused, Splash Woman couldn't help taking pity on him.
"Oh dear! Well, I didn't watch the footage of the battle, but I've heard the rumors." she said. "It makes me glad I couldn't go. But still, I do feel a little ashamed I couldn't do my part and wear down Zero for Mega Man. I don't like being left out."
"There's no way in the world I would ever let you go." Dive Man, seeing Splash Woman's eyebrow raise, quickly backpedaled. "I mean, um, well, it would have been nice if you were there. Your trident is very powerful."
Splash Woman huffed a bit, looking away at the open sea. "That's why I wanted to go. I at least should have called Mega Man and told him to come get my power. I don't know if he would have had the time, but at least I could have helped that way." Turning back to her visitor, she managed something of a smile. "And what about you? You're not in trouble with the boss are you? Or did Dr. Cossack say that you could come to Monstropolis and fight Zero?"
"Heh heh..." Dive Man tugged at his neck armor. "Um, not exactly. Dr. Cossack...well, he's nicer than most masters, I think. He's not angry at me, and in fact he's snagged a few business opportunities by coming to Monstropolis. But...he's still not really pleased with me. Oh, he's letting me say goodbye and all, but that's mostly because Kalinka wanted to come to the beach."
Dive Man pointed over to the right, where Splash Woman could indeed see the Cossacks, if she engaged her zoom vision. It was a good day to be on the beach, and Kalinka seemed to be making the most of it. She could, at last, wear her designer swimsuit. A one piece, of course. Dr. Cossack and Skull Man didn't approve of bikinis, and neither did Dive Man, for that matter. Still, Kalinka was happy enough, and she and Skull Man, as well as some teenager that Dive Man didn't know, were all building a two-tiered sandcastle together. Dr. Cossack hung back in a sun chair, pretending to read a book. Splash Woman was tempted to laugh; she knew Dr. Cossack was pretending, because every so often he would peer out suspiciously at the young male next to Kalinka.
"I don't know why Kalinka wanted to go to the beach." Dive Man shrugged. "She's always saying it's too hot in California. Anyway, lucky for me, because I get to see you at least one more time."
"Um, alright..." Splash Woman never knew what to do when Dive Man said things like that. She avoided slapping the water with her tail. "You make it sound really dramatic. You're not going to be scrapped are you?"
"Oh no, not at all." Dive Man slumped down, resting on his knees. "I just have to stay in Russian waters in the Pacific for six months. I can't come out here for a while."
"Wonderful! Yar-har! All the better for me and the lady Splash to get better acquainted!"
Water dripped out of the speaker's tri-corner hat as he rose from the water. Pirate Man lifted a claw to the air with a glorious laugh, then stepped out onto a rock to give himself a stage - though of course he didn't pick a larger boulder than Splash Woman's. He bowed gracefully to the lady-bot.
"Ahoy, Love!" Pirate Man practically sang. "I heard yer lovely siren song in the air, and then I heard somethin' almost as good! Dive Man won't be in the way anymore!"
"Oh no, you don't!" Dive Man snarled. "You can't!"
"Ho ho! But I can! What is a landlubber like you going to do about it?" Not waiting for an answer, Pirate Man turned to the prettier of the two. "Ah, but surely you're not impressed? I, of my own free will as a gentleman of the sea, went off to go fight the worst enemy of the earth!"
"Oh?" Splash Woman lifted an eyebrow. "And did you defeat Zero?"
"Er, ehm...well...I damaged him! And I lasted longer than Dive Man!" he took a second to glance hatefully at Dive as if it were his fault Pirate Man didn't win. "And now I've earned my pardon. I'm a free robot now! Har har!"
"WHAT?" Dive Man stomped down on his rock. "That can't be true!"
"Ha, ha, but it is! They've pardoned all the robots that fought Zero." Pirate Man widened his wicked grin. "That means me too! And by a delightful twist of fate, I was able to get a word in with a Mr. Tim Hathers, that same man which is the lovely lady's boss. Looks like I've got Neptune on my side, Divey boy! Ar, ha-har!"
"NO! Argh, why did Mega Man have to repair you?" Dive Man would have pulled out his hair if he had any. Instead he turned to Splash Woman, desperately hoping she would do something. "Splash Woman, please speak to the Admiral! He's got authority over the entire coastline, so he can assign Pirate Man far away to the south! I mean, wouldn't he be so useful categorizing seismic movements?"
Dive Man shot a daring look over at his rival, but Pirate Man simply waved him off with his claw, still overconfident. He laughed like the dragging of chains across a ship's deck.
"Wait, what? Pfah!" Pirate Man said. "My lady Splash would never do such a thing to me. Wouldn't you, Love? You'd get terribly bored here without your Pirate Man, wouldn't you? So you'd make certain that the good Admiral Hathers had me stationed at that there harbor, right?"
With that, Pirate Man shifted his hat upwards, making sure he got a clear view of Splash Woman. So too did Dive Man look to Splash Woman for an answer. Of course she wasn't going to recommend Pirate Man to Monstropolis waters...was she? Actually, Splash Woman was so flabbergasted she didn't know what to say. Dealing with thieves and rescuing drowning humans was far simpler than figuring out the two weirdos before her. The mer-bot sighed with the ocean sound you hear when you lift a shell to your ear.
Luckily, Splash Woman didn't have to say a word. Right at that moment, a teleport beam landed in the shallow water of the shore, and out of it Wave Man materialized. The Team 5 water-bot breathed in deep the ocean air - there were some things he didn't like about working on a space station. Refreshed by the salty breeze somehow (it wasn't as if Wave Man had a sense of smell), he made his way down to the others. Seeing Pirate Man gave him pause, but only for a moment. He shrugged and moved toward the mer-bot.
"Good morning, Splash Woman." Wave Man said. "I came to tell you that your upgrades are nearly ready. Well, and to see the ocean again. There's no ocean in space, and I'm still trying to convince the humans that they need to install a swimming pool."
Perhaps it was only to Pirate and Dive Man's auditory receptors that Splash Woman laughed a little louder than necessary at Wave Man's pleasantries. In any case, she gestured for Wave Man to approach. He did, and he reached up to hand her a zip drive. She plugged it into her neck, instantly smiling at the data she saw.
"That's what we intend to do." Wave Man explained. "As you can see, we do have a way for your tail to convert into legs, but we're trying to hammer out the details so that it doesn't impair your swimming abilities. When it's complete, you should be able to go from tail to legs and back again without too much trouble."
"Why thank you, Wave Man!" Splash Woman beamed. She winked at the other two robots. "Would you believe these two, Wave? They actually thought that I wanted them to fight for me against Zero. All I really wanted was to be able to do it myself."
"Madam, I don't mind making you land compatible," Wave Man somberly added. "But Zero was a very dangerous robot. I am very happy for your sake you didn't have to fight him."
"Oh, poo." Splash Woman teased. "You're not going to treat me like these fellows, are you?"
"Not at all." Wave Man shook his head. "But I remember Dr. Light saying once that he wanted robots that could do more than fight. He mentioned your grouping of robots in that regard, saying that some things are too valuable to waste on war."
"Aw, you flatterer!"
Splash Woman lifted her hand to her mouth, tittering like a school girl. Pirate Man was sure it was an act...mostly. And of course Dive Man realized that Wave Man hadn't flattered her at all; he merely quoted Dr. Light. He didn't mean it personally...did he? Both the Cossack-bot and the pirate glared viciously at Wave Man, but before the Team 5 bot could notice them, Splash Woman had him distracted. After pulling out the zip drive and stashing it in her armor, Splash Woman shifted her trident to her right arm so that she could reach for Wave Man with her left.
"You don't have to go back to your space station, do you?" Splash Woman asked. "I almost never get to see you these days. Why don't you take a break from all that space stuff and come with me? I get so lonely out here by myself, and you've seen so much more of the ocean than I have. I would absolutely love it if you would join me to do a little exploring."
Wave Man, a little puzzled, glanced at Pirate and Dive Man with some uncertainty. However, he just shrugged again. "I do miss the ocean. There was this one coral reef not too far from Wily's last castle...I miss the place. I haven't seen it in over a year. Would you like to see it?"
"Certainly! Help me down from here, would you?"
Wave Man took Splash Woman's hand and carefully brought her down into the water. It was shallow, but enough to cover Splash Woman's tail. Before either Dive Man or Pirate Man could do anything about it, the fishy-bot flitted right past them and out into deeper waters. They were too dumbfounded at that point to bother much about Wave Man, who followed her out more slowly.
As Wave Man made his way too her, Splash Woman called out to her admirers. "Play nice, boys! Pirate Man, I wouldn't trust you to go good if someone promised you Fort Knox! Does Admiral Hathers even know you're out here? And Dive Man, you're not very good at listening! If you want to start, listen to me now and make sure Pirate Man gets out of my harbor! Bye now, boys!"
With that, Wave Man and Splash Woman disappeared into the blue, and the two robots left behind started to pick up their hanging jaws.
This beach wasn't too far from Monstropolis. In fact, the pier where Splash Woman worked was only a few miles to the north. This part of the beach, unlike the northern place, was completely deserted. It wasn't much for tourists, either. There were too many rocks about, for one, and the waves were never high enough to be very appealing to surfers. California had other beaches with more remarkable water movement. Besides, surfers might dare hurricanes or tsunamis, but they tended to be much more sensible when it came to the dark brown rocks that jutted out from the flowing sea foam.
Roll wondered if there was a volcano nearby, or had been one a long time ago to leave all the pitted rocks there. She didn't wonder very long. Instead the girl-bot scrambled over a couple of larger ones and settled herself on one of the rare patches of clean sand. Thus settled, she looked back towards the land, shading her eyes with her hand to make sure it was nothing but stray grass on the upward hill away from the beach. There was no one. No one was on either side of the beach, left and right. Out on the ocean, no boats. Roll was completely alone, and she took a deep breath.
"GrimMoody!" she called out. "GrimMoody! I know you're there! Come out now! I want to talk to you!"
Silence. The wind blew a little at the grass, and Roll's hair swung. The girl-bot stuck her hands on her hips, getting a lot more annoyed.
"GRIMMOODY!" she yelled louder. "I'm not leaving until you show up!"
"Yeah, I'm comin', I'm comin'." A voice grumbled cheerfully behind her. "Don't get your robot panties in a bunch."
Roll turned to find the person she expected: a dark blonde girl with spectacles, very dull looking and unnoticable in a crowd. But there were no crowds here, allowing the boring girl to be fully visible for once. She had her hands casually stuck in the pockets of her jeans, and she wore a black shirt with huge silver lettering. It read "ROCK", and had the pattern of a dragon in the "R". The robot took no notice of the author's fashion. She had questions, and she was bound and determined to put answers to them.
"Alright Moody..." Roll suddenly found that all of her questions, but none of her confusion, had dropped out of her mind. How could she invoke the author and then forget? She scrambled a moment. "Moody...why did you really send me back? I don't understand it. You told me to save the universe, but I didn't...I didn't actually do anything. I thought I was supposed to fight Zero, but I lost. Why didn't you come and tell me that I wasn't supposed to?"
Grimm grinned, seeming to enjoy Roll's confusion. "Because it wasn't my place. I write all that happens, but there are limits to what I can do in your universe. They are limits of taste, but limits nonetheless. I can't make your choices for you, Roll. You have to decide how you're going to overcome your obstacles yourself. To interfere with your choices, though possible, is pretty crude for someone in my position."
"But I didn't actually do anything." Roll repeated. "I don't even understand..."
"That's true." Grimm nodded. "You very nearly ruined it all. Your brother depends on you to be cheery, and you spent the entire time you've been back moping around and acting like the world was going to end."
Roll paled, her cheeks tightening so much it looked like she was going to faint. She almost did, and her only audible response was a pitiful squawk, "What?"
GrimMoody nodded. "Yep. Y'see Roll, your primary role as a peaceful character is to make it so that life is worth living. Think of it this way: all a barista does is make coffee, yes? Well, a bad barista can be more troublesome than you expect. Say a person ill-content with life, like Wily or someone, comes in for coffee. They feel sorry for themselves, and are on the verge of giving up on life or peace and doing something extreme. A bad barista gives poor service, making a nasty latte and not being polite. The belief of the world being a bad place is thus enforced. However, a good barista will be cheerful, competent, and suggest to the person low in self-esteem that perhaps the world isn't as bad as they think - that there is at least one person in the world that isn't cruel or stupid. The barista doesn't even know he does it, but that's the result of doing his simple job well."
"Oh, I see." Roll wanted to blush. "But...but I wasn't that bad, was I?"
Moody shrugged. "You could've been worse, but you also could've been better. Your brother depends on you in a very intangible way, and he needs you to believe in him."
"I understand that now. I did understand it once, but then the apocalypse..."
"Don't think about that anymore. Think on what you did do: you told Proto Man about the anti-virus companies Wily established. That avenue for Wily's scheme is gone. The future that was once to be is no more, and while you weren't perfect, you've done enough to stop it from happening."
"I don't understand..." Roll found herself fidgeting. "In the other timeline, Rock was tricked by Epidemic Man and killed. In this timeline, Epic Man tried the same trick but it didn't work. What happened?"
"That was the undoing of Dr. K's work." Moody said, stiffening up. "Dr. K was always very tragically bent with his creations. He preferred darker storylines and horrible fates. A real dramatic type, you know. As powerful as Rock is, Dr. K needed him to fail if his envisioning of the dark future was to come true. Rock was the invincible robot, so he needed to die for the new future to come to pass. Proto Man is the sneakiest, meaning he needed to be caught. Bass is the most bold, and therefore he needed to have what he valued most taken from him: his strength. But now that Dr. K's future is not going to come true for you, all three robots can stick by their true identities. The future is now open and clear to you."
"That's wonderful!" Roll said, though the enthusiasm in her voice waned the longer she spoke. "But...this means that some robots aren't going to exist anymore. Lots of robots were built to stop Mavericks, and if there isn't going to be a Maverick virus, those robots - reploids, I mean - won't ever get to live."
"That's very true." GrimMoody nodded, pulling her hands out of her pockets and stretching. "But also think of it this way: the robots that weren't going to be built or were destroyed because of the Maverick Virus now get to live. Also, don't worry about your friends. A scientist known as Dr. Rudenbaker is still going to build a robot designed after his daughter and name her Alia. Also, Dr. Reiko Infune will still exist, and well, she's pretty eccentric. She'll build Axl, still based on Bass and Crystal Bot. Only this time they'll both be alive, and Dr. Inafune will be able to present Axl to them. Yeah, they don't exactly take it well."
Roll giggled as Moody went on. "Also, you might note that Signas was built because Sigma went bad, and the future Dr. Cain wanted a replacement. Now, Signas wasn't going to exist, but then a certain blonde girl-bot convinces Dr. Cain that he needs an administrative robot to handle paperwork and provide leadership for a robot police force. Pallette and Layer will still be alive, and so will Iris."
"Iris?" Roll asked. "Who's she?"
"Oh, that's right." Moody lifted one side of her mouth. "Zero never told you about her. Don't worry about it. You'll meet her in a century or so."
"But what about Zero?" Roll walked closer to GrimMoody, clutching her hands tightly together. "All Zero - the good Zero - ever wanted was to make up for all the bad things he ever did. Is there any way he can live? Can't you stop the government from incinerating him? That's what I heard they were going to do."
"You heard correctly." GrimMoody smiled. "But don't worry about that either. You've already saved him."
"I have? But how?"
"You said the right words. It's like I was saying about the good barista. You say the right words and good things come to pass. Don't worry, you'll find out what happened after Dr. Light comes back. That's when Zero wakes up. For now, you'll just have to wait and see."
"Oh wow, that's wonderful! So I guess the reploids will be alright after all!"
"No, they won't. There aren't going to be any reploids."
"What?" Roll froze. "But you said-"
"I said, Axl, Signas, Alia, etcetera are going to be alright. I didn't say they would be reploids." GrimMoody took on a look that was a little too cocky for Roll's taste. Fortunately GrimMoody noticed Roll's reaction for once, so she let her grin fade away. "You see, the reploids were created by Dr. Cain in 21XX when he recovered X's body. This time, he's not going to. Now, people go on and on about Dr. Light and Dr. Wily being geniuses, and they were, but what a lot of people don't realize is that they aren't the only geniuses in time. Dr. Cain was nearly as intelligent as them, and with X in his hands he was able to create a line of robots based on X. Since he's not going to have that opportunity, reploids will not exist. Instead Auto and Crystal Bot are going to have a much longer time and a better understanding of the technology, thus making sure that the next generation of robots is more advanced, but also safer."
"That's good!" Roll nodded. "I bet Crystal Bot is going to become really famous, just like Auto!"
"Yes, she is. Through her the legacy of Wily's engineering will survive. Your brother and Auto also keep going the legacy of Dr. Light, and both of these together for over a century form two branches of robotics: Light science and Wily science. The Light robots are tougher and with better weapons, but the Wily ones are more versatile and are built faster. You always knew how quickly Dr. Wily could whip up a batch of mechaniloids, didn't you?"
"Did I ever!" Roll exclaimed. "But what about the Zero virus? We never cured it in the first timeline. If reploids in this timeline caught it, how would we stop things from playing out just like Dr. K envisioned?"
"Simple. You guys cure the Zero virus." Moody grinned. "Rock and Auto still have that third of Crystal Bot's brain that they're working on. Not too long from now your brother is going to engineer a new anti-virus that can be installed in any X-grade robots. He was designed to be a science-bot, you know. Dr. Light will help him. Oh, and since Dr. Imahara isn't dead, he is able to study Dr. Light's mind storage capsules and engineer them so that they last longer."
"That's better than I ever imagined!" Roll clapped her hands. "So everything's going to be alright now?"
"No! Of course not!" GrimMoody scoffed. "Why would it be? There's always going to be wars and despair and poverty. These things don't go away by getting rid of Dr. Wily. To make those things go away you'd have to just off the entire human race."
"But...but..." Roll sputtered. "But I went through so much! I went back in time, just like you told me! I thought the future was fixed!"
"No, not really." Moody shrugged. "Nothing is ever fixed. Humans are a fallen race. We do all kinds of bad whatnot. It's an inevitability. Robots are built by us, so you can't expect them to be good either."
"If it was really as bad as that," Roll angrily stomped her foot, leaving a sharp imprint on a nearby rock. "Then why? Why did you do this? What was the point?"
"First of all, calm down." GrimMoody said. "Secondly, because I wanted to."
The human sighed, absentmindedly tucking some stray hair behind her ear so the breeze wouldn't mess with it. "It always bothered me what Dr. K did. As a writer myself, I always feel that its the characters that should determine what happens to a story. But he never gave you a chance. Instead, he made the future something ugly, something depressing and not really appealing. Some of the things - and this part you wouldn't understand - about the future were actually good. Only, if you notice it, at the end of every one of Sigma's attacks, the world was actually worse off than before, even though the Maverick Hunters defeated him every time."
"I...I did notice that..." Roll admitted. "Though I think a couple of times it did come out even."
"Perhaps. But the point is, you have eight different fights against Sigma, and not once did the world actually get better when the Maverick Hunters won. I mean, sure, the world would have been worse off if the Hunters never won, but there were no victories. No wins. I already told you what happened in that timeline. I'm not going to repeat it." GrimMoody took a couple of steps forward until only three feet separated the two. "What I did was level the playing field. None of us can destroy evil, but we can do something about it when it happens to us. Proto Man once told Bass that there will never be peace. He said there will always be evil scientists or countries with delusions of nuclear grandeur or some other villain to cause trouble. While his statement was correct, his sentiment was not. Preventing evil is not like curing diseases; it's like eating. We eat every day, or we get sick. Evil is always present among us. It's us who have to choose not to indulge it."
With that, GrimMoody seemed to droop. She turned away from Roll, focusing instead on the deep ocean waters and the distant sky. Moody stirred the rising foam with a toe, and only then did Roll notice the human's bare feet. The author didn't seem to notice the rocks or the fact the waves were starting to get the bottom of her jeans wet. Roll was just about to say something when GrimMoody spoke first.
"You know what the worst thing Wily ever did was?"
Roll startled. "Uh...no?"
"He never stopped Dr. Light." The author mused, deep in her own thoughts. "One of Light's failings is his extreme naiivety. He's grown some over the years, just like all other people, but he never understood people the way Wily did. Wily's a much more wordly person, and he knew peoples' faults better than Light."
"Everybody's but his own." Roll scoffed, folding her arms and glaring at the back of GrimMoody's head. "He never trusted anyone."
"Exactly." GrimMoody nodded. "He's the balance of Dr. Light. Dr. Light learned, towards the end of his life, that he needed to be careful who to trust. He would have learned this a lot sooner and a lot better if Wily had been with him. Even then, he never knew that the things he created could damage the world so much. He never understood what a world of reploids could do to a world of humans. Only someone smart as him, like Wily, would ever be able to convince him that he went too far.
"I know the darkness of your thoughts when you were in the future, Roll. You knew that by creating X, Dr. Light created the technology that would end up becoming Zero. And since all the reploids are based off of X, they became capable of getting the Maverick Virus. Thus, without X, none of the Maverick Wars would have happened. Wily could have been there. He could have told Dr. Light that the world wasn't ready for someone like X, and that they needed to create better CPU security if they wanted to build him. But Wily took advantage of Light's unawareness instead."
"If you say I need to destroy Mega Man X." Roll said slowly, shivering. "I'll never forgive you."
"Relax, I'm not going to say that." GrimMoody turned away from the ocean, smiling a bit more pleasantly. "The thing that should help you is two things: one, when X is activated, the future Dr. Cain isn't alive yet. Two, since robots exist, there will be no need for Cain to build reploids, and he will never get the chance to look at X's innards and create them. He'll have robots of his own, but they won't be like before. Not as good. And three, you have your Wily analogue: Bass. Bass doesn't want to admit it, but he is like Dr. Wily. That, however, is a good thing. He'll know when to tell Mega Man to stop, and Mega Man will listen. They'll be what Light and Wily should have been."
"Except Bass isn't going to be a scientist." Roll said. "Well, I don't think he ever would. Will he?"
"Nah. He wouldn't do that unless he had a really strong reason to."
There was a pause, and Roll nervously rubbed the back of her neck. One thing still bothered her, and she felt a little reluctant to ask it, fearing that it would somehow change all the good that had happened.
"GrimMoody..." Roll hesitated, then gripped the side of her dress tightly, hoping she had the strength to continue. "The last time we met, you said you could only help me 'in a sense'. You said the Maverick Wars were still going to happen, and that there's nothing you could write would erase it. What does that mean?"
The little smile on the author's face waned, and she knawed on her bottom lip before answering. "Well...there's much about your situation that I can't explain. I'll try to though...it's sort of like this. You're not the only Roll. I told you then that while you are Dr. K's creation, there are many authors out there. And for every author, there is a different Roll. These Rolls do various things according to the whims of their authors. All of those Rolls are trumped by Dr. K's Roll, and she lives in his universe. His universe is not mine, and while I can write things based on it, his universe still comes first when it comes to his characters. That means that his Roll is his, and she will forever be trapped in the future that he planned for her. She's the real Roll, and I can do nothing to save her. You, like all the others, are a copy."
Roll gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. But alas, the author only nodded. "Oh yes. I tried to keep you as much as possible to the original, but because this is my universe, you are my copy, just as the other authors have their own copy. We take these characters and put them in circumstances we specify for our own purposes."
"But..." Roll lowered her hands only an inch or so, enough so that she could nervously speak. "What's the point? What good does it do to copy me, or anyone else like that?"
"Good?" GrimMoody puzzled over this a moment. "Huh. I don't suppose it's to anybody's good but my own, now that I think about it. I was always bothered by what Dr. K did to all of you. How he tortured you and forced you to inevitably drift to a crappy future. I mean, in some ways it was interesting, but it was...well...'unrealistic' because it never gave you the chance to let your own actions cause the future. Sadly, he's not the only author that did that kind of thing to his universe. I can't change the future for everyone, and in fact I can't even change the future for real in anybody's universe but the one I live in, and thankfully my Author's not Dr. K. I get to choose what I do with what I've been given. I wanted you to have that same choice. For my own happiness, I made you. I want you to be that one Roll, if the only one, that actually gets the chance to live happily ever after."
"I...I suppose I should thank you, then." Roll tried to smile, and her hands fell to her side. "But Moody...there's something else. It hasn't gone away. I've felt this way ever since Dr. Light died, and that hasn't changed between the timelines. I just...I feel so useless."
The girl-bot paused as if expecting the author to interrupt her. But the dark blonde didn't say a word. She patiently waited for Roll to continue, even though from the way her eyes shone Roll was completely certain the author already knew what she was about to ask.
"What's my goal in life?" Roll suddenly blurted. "I've been taking care of Dr. Light for so long that I don't even know! What can I do with myself now that I can't do that anymore?"
"Have you tried being a barista?"
"Moody! I'm serious!"
"Sorry, chiquita." Grimm smiled, a wide smile that reminded Roll too much of Harry Briggs. "That's something you're going to have to figure out for yourself. This is your world now, Roll, and that means you've got to learn to start calling some shots. But, eh, why don't you ask your brother? Maybe he can help you out. After all, he knows you pretty well."
"Aw, you can't tell me?"
"Heh, such is life. Everybody's got figure it out for themselves." Moody shrugged. "Crap, I don't have my own future figured out."
"I guess I understand..." Roll sighed, blowing a bit of hair out of her mouth. She wished the wind wouldn't blow so hard. "I just wish I didn't feel so sad about it all the time."
"Like I said, ask your brother. Now is that all you want to ask? I need to go get ready for work pretty soon."
"Just one more thing." Roll swallowed hard. "It's just so much to take in. But please, GrimMoody, will I always remember the awful timeline with the Maverick Virus?"
"Sure, unless you delete the memories."
"Should...should I delete them?"
"If I were you, I wouldn't." GrimMoody smiled. "I mean, you're very lucky to have learned lessons from the future. Also, you had a friend there in that timeline, one you haven't seen so far in this. You probably haven't even thought of him yet."
Roll's eyes practically flew open, and she gasped. She knew exactly who the author was talking about. "Of course! I remember now! I need to go see him right away! I hope he's alright over there! Oh...um, please GrimMoody, you could, since you're here, use your author powers to get me over there..."
"Bah! Haven't you been listening?" GrimMoody snorted. "It would be tasteless of me to just do everything for you. You can find a plane, or maybe Crystal Bot's teleporters, or something. Don't be so dang lazy."
"There was always the hope you might," Roll giggled. "But fine, be that way."
"You bet I will. Well, I guess I'll let you get to it, then." GrimMoody peered at her wrist, then facepalmed. "Oops, I forgot. I don't have a watch. I need to get one. Anyway, it's about time that I go. Why don't you head on home and talk to your brother, like I said? Always remember: whatever is good in life, think on those things and dwell on them. That way you'll be sure to do good things to those around you."
"I will! But Moody, will I see you again after this?"
"No, probably not." the author said. "Oh wait, yes, you'll see me one more time. You won't remember it afterwards, but don't worry. You won't have to."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Roll asked, dread beginning to rise up in her. "Is something really bad going to happen again?"
"Yes. But don't worry. It's just normal bad stuff, not engineered doom. Bye now, Roll-chan!"
GrimMoody waved at her copy of Roll, and as the robot girl watched she could have sworn that the author was beginning to fade away. As she focused her eyes to get a clearer sense of what was going on - which only made everything foggier - she suddenly realized that GrimMoody was completely gone. There was no trace of the author, not so much as a footprint left where she had been standing. Only a small whiff of...something in the air that Roll could barely detect with her scent technology. That, however, was quickly blown away, leaving Roll with nothing more to smell but the salt air. Roll took a deep breath of it anyway.
I love the ocean. It reminds me of that one last time I was with Dr. Light. That was forever ago, wasn't it?
As much as Roll wanted to keep watching the waves and just enjoy the environment, this beach wasn't as clean as the one she and Dr. Light had gone to in Florida. Here there were far too many rocks and the water was darker. It was too hard to draw in the memories of her creator, at least with her eyes open. And even that small draught of reminiscing...well, it made Roll feel sad. Dr. Light was gone, and even when he came back in three decades, it just wouldn't be quite the same.
The girl-bot teleported. Instantly the sea air was gone and her nose detected the familiar cleanliness that was home. Roll found herself in the "library", there amongst Dr. Light's old documents now finally organized on each side of the room. Roll went over to the desk, peeking behind it. No, Bass wasn't there. She sighed with relief. Bass often hung out in this room when he was staying with the Lights, and she didn't want to bother him. Then, suddenly, Roll didn't feel so relieved. She clutched her arm tightly. Where was he, anyway? Where was anybody? Roll shuddered, caught up in a sudden lonliness.
I...I wonder if Rock is in the lab...
Roll quickly scuttled along the halls, dodging past the empty doorways and halls. She cursed her home for being so big...not very many people lived in it! Why did it have to be that size? The girl-bot shuffled forward with her head focused down. She wanted to get to the main lab as quickly as possible, and some rude person had taken the liberty of extending the path there, it seemed. Roll quickly passed through the main double doors.
Before Roll realized it, she was sitting on the ground, rubbing her head. Right across from her sat Rock, also right on the floor. He looked a little stunned, but by no means upset. He just picked himself back up, then reached down a hand for his shaky sister.
"Are you okay, Roll?" Mega Man asked. "You ran right into me there. Is everything alright?"
"Oops! Clumsy me!" the housekeeper-bot gave a little fake titter, quickly accepting his hand and getting to her feet. "Um...I just wasn't looking where I was going. I don't mean to be a bother...it's just...just..." Before Roll could come up with some sort of decent excuse, she found herself crying. "I miss Dr. Light! I miss him so much! I don't know how to go on without him! It's just not fair...all I want to do is find something to do with myself, but nothing makes me happy anymore!"
Roll turned to her brother, pitiful and contrite. She didn't like what she saw; Mega Man had that tired, strained sort of look on his face, the one he'd been using a lot ever since she'd come back from the future. It made Roll feel very small, and so she stepped away from her brother.
"Oh...um...I''m sorry, Rock." she said. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"
"Well, it's not so bad this time." Mega Man rubbed his hand through his hair, making Roll wince. He always did that when he was trying to hide how stressed he felt. "At least now I have a lot less on my plate. I'm starting to wonder if this is a serious emotional glitch, though. Auto's been checking on you, though, hasn't he?"
"Yes." Roll nodded, wiping at her eye as if there was a tear there. "But it just doesn't seem to help. The problem can't just be a glitch...it's just that I've felt so useless since I can't take care of Dr. Light anymore."
"Hm...that's understandible." Mega Man sighed. "You're probably right, but I'm going to check your mind once more just to make myself happy. I've been out fighting crime so long I've been neglecting my own sister..."
"It isn't your fault I feel this way, Rock."
"I know." Mega Man took his sister's hand and led her to the main computer. "But it's still my job to look out for you."
Roll let her brother pull her to the front wall, where he sat her at the rolling chair in front of the main console. Mega Man didn't activate the large monitor, but instead a smaller monitor just above the long keyboard. With a little green wire, he soon had Roll hooked up into the main computer and tapped away at the keyboard at his graceful 157 words per minute. Roll smiled. Her brother had always been so proud of his typing speed. He even had enough focus to talk to his sis as his fingers rattled away.
"How long have you been wondering about this, Roll?" Mega Man asked. "You knew you were going to have to get a new job sometime."
"I know. I've been thinking about it for a few years, actually." Though uncomfortable, Roll tried not to tug at the wire. "When I think of a job that seems right for me, it just doesn't seem appealing at all. Nothing feels fufilling anymore. Well, besides cleaning the lab, but even I get tired of that."
"Why wouldn't your talents be fufilling?" Mega Man let his eyes slip from the screen to give his sister an encouraging smile. "There's just so much you're good at! You could be a nurse or a pet shop owner - now that would be cute! Or maybe you could set up a pet grooming shop, open a fashion designer gallery, maybe sell ice cream at the beach..."
Mega Man paused. He stared at the screen, frozen. And then he facepalmed and groaned. Chuckling to himself, he quickly shook his head and turned to Roll. Embarrasment was all over his sheepish face.
"This is not funny and funny at the same time. It's so simple!" Rock let out an exhasperated sigh. "Oh Roll, I am so sorry I didn't fix this before. I should have realized this would be the source of the problem."
Mega Man pointed to the computer screen, and Roll turned the chair to get a better angle on the monitor. When she saw it, she almost wanted to laugh as well. It really was a very simple problem. The computer had Roll's directives and sub-directives listed on the screen, and as Roll read down the list, one item made everything clear. It read - "Roll Directive B-1: to care for the health needs of Dr. Thomas Light".
"Oh! I can't believe I didn't think to check and see if that was the problem." Roll wanted to blush. "I guess Auto must have missed it. I was having so much emotional trouble he's probably thought the problem was somewhere in my emotional matrix."
"So did I." Mega Man chortled, tapping some keys at the computer. "It's just lucky I thought to check your directives. There. I've deleted it. Since it's only a subdirective, I don't have to replace it with another purpose. I think I'd prefer you getting to choose what you want to do."
As her brother saved the changes, Roll began to feel better. Quite a lot better, in fact. The burden within her withered away, and though it was annoying for her head to blink out for a moment, the changes were finalized, and it was quickly over. Roll drew in a deep breath, feeling at once twenty pounds lighter. She beamed at her brother, making sure he instantly knew that she was better.
"Y'know, I think I like you better as a lab-bot." Roll still beamed. "I can't believe how much better I feel."
"I'm just glad it's over with. I can't imagine how it must feel to have a purpose you can't possibly live up to." Mega Man shuddered, but soon the moment passed and his cheer returned. "Alright, Roll. I've got some free time. What's the first thing you want to do as a free robot?"
"Now that's a question I know the answer to!" Roll immediately stood from her chair, plucking out the green wire. "I want to go to Australia!"
She nodded. "Australia."
Roll wasn't so sure she liked this place. She never had been that fond of deserts, and even though she knew the dirt and sand beneath her was perfectly stable, she couldn't help but think of the sinking sands her brother had faced those years ago when he fought Pharoah Man. And Commando Man, for that matter. But it wasn't Austrailia's rainy season (it was actually the beginning of winter), and given that there were plenty of rocks and some scattered grass trying to grow, there was no apparent danger of instability.
But there was danger. Plenty of it. None from the sun, despite Roll's new Aussie hat she wore, and wore proudly (she made a mental note to buy more Australian clothes once she got back to Sydney). No, the real danger was the cause of those swirl markings in the desert floor. The sand had a few "S" shaped marks in it, and even though Roll's eye was better at finding carpet stains, she knew it was a trail. But what kind of trail? Roll lifted the brim of her hat and leaned down for a closer inspection of the rocks closest to the marks.
"Aha!" she lifted a finger toward some white scratches against two half buried rocks. "A real snake couldn't do that to a rock. Its scales aren't hard enough. A robot snake could, though. Yes! I'm definitely getting closer!"
Roll merrily straightened, making sure to keep her eyes open on the landscape around her. Snake Man was one of the mosre stealthy Wily-bots, and just because Roll was in a flat, open area with nothing more than a few boulders and a low hill in the distance didn't mean that Snake Man couldn't very well sneak up on her. Confident enough that she was alone, Roll diverted some of her attention to the markings in the sand and rocks again. She just barely could make out something like a path, like the trail of one of Snake Man's mechaniloids. Or was it something else altogether?
"It looks like a snake path." Roll shrugged. "Well, only one way to find out!"
There wasn't much of the trail, however. Roll followed it, only to find out that it disappeared altogether after a few feet. That there was of the trail did seem to point to a couple of boulders up ahead. The robot figured that could be a good place to look. While one of the boulders, the bigger one, lay on its side, the other one did seem large enough to hide a robot master. If the robot master ducked, anyway. Roll peered once more at the tracks below her feet, hoping that maybe she'd catch something she might have missed.
"Thats funny." Roll scratched her chin. "Bits of this dirt look sort of like it hasn't had time to dry in the sun...someone must have left these tracks recently."
Roll couldn't help a giggle. Normally she wasn't meant for noticing such things, but here she was putting her time as "Proto Bot" to good use. She started to like having all of her secret memories.
"Yeah, that was one of my snakes." a bored voice hissed from behind. "They're really handy for throwing idiotssss off my trail."
Roll swallowed hard, trying not to scream as she truned around. Even despite herself, she still smiled at the sight of Snake Man. She guessed it wasn't all that good of one - the smile just made Snake Man's face grow more irritated than it already was. Or maybe that was just the Team 3 robot's bad mood.
"Um, well..." Roll said quickly. "I guess I'm smart then, because I tracked you, and here you are!"
"Don't flatter yourssself." Snake Man retorted. "Hsssssht! I saw you coming. The only reason you're alive right now is because I'm curious why Mega Man's little sister is dumb enough to actually try and find me."
Before Roll could answer, Snake Man shoved her aside and headed for the boulders. Astonished, Roll sputtered and ran to catch up with him and his long strides.
"You don't seem too interested if you're so curious why I'm here."
"I've got a lot on my plate, Roll." Snake Man glared at her. "Corallus caninus, girl! The world doesn't center around Light robots you know. Ugh, and it's a good thing I don't have to put up with you when I'm trying to shake the authorities. Can you make those footprints any more obvious?"
Roll looked back, and sure enough, her footprints were at least twice as deep as Snake Man's in the sand behind them. With a pout, Roll began remembering why it wasn't so easy to get along with the reptile-bot. Still, she wouldn't be swayed. She was here on a "mission", and she had every intention to complete it.
By this time Snake Man had already deftly climbed over the second boulder - even though going around it would have been easier. Roll just shrugged and took the easier way around, arriving in time to see Snake Man tugging at a burlap cloth. He pulled the cloth away, not noticing it hit Roll's legs and flop at her feet. Roll didn't notice much either. There on the ground lay most of Fire Man: his head and torso (thankfully connected) and a detached leg. Snake Man threw something else, but this time purposely at Roll. It slipped out of her fingers and hit the burlap before she realized it was a screwdriver.
"Well, Light-bot, here you go." Snake Man gestured at the casualty. "Fix him. I've got a lost baby numbat at my hideout and those heat packs I stole aren't going to last all winter."
Snake Man rolled his eyes. "Banded anteater. Endangered animal. Now get to work."
Roll picked the screwdriver up from the ground, and Snake Man backed away from the boulder. Roll stuck out a bit of her tongue and tried to assess Fire Man's damage. Besides being covered in dirt and scratches, poor Fire Man suffered a missing eye and a jagged break in his cheek. The way black marks streaked down his right side, Roll guessed he had an internal oil leak. His chestplate came off with little protest, and the inner workings...well, Roll wasn't sure what they were supposed to look like in good repair. Though it was a reasonable estimation that healthy robots didn't have little grey bursts of carbon scoring on the inside.
"Um...sorry, Snake Man." Roll got back to her feet and brushed away the dirt on her knees. "You've got the wrong Light-bot. I don't really know very much about repair work. The only thing I can really tell is that you're probably going to have to replace a lot of parts."
"Hssssshh..." Snake Man bared a fang. "You're not doing a good job convincing me to let you live, Roll..."
"Oh pssht." Roll flipped a casual hand at him. "You're not going to kill me. You know the only thing that would do is cause my brother to come look for me, discover your hideout, and ruin everything you've worked for. But if it's convincing you want, I can do that."
Snake Man folded his arms. "Oh yeah? I'm waiting."
"Well. as it turns out, I have a deal for you." Roll patiently walked up to Snake Man and handed him his screwdriver. "I've been doing some reading about you, and how you've been going after the crocodile poachers. The Australian government even knows you're here, but they don't really want to go after you because you've been so helpful. Still, they don't trust you. You've been stealing, haven't you? It would be a lot easier to get them to leave you alone or maybe even give you some funding if you had the backing of Light Laboratories. Besides, how long have you been separated from Wily? You're going to need a repair and even an upgrade, pretty soon. All you need to do is say the word, and I can get my brother to not only have you repaired, but get the REA to let you legally do what you do best!"
"So what's the catch?" Snake Man lifted an eyebrow, still distrustful of the girl-bot. "Why are you offering this to me?"
Because when I was all alone at the end of the world you were there to help me.
Roll smiled a little sheepishly. There were some things she just couldn't say, and her secrets were going to have to remain her own. She looked into Snake Man's eyes, and for once she thought the Team 3 robot might have softened a little.
"Oh, you know how us Light-bots are." Roll shrugged. "We're always putting our noses into other people's business because we think we're needed. We don't like seeing good robots go to waste."
"Whatever." Snake Man pushed his way past Roll and headed for Fire Man. "No deal. I don't need the help of any Light-bot, and I don't need the government's approval. I'm out here doing what nobody else bothers to do, so they can kiss my titanium tail. Now go away. You're starting to annoy me."
With that, Snake Man occupied himself with Fire Man's repairs. Roll had to wonder exactly how well the Team 1 robot could control his fire. The little baby Numbat would need to be warm, not on fire. Roll felt a little sorry for Fire Man, but she still felt more so for the snake-bot.
"Snake Man..." she said. "I really mean it. I do want to help you. If you ever change your mind, you just call the lab, okay?"
No answer. Snake Man just went on, banging his tools a little louder to make sure Roll knew she was unwelcome. The girl-bot simply shrugged and started to walk away, looking back a couple of times in case to see if he would watch her go. No such luck. There was nothing for Roll to do but go.
Whew! That wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. Roll so much wanted to giggle aloud. I wasn't afraid at all! I'm starting to get braver! Yay! Oh, it's only been two hours. Good, that means I have one hour to get back to Sydney and shop, and Rock will never know I left at all! I wish I could tell him...
As Roll set the teleport coordinates for the Australian capital, she glanced once more at Snake Man. She started to feel good. Even if Snake Man never took her offer, she had done the right thing to try. At that precise moment, Roll knew what she wanted to do with herself. She wanted to get more involved with the official business of Light Labs. She still planned on doing housework, but she wasn't going to hide behind it any longer. Roll began thinking of all the things she could do to help her brother as she teleported away.
Let's see...I can take in lost robots, fill out the legal paperwork for the lab, file those patents for Auto, host a science convention in Monstropolis...
- Okay, y'all, I'm really sorry about this entry being late. I have no one to blame for it but myself. For one thing, I ran out of buffer. For another, I got an attack of the lazies. Thirdly, I had to help out at a florist's shop for Valentine's Day. I hope you can imagine what sorts of dramatic whatnots might happen there on V-day. In any case, here you go. This is the entire reason why I wrote this story in the first place: it's a self-serving tale of me making the story do what I want. I get the urge to do that to many stories I read, particularly ones where I hate the ending. Hey, no judging! You know you do it too. ;)
- Dang, now I'm thinking about it, I really want Roll to have a pet shop! She'd be so good at that. Imagine her selling a puppy. Oh hey, could you guys do some reviews mentioning Roll? If you do, it just might appear on Bonus Features!
- Corallus caninus is the latin name for emerald tree boas, and Snake Man, like I've said before, likes to use latin for his exclamations. Lol, Snake Man. You live in the Mega Man world. Of course it centers around the Lights. Silly snakey.
- Even though it's late May during the story, it's still winter for the Aussies. Remember, seasons switch when you cross the equator.
How about some character profiles? Hm...I don't exactly have anyone here I haven't done a profile for earlier, so I'll go for some minor characters.
Admiral Tim "Tin Man" Hathers
"Everyone in position!"
Good point: Fair
Bad point: Stern
Likes: A beautiful ship
Dislikes: Bad attitudes
This guy is Splash Woman's boss, and he earned the nickname "Tin Man" because, as his lower ranking navy men lament, "if he only had a heart". To be fair, Hathers isn't a mean guy. He just likes things done, and done right. He never punishes anyone that doesn't deserve it. To good seamen he's like a passing cloud - high up there and not reckoning too much in the daily work. For the people who are disorganized or rebellious, he's a thunderstorm, and is not at all afraid of disciplining those he commands.
Splash Woman is definitely one of the people Hathers trusts most, as she cares about her job very much and is always willing to listen to authority. As a result, Splash Woman is generally allowed to do as she pleases because she always gets the job done. Every so often Hathers has to pass down some new, stupid law that the government passes to regulate shipping, but they generally complain about those things together.
Hathers has a wife and three teenage daughters, which perhaps explains why he isn't home too often. Except to aggravate his daughters' potential boyfriends, of course, which he does very well.
"Be sure and pay attention."
Good point: Calm
Bad point: Unfriendly
Likes: Udon noodles
Dislikes: Mexican food
You probably don't remember Renold. He only appeared once in How Many during one of Proto Man's flashbacks. He, along with Harry Briggs, is one of the two government officials who worked with Dr. Light when Proto Man was first created. Renold was one of the first members of the Robot Ethics Agency, and is responsible for a lot of the regulations that now exist on the books. He's an austere guy, and some of the things people say about Admiral Hathers more rightfully apply to Renold.
Renold isn't one for socializing much. He prefers to be around people only when they are a part of a specific job that has to be done. Surprisingly, while working with Briggs annoyed him, they got along moderately well. Renold figured out that it was best to let Briggs handle a lot of the talking parts of their job, which both kept Briggs able to talk to social people and gave Renold more time to handle the paperwork without having to put up with conversation. For his part, Briggs often joked about his partner - it was a good way to disguise the fact he disliked his fellow agent.
Davis always fancied himself something of a food critic, and he amused himself by publishing little food articles in the corner of the intra-agency paper. He excused himself to his superiors by saying that future agents would want to know good places to eat when they traveled. Surprisingly, these articles were very cleverly written, and gained Davis more friends than actual face-to-face interactions did. Though Renold was always sort of a grumpy dude, his fellow agents generally considered him so much a part of the REA that they couldn't imagine the organization without him: he was sort of like a in-joke mascot. They rarely joked about it to his face, though.
Renold was much less popular in the Light household. Prior to the invention of Proto Man, the REA was a minor agency concerned only with people comitting crimes with robots - mechaniloids did exist at that point. However, Blues changed that, and so Davis and Briggs were assigned to observe the first sentient robot. Dr. Light at first welcomed them, as he always intended Blues to protect the earth. However, soon enough his opinion of the agents changed. Davis especially was irritating, and he constantly put pressure on Dr. Light to work faster and put extra failsafes on Proto Man so that nothing would "go wrong". As much as Dr. Light tried to explain to Davis that the entire point of sentient robots was to make them able to choose between good and bad, Davis wouldn't hear any of it. Davis frequently sent reports to his superiors that he was afraid Dr. Light was out of his mind, and only sometimes was Briggs able to intercept some of these reports.
The agent was especially harsh to Proto Man, and usually told Dr. Light to make Proto Man do something rather than speak to Proto Man himself. It didn't help that Proto Man was mildly rebellious and refused to take orders from anyone but Dr. Light. Davis once took Proto Man aside and "explained" to him that if he didn't shape up, Davis would make sure that he got scrapped. Dr. Light only found out about this weeks later, after Proto Man had run away. They got into a huge argument over it, which ended with new assistant Dr. Wily throwing Davis out of the lab. As a result, it was years before Davis finally started to believe that the Wily wars weren't just scientistic rivalry gone awry.
As of Okkusenman, Davis has been dead for six years from natural causes plus his bout of bronchitis. He's survived by his wife and two sons. Proto Man has been known to check on them from time to time to make sure they don't turn out like their father.